University of washington writing a psychology literature review

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University of washington writing a psychology literature review

How should I approach writing a literature review at the graduate level?

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What is the purpose of a Literature Review? For a graduate student the purpose of academic writing changes from what it was as an undergraduate.

Where undergraduates often write to demonstrate a mastery of existing knowledge, graduate students are considered scholars and move toward creating new knowledge.

Writing in graduate school, then, focuses on communicating that new knowledge to others in their field. In order to communicate this knowledge to other scholars, however, it also necessary to explain how that knowledge engages ongoing scholarly conversations in the field. Not only do dissertations contain literature reviews, but most articles and grant proposals have some form of literature review included in them.

The reason the literature review is so prevalent in scholarly writing is that it functions as an argument about how your project fits in the ongoing scholarly conversation in your field and justifies your project.

A successful literature review does more than list the research that has preceded your work. A literature review is not simply a summary of research.


Your literature review must not only demonstrate that you understand important conversations and debates surrounding your project and your position in regard to the conversations, but it must also create an argument as to why your work is relevant to your field of study.

In order to create such an argument you must evaluate the relevant research, describing its strengths and weaknesses in relation to your project. You must then explain how your project will build on the work of other researchers, and fill the scholarly gaps left by other researchers.

What is typically included in a Literature Review and how do I start? To show how your project joins an existing scholarly conversation you need to provide readers with the necessary background to understand your research project and persuade them that your intervention in the scholarly conversation is necessary.

The first step is to evaluate and analyze the scholarship that is key to understanding your work. The scholarship you evaluate may include previous research on similar topics, theoretical concepts and perspectives, or methodological approaches.

Questions to consider as you read include: What problems or issues is the writer exploring? What position does the writer take? How is the writer intervening in an ongoing conversation? Where does the writer leave the issue? Once you have evaluated the research of others, you need to consider how to integrate ideas from other scholars with your ideas and research project.

You will also need to show your readers which research is relevant to understanding your project and explain how you position your work in relationship to what has come before your project.

In order to do this, it may be helpful to think about the nature of your research project. Not all research has the same purpose. For example, your research project may focus on extending existing research by applying it in a new context.

Or you may be questioning the findings of existing research, or you may be pulling together two or more previously unconnected threads of research. Or your project may be bringing a new theoretical lens or interpretation to existing questions. The focus of your research project will determine the kind of material you need to include in your literature review.

What are some approaches for organizing a Literature Review? In the first part of a literature review you typically establish several things. You should define or identify your project and briefly point out overall trends in what has been published about the topic — conflicts, gaps in research, foundational research or theory, etc.

You should also establish your position — or argument - for the project and the organization of the review. In the body of the literature review, consider organizing the research and theory according a particular approach.

For example, you could discuss the research chronologically.

university of washington writing a psychology literature review

Or you could organize the research thematically, around key ideas or terms or theoretical approaches. Your literature review may include definitions of key terms and the sources from which they are drawn, descriptions of relevant debates in the field, or a description of the most current thinking on your topic.

You will also want to provide clear transitions and strong organizing sentences at the start of sections or paragraphs. You may find it helpful to divide the body of the review up into individual sections with individual subheadings.

As you summarize and evaluate studies or articles keep in mind that each article should not necessarily get the same amount of attention.{"before_content":"\n\n\n\n.

\n. \n\t n. n\t. University of Idaho is a medium sized, public, four-year university enrolling 11, students and offering degrees in Moscow, ID. A literature review should not be a list summarising each article retrieved.

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Instead, it should appear as organised sections into themes or concepts, synthesised and evaluated, according to . Articles & Research Databases Literature on your research topic and direct access to articles online, when available at UW.

E-Journals Alphabetical list of electronic journal titles held at UW. Encyclopedias & Dictionaries Resources for looking up quick facts and background information.

Step-by-step guide

Most literature reviews by students present the highlights of a research area and are not truly exhaustive. There is no strict rule, but a short literature review generally requires about research articles and is about pages long. There are three main steps: (1) select a research topic, (2) collect and read the relevant articles, and (3) write the review article.

When writing an "essay" in psychology, you are essentially writing a "theoretical article". The purpose of a theoretical article is for the author to draw upon currently published research literature with the aim of furthering theoretical work in the field of interest.

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