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Literature Review: Compiling & Writing

Learning to Write a Systematic Review of Literature

Critical Evaluation

The critical evaluation of each work should consider:

  • Provenance- Who is the author and where was it published?
    • What are the author’s credentials?
    • Was it published in a reputable source?
    • Were the author’s arguments supported by evidence? (e.g. primary historical material, case studies, narratives, statistics, or recent scientific findings)
  • Methodology – what were the methods used in the research for the materials?
    • Were the techniques used to identify, gather, and analyze the data appropriate to addressing the research problem?
    • Was the sample size appropriate?
    • Were the results effectively interpreted and reported?
  • Objectivity – was objectivity used in the research
    • Is the author’s perspective even-handed or prejudicial?
    • Is contrary data considered or ignored?
  • Persuasiveness & Value – determine weight of each source
    • Art the author’s arguments and conclusions convincing?
    • Which of the author’s theses are most/least convincing?
    • Does the work ultimately contribute in any significant way to an understanding of the subject?

General Guidelines

1. Scan the articles to get an overview of each one.
2. Based on your overview, group the articles by categories
3. Organize yourself before reading the articles
4. Use a consistent format in your notes
5. Look for explicit definitions of key terms in the literature
6. Look for key statistics for use near the beginning of your literature review
7. Pay special attention to review articles on your topic
8. Prepare note cards with short notable quotations that might be used (very sparingly) in your review
9. Look for methodological strengths
10. Look for methodological weaknesses
11. Distinguish between assertion and evidence
12. Identify the major trends or patterns in the results of previous studies
13. Identify gaps in the literature
14. Identify relationships among studies
15. Note how closely each article relates to your topic
16. Evaluate your reference list for currency and for coverage