| Literature Review & Critique

  • Overview  ………..……………………….  p. 1
  • Summarising a source  ………….…  p. 2
  • Synthesising sources  ……..……….  p. 4

Thesis repositories  …………………  p. 5

Literature Review checklist  …….p. 6
“Search to Insert”  …………………..p. 7


A literature review is an account of what has previously been published (typically that found in peer-reviews publications). The purpose is to convey to your readers what knowledge and ideas exist in relation to the research topic and questions of your DBA dissertation. You should explain—by reviewing and critiquing existing literature—what you consider the existing strengths and weaknesses to be.

Your Literature Review (LR) chapter will be defined and guided by the research aim of your doctoral work. It should not just be a descriptive list of relevant sources or even just a set of summaries of those sources, it must include synthesis and your interpretations and perspectives:

01    It will need to be organised around and related directly to your research aim and questions. As such it needs to synthesise results into a summary of what is and is not currently known. It must also identify areas of controversy/disagreement and, set out questions that need further research (in other words, the very thing you plan to investigate).

02    It will need to have its own introduction and conclusion as these sub-sections help link this LR chapter to the actual introduction and the subsequent chapters of your dissertation. At the beginning it will provide background information to seminal works in the field and conclude by discussing the implications of future research to the field.

03    In terms of writing style, use comparative terms. Transitional and comparative terms will allow you to demonstrate where authors agree or disagree on a topic and highlight your interpretation of the literature.

  • Avoid too many direct quotations. Try to paraphrase the majority of the material you review and critique. This will ensure that you are interpreting the found material for your reader.
  • Paraphrasing in combination with summarising and synthesising will also ensure your review of literature comes across in your own writing style and, in your own words.

05    It should be organised by theme rather than by author. Organising your sources by the themes you identify whilst reading the literature related to your subject of interest helps demonstrate your synthesis of the material being reviewed.

06    Therefore, use sub-headings. These sub-sections help you organise your material (references and sources) by theme. By doing this, your LR chapter should become more coherent and cohesive.

  • APA encourages the use of headings within longer pieces of text to display a shift in topic and create a visual break for the reader.

| Literature Reviews (a compact guide) | Page. 1


The process of summarising a given source can be seen as a precursor to synthesising source materials. The summarisation process (which can be seen as part of the critique/review process) has two key elements: (A) reading and note-taking and (B), the drafting and writing up of the summary:

 PART A: Reading and note-taking




Before you can write about a given research article (review and critique), you have to understand it. This takes a considerable amount of time. To determine if you understand it, ask yourself if you could explain the argument, in your own words, to a non-specialist?

Scan the article first. If you try to read a new article from start to finish, you may spend too much time on details that are not key to its overall argument or purpose. With any given journal article, try locating the key points; look at each section to identify:

  • The research question and reason for the study (this should be stated in the “Introduction”)
  • The hypothesis or hypotheses tested (this should be set out in the “Introduction”)
  • How the hypothesis was tested (this should be covered in the “Methodology and Methods”)

The findings (“Results”, including Tables and Figures)

How the findings were interpreted (this should be sect out in the “Discussion” and/or the “Conclusion”)

Although the abstract can help you to identify the main points, you cannot rely on it exclusively, because it contains highly condensed information.

Underline or highlight key sentences or write the key point (e.g., hypothesis, design) of each paragraph in the margins of the paper.

After you have highlighted the main points, read each section several times. As you read, ask yourself:

A.0How does the design of the study address the question posed?
A.0What are the controls for each experiment?
A.0How convincing are the findings and/or results? (Do you think they are valid, reliable and representative?)
A.0What does this study contribute toward answering the original question?

| Literature Reviews (a compact guide) | Page. 2

| Literature Review & Critique

A.10What aspects of the original question remain unanswered?

As you know, plagiarism is always a risk when summarising other people’s work. If you find yourself sticking closely to the original language and making only minor changes to the wording, then perhaps you do not fully understand it (don’t worry, just re-read it!)

A.11Take notes in your own words. Avoid copying complete sentences when note-taking.
A.12Summarise points, wherever you can, in your own words.

 PART B: Drafting and writing the summary







Like an abstract in a published research article, the purpose of your summary is to give the reader a brief, structured overview of the source material. To write a good summary, identify what information is important and condense that information for your reader. The better you understand the subject and ideas set out in the source material, the easier it is to explain it comprehensively, clearly and concisely.

Write a first draft. It may be a good idea to use the same order as the author/s of the source material did. The number of suggested sentences is only a rough guideline for the relative length of each section. Adjust the length accordingly depending on the significance of the source to your DBA’s guiding research question/s.

  • State the research question and explain why it is interesting (1 sentence).
  • State the hypothesis/hypotheses tested (1 sentence).
  • Briefly describe the methods, the design, sample, materials, procedure, what was manipulated
  • [independent variables], what was measured [dependent variables], how it was analysed (2-3 sentences).
  • Describe the results. What differences were significant? (2-3 sentences).
  • Explain the key implications of the results. (1 sentence).
  • How did the author/s interpret these results? Do you agree with their interpretation? (1 sentence).

The results, and the interpretation of the results, should relate directly to the hypothesis.

The methods summary is often the most difficult part to edit.

For the first draft, focus on content, not length (it will probably be too long). Condense later as needed. Try writing about the hypotheses, methods and results first, then about the introduction and discussion last. If you have trouble on one section, leave it for a while and try another.

Edit for completeness and accuracy. Add information for completeness where necessary. More commonly, if you understand the article, you will need to cut redundant or less important information. Stay focused on the

| Literature Reviews (a compact guide) | Page. 3

| Literature Review & Critique




research question and, try to be concise.

Use academic English however, do not make it in any way difficult for readers to understand what you write:

  • Include all the important details; it is important not to assume that your readers will already understand
  • the given argument.
  • Remove unnecessary words: “The results clearly showed that there was no difference between the
  • groups” can be shortened to “There was no significant difference between the groups.”
  • Use specific, concrete language. Use precise language and cite specific examples to support assertions.
  • Avoid vague references (e.g. “this illustrates” should be “this result illustrates”). Use scientifically accurate language. For example, you cannot “prove” hypotheses (especially with just one study). You “support” or “fail to find support for” them.
  • 10   Rely primarily on paraphrasing, direct quotes are seldom used in scientific writing.

Re-read what you have written, preferably a day or so after you have finished typing it up — re-reading with fresh eyes is key to producing a good summary.


In order to demonstrate your background knowledge of the topic/questions of your doctoral research the key skill to deploy is synthesis. This means to combine independent elements and form a cohesive whole; in essence, your literature review should:

  01     Integrate your sources, identify patterns

2    Critically discuss strengths and weaknesses of the sources and/or the field of study

3    Compare and contrast methods, approaches, and findings of authors

4    Evaluate and interpret what is known in your field

5    Identify what is missing.

Take a look at this explanation of “synthesis” by way of a metaphor:

Imagine you are at a dinner party with other researchers and theorists from your field. Everyone is discussing the state of your field of research. The introduction of your literature review would be similar to those dinner party guests who started the conversation by discussing key research and theories. The body of the literature review could take many forms: What guests are agreeing, and which are arguing? What are the debatable issues, and are there any subtopics of those key topics? Does one particular guest keep interrupting the table’s conversation? The conclusion of your literature review would be similar to the host of the dinner party ending the debate with a comprehensive speech that touches on all opinions yet also, provides his or her concluding remarks.

| Literature Reviews (a compact guide) | Page. 4

| Literature Review & Critique

In order to synthesise your sources, you must first analyse them to help provide rationale for why they are a part of your literature review and what role they play within your field (i.e. by summarising each one first).

While the following extract demonstrates strong paraphrasing, and while it seemingly provides a comprehensive overview, it only addresses Smith’s ideas. It does not explain why this information is important and how it relates to the author’s own research topic/questions.

In short, it is missing is context and analysis:

As Smith (2001) noted, instructors cannot identify every one of their students’ emotional intelligences (EI). Faculty members do not have the time, and students simply are not that forthcoming with their learning preferences (Smith, 2001). Furthermore, as Harper warned, if instructors decide to attempt a complete analysis of every student’s EI, they will inevitably hold the entire class back. After all, taking time to adequately diagnose a student’s EI means less time for helping students meet the expectations set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act (Smith, 2001).

Finkelstein and Kramer’s (2002) findings….

Now, compare the previous extract to the re-drafted version below:

… as was clearly articulated by, among others, Sigree (1999).

Smith (2001), however, disagreed with Sigree’s (1999) assertion. Smith noted that despite the obvious benefits of diagnosing a student’s emotional intelligence (EI; Jones & Homma, 1998; Mundel, 1998; Singagee, 1999), instructors cannot identify every one of their students’ EIs (Smith, 2001). Faculty members do not have the time, and students are not that forthcoming with their learning preferences (Smith, 2001). For Smith (2001), though, the real issue was not with instructors’ belief in EI, but rather in how this belief affected classroom logistics. Instructors who follow Hammond’s (1996) advice to “Take the time to understand how each of your students learn” (p. 33) are being impractical, Smith argued. Taking time to adequately diagnose a student’s EI means less time for helping students meet the expectations set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act (Smith, 2001). Although Hammond’s (1996) vision is ideal, Smith takes a more practical stance.

With Smith’s (2001) concerns in mind, it is somewhat hard to endorse Finkelstein and Kramer’s (2002) findings…

In this revised extract (above), the author is synthesising the literature. As a result, we now know, based on the author’s description, how Smith interacts with the other literature on the topic. We know that Smith is probably in the minority, and we know what the author’s critical opinion of Smith’s work is. Finally, we know how and why the author is referencing Smith: Smith’s research will be used to refute the work of Finkelstein and Kramer. Presumably this distinction will be relevant to the author’s own research topic/questions.

| Literature Reviews (a compact guide) | Page. 5

| Literature Review & Critique


It is increasingly the case that universities and other academic entities publish electronic versions of recently completed theses. These documents can be very useful as sources of information (especially the methods and methodologies chapters) and also in terms of seeing how literature reviews are written and structured.







It is probably a good idea to use some form of checklist for the main sources (articles, books etc.) you intend to critique in your Literature Review chapter:

01    In what ways does the source material contribute to our understanding of the problem under study, and how is it useful? What are the strengths and weaknesses?

2    Ask yourself how exactly does this source relate to your own research area?

  • Has the author formulated research questions? Are they clearly defined? Is its significance (scope; relevance) clearly established?
  • Has the author evaluated the literature relevant to the problem/issue? Does the author include literature that seemingly questions their own perceptions? (Have they given both sides of the argument?)
  • (If relevant,) how good are the basic components of the study’s design (e.g., methods, methodology, sample and the variables tested)? How accurate and valid are the measurements?
  • Is the analysis of the data accurate and relevant to the research question? Are the conclusions validly based upon the data and analysis?
  • Could the problem have been approached more effectively from another perspective (e.g. using a different methodological approach, sample, dataset)?
  • Is the material written for a popular readership (e.g. newspaper opinion pieces)? If so, does the author use emotive language, one-sided examples, or use non-academic language and tone? Is there an objective basis to the reasoning, or is the author merely “proving” what he or she already believes? (Should you actually

| Literature Reviews (a compact guide) | Page. 6

| Literature Review & Critique

be including such material in your LR?)


 From the companion website you have access to:

     Digital copies of all presentations and exercise hand outs

  • EndNote files and interactive guides
  • APA formatted MS Word templates
  • Template Literature Review organisation matrix
  • Vocabulary lists of commonly used words and phrases when critiquing and referencing literature

| Literature Reviews (a compact guide) | Page. 7

| Literature Review & Critique


One of the key applied research skills that will be taught on this course is the so-called “Search to Insert” process. By way of presentation and practice, you will be shown how to search for relevant materials (journal articles and books); how to locate the given source’s citation data and article itself; how to download and catalogue this to EndNote and then, how to insert the citation and reference into MS Word.

■ searching                                              ■ locating article’s bibliographic information

                                              ■ import bibliographic data into EndNote

■ add PDF of article to the citation record in EndNote                                              ■ using EndNote’s CWYW to add citation to Word
| Literature Reviews (a compact

All papers are written by ENL (US, UK, AUSTRALIA) writers with vast experience in the field. We perform a quality assessment on all orders before submitting them.

Do you have an urgent order?  We have more than enough writers who will ensure that your order is delivered on time. 

We provide plagiarism reports for all our custom written papers. All papers are written from scratch.

24/7 Customer Support

Contact us anytime, any day, via any means if you need any help. You can use the Live Chat, email, or our provided phone number anytime.

We will not disclose the nature of our services or any information you provide to a third party.

Assignment Help Services
Money-Back Guarantee

Get your money back if your paper is not delivered on time or if your instructions are not followed.

We Guarantee the Best Grades
Assignment Help Services