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Literature Review for Graduate Students in Education

What is a Literature Review

 The purpose of an academic research paper is to express and document an original idea. Literature Review is one part of that process of writing a research paper. In a research paper, you use the literature as a starting point, a building block and as evidence of a new insight. The goal of the literature review is only to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of others. It is not the forum for your original idea. 

The literature review for the EdD's dissertation in practice, while in many ways similar to that of the traditional dissertation for the PhD, does have its own distinctive purpose:
Students introduce and examine relevant literature that will be used to build a case for addressing the problem of practice. The literature is not just reviewed, but is used in conjunction with other sources to:
  • justify the problem’s significance
  • warrant claims about the organization’s current (and preferred) state
  • provide conceptions of best practice.  

There are a number of differing descriptions of the purpose of a literature review. Primarily it is a tool for:

  • researching the history of scholarly publication on a topic
  • becoming aware of the scholarly debate within a topic
  • a summary or restatement of conclusions from research which has been published
  • synthesis or recombining, comparing and contrasting, the ideas of others.
  • evaluate sources
  • search for gaps.

A literature review provides a comprehensive overview of a topic, supporting the fundamental purpose of a research paper, which is to present a new point of view or insight on a topic. The literature review supports the new insight. It does not present or argue for it.

Structure of Literature Review for Education Research

• Choose a topic

• Find research

• Organize sources/notetaking

• Evaluate Sources

• Summarize

• Synthesize

• Connect it all together- the review is not meant only as a restatement of earlier research but the basis for a new conclusion about the topic. Think of this phase as a narrative. 

There are various ways of organizing the literature review process- if one of these seems closer to your purpose, try it out.

One benefit of working on a literature review is that it will allow you to develop your thought gradually, which is a great way to incubate original thought!

Different Types of Literature Sources

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Introduction to Literature Review

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