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Language Studies

This guide will help you start your research for Language Studies classes and projects.

What is a Literature Review?

Research and the literature review in particular is a cyclical process. There is an art to the some times messy, thrilling, and frustrating process of conducting a lit review.
  • Read widely but selectively.
  • Follow the citation trail -- building on previous research by reviewing bilbiographies of articles and books which are close to your interest.
  • Synthesize previous research on the topic.
  • Aim to include both summary and synthesis.
  • Focus on ways to have the body of literature tell its own story. Do not add your own interpretations at this point.
  • Look for patterns and find ways of tying the pieces together.

Evaluate the information

There's a lot of information out there. How do you decide whether it's good information? Use the following criteria and see if your information passes muster. 

Currency - Is it the most up-to-date information on the topic?

Relevancy - Is the information fully relevant to your topic? Does it cover all aspects, or is it just tangentially related?

Authority - Is the author qualified to be speaking or writing about the topic? Does he/she have degrees related to the topic? If there isn't an author, how do you know that the information is reliable?

Purpose - If the website is selling something, then it has an inherent bias and you should be very skeptical. Even if you agree with their point of view, it's better to find a source that is unbiased and as objective as possible. 

Research Steps

Research Question
  • What is it you want to know?
  • Where to look?
  • How to find what you are looking for? (Keywords)
 Scope of the Literature Review? It depends.
  • How many sources?
  • What types of sources?
  • Citation style?
  • Time period? Currency?
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Materials?
 
Throw out a wide net
  • Keywords
  • Databases and Journals
  • Organizations
  • People
  • Read Read Read
 
How do you know you are done?
One key factor in knowing you are done is that you keep running into the same articles and materials. With no new information being uncovered you can assume you've exhausted your current search and should modify search terms, or perhaps you have reached a point of exhaustion with the available research.
 
 

Organize Your Lit Review

  • Identify organizational structure: chronologically, thematically, or methodologically
  • Start writing: let the lit tell the story, find the best examples, summarize instead of quote, synthesize by rephrasing (but cite!) in context of your work
  • Introduction/Topic of the lit review, i.e. central theme and/or organization
  • Body/Sources discussed 
  • Conclusion/Recommendations