“The basic purpose of the literature review is twofold: first, to provide an introduction to your topic and explain the research that has already been conducted; and second, to help motivate and provide background for the hypotheses and research questions that you will be testing. Don’t go overboard; write concisely and powerfully. You should take no more than one paragraph to summarize any one piece of previous research that you cite in the literature review. Try to keep your review as focused as possible on the central themes of interest.”
Here are some general guidelines for the literature review:
“An author should communicate a review’s purpose to the reader by its organizations. The wrong way to write a review is to list a series of research reports with a summary of the findings of each. This fails to communicate a sense of purpose. It reads as a set of notes strung together. Perhaps the reviewer got sloppy and skipped over the important organizing step in writing the review. The right way to write a review is to organize common findings or arguments together. A well-accepted approach is to address the most important ideas first, to logically link statements or findings, and to note discrepancies or weaknesses in the research” (Neuman, 2004, p. 78).
“Previous research has found gender differences in perceptions of use of force. A number of studies (Smith, 1999; Jones, 1998; Anderson, 1983) have found that men are more likely to approve of higher levels of police force than women. However, one study found that female criminal justice students supported higher levels of force than male students (Zebulon, 1993). It is important to note that the first three studies noted above were of citizens, while the last study focused only on students. Furthermore, Zebulon’s work studied only one criminal justice department at one university –clearly, more research is necessary to understand this issue. The research conducted in this project will help clarify the nature of college students’ attitudes towards use of force.
6. The important thing here is to NOT GET OVERWHELMED BY THIS SECTION OF YOUR PAPER. Remember the only purpose of the literature review is to define your topic and set the stage for your hypotheses. In all reality, the literature review is one of the least important parts of your paper – it just is meant to pave the way for your original data collection and analysis (i.e., survey, interviews, etc.).
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