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Writing a Literature Review: Phase 5: Organizing the Review

This guide provides an overview of the literature review and its place in a research project and contains resources for finding the information you need at APSU Library.

Categorizing the Lit.

When categorizing the writings in the review, the researcher might consider

  • the methodology employed;
  • the quality of the findings or conclusions;
  • the document’s major strengths and weaknesses;
  • any other pivotal information.

He might consider such questions as:

  • what beliefs are expressed?
  • Is there an ideological stance?
  • What is being described? Is it comprehensive or narrow?
  • Are the results generalizable?

Remember that you are relating other studies to your study. How do the studies in your lit. review relate to your thesis? How are the other studies related to each other?

Many Similar Studies?

If there are many similar studies, a strategy might be to discuss the most important ones and say that the results were confirmed in many other studies.

How to Organize the Lit. Review

There are numerous ways to organize the material in a lit. review. For example, one might organize the selected readings by

  • different theoretical approaches
  • specific concepts or issues
  • different methodologies employed
  • level of support or otherwise that they lend to one’s own hypothesis/theory. 

Such methods are generally better than organizing chronologically or by author. The latter often result in a boring review or one lacking clarity or direction.

As you read, you'll encounter various ideas, disagreements, methods, and perspectives which can be hard to organize in a meaningful way.

A synthesis matrix helps you record the main points of each source and document how sources relate to each other.

Subject Guide

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Michael Hooper
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