Drawing on Credible Sources
In academic writing, the literature means primarily the most reliable and credible sources. The most respected articles will be found in peer-reviewed journals.
Reading and critically engaging with the most recent and credible (highly-ranked) journals and texts by key researchers in the field will be an indicator that you have sound knowledge of the topic.
The literature can include:
- Journal articles
- Grey literature
Making good judgements throughout the whole process of scholarly inquiry is important. The process involves:
- Searching for and selecting the key material based on or in the process of formulating a thesis statement/claim or thesis question
- Taking notes and starting to organise your thoughts using concept-mapping to break down the key concepts
- Drafting your own account, based on the key concepts, by summarising, paraphrasing, quoting and synthesising – in short, integrating the literature into an evolving critical review.
The process of scholarly inquiry also involves:
- Breaking down complex concepts and ideas (analysis); that is, explaining the key concepts or ideas in a precise and clear way.
- Evaluating the literature by identifying the relative strengths and weaknesses of the material you have drawn upon.
Notice how critical decisions are made throughout the process – decisions about what you include and exclude, and how you unpack and order the information – before you make more in-depth evaluations. Careful attention to detail in the first place is an indication of your scholarly rigour.
This process will be explained in more detail in this program.
KEY WRITING TIP: Do not try to make everything right when you start writing: allow yourself to get ideas down, and then refine your writing when redrafting.
Narrative Literature Review
A narrative literature review provides your own account of the key material on a particular topic. It demonstrates you are able to make a carefully selected and balanced overview of the literature. Being critical involves making informed and unbiased judgements.
This program focuses primarily on literature reviews for research purposes, particularly in graduate studies projects.
Note that writing a background for a candidacy proposal will typically involve a basic literature review, which tends to be preceded by a preliminary section that contextualises the research topic or problem or question (the broader socio-economic, institutional and/or political environment/situation).
A literature review presents a coherent argument, leaving the reader in no doubt that the research is necessary and valuable. It presents a well-judged selection of material.
It is not necessary to include everything you have read on the topic – only material relevant to your research question.
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