Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review

Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review ORDER NOW FOR CUSTOMIZED AND ORIGINAL ESSAY PAPERS ON Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review Here are lots of resources to you understand the Literature Review. Please use the below resources and then complete below task. Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review The article by: Ted Zorn and Nittaya Campbell, “Improving the Writing of Literature Reviews through Literature Integration Exercise” Using the below article and links, help complete the below task. Article attached: Literature Review the tutorial from The University of North Carolina on writing literature reviews . https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/literature-reviews/ . the tutorial from UMUC’s Effective Writing Center on writing the literature review . http://writingcenter.tamu.edu/Students/Writing-Speaking-Guides/Alphabetical-List-of-Guides/Academic-Writing/Literature-Reviews Task: After reviewing the material on the Literature Review posted above, please return to your annotated bibliography and begin developing “categories” to help you to organize your sources. Post one category below and list several sources that might fill that category. Remember that some sources may fall into more than one category. Please feel free to post questions or concerns because your instructor wants to help you. Please respond generously to at least two of your fellow classmates. ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————>>>>>> I am not sure what the professor wants here. But i am thinking we have to use the first writing assignment “annotated bibliography” to complete this task literature_review.pdf BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 6:51 PM Page 172 INNOVATIVE ASSIGNMENTS IMPROVING THE WRITING OF LITERATURE REVIEWS THROUGH A LITERATURE INTEGRATION EXERCISE Ted Zorn Nittaya Campbell University of Waikato, New Zealand STUDENTS ARE OFTEN required to write literature reviews in advanced business communication courses, especially as part of a research project. Likewise, in the workplace, business communicators may need to review the literature in analyzing a problem or proposing a solution. However, instructors often find that even students who otherwise write well are not able to write good literature reviews. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate a method for teaching students some of the key techniques for writing literature reviews—particularly the challenge of synthesizing multiple sources of information into a coherent analysis of the literature. A recent publication in this journal (Nienhaus, 2004) provided a useful set of guidelines for helping students improve their citation performance. Other published works have provided useful advice on search strategies (e.g., McGuire, 1981; Spears, 1983; Suchan & Snow, 1981). Although it has been argued that “perhaps the most difficult part of [producing a literature review] lies in the final step, that of synthesizing the information selected and critiqued” (Parker et al., 1998), very little guidance is available on how to synthesize effectively. As a genre, the literature review is more typically associated with academic articles, dissertations, and theses (Rowley & Slack, 2004) and has not received the attention it deserves in the business communication discipline. A search through the past two and a half decades of this journal and the Journal of Business Communication turns Business Communication Quarterly, Volume 69, Number 2, June 2006 172-183 DOI: 10.1177/1080569906287960 © 2006 by the Association for Business Communication 172 BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 6:51 PM Page 173 Zorn, Campbell / IMPROVING LITERATURE REVIEWS 173 up no article that addresses the writing of literature reviews in any depth. Business communication textbooks generally point out, in the unit on proposals and reports, the need to review relevant literature but do not provide sufficient explanation, let alone exercises, on how to present the information effectively. Therefore, this article focuses primarily on that aspect of producing a literature review. First, we briefly discuss the importance of literature reviews, the key problems that students experience, and some guidelines for writing carefully synthesized reviews of the literature. These are the same points that we typically cover in a brief lecture to students on how to do literature reviews. Then, we present an exercise that we developed for teaching the practice of writing literature reviews. The exercise involves integrating four pieces of research into a coherent synthesis of the literature, then providing students with examples that demonstrate the key features of well-written literature reviews. WHY CONDUCT A LITERATURE REVIEW? While the answer to the question, “Why conduct a literature review?” may seem obvious to business communication teachers, to students a literature review often seems like just another academic requirement—something they are required to do for their courses but that has little relevance to their future work (unless they intend a career in academia). However, literature reviews have many potential benefits both in and beyond the university setting. They often support a research proposal or report, but they are also conducted to synthesize information for other purposes (Parker et al., 1998). First, literature reviews are indeed important for scholarly research within the university setting. They can be a source of ideas, research questions, and hunches to explore. That is, through finding exemplars of well-executed research, interesting ideas that are not particularly well executed, or gaps in the body of knowledge in a discipline, we can identify possibilities for future research. Literature reviews also help scholars avoid “reinventing the wheel” by enabling them to build on what others have done. Finally, literature reviews help researchers develop an argument for their study by demonstrating that they are extending existing knowledge—building on what is already out there and filling gaps that exist. Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review Thus, if students are to write research reports effectively in their university studies, they must master the writing of literature reviews. BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 174 6:51 PM Page 174 BUSINESS COMMUNICATION QUARTERLY / June 2006 Second, and often more impressive to students as a justification, literature reviews have multiple real-world applications. For example, they can be sources of tools or solutions to organizational problems. The first author often tells students how he first learned the practical value of literature reviews when he was a training and development specialist for a private company. His boss at the time often reviewed, or required him to review, the literature as a means of identifying key strategies or principles to include in their corporate training programs. Literature reviews not only provided useful content for the programs, but they also gave the training programs a sense of credibility and currency because the trainers were able to cite recent research to support their recommendations for management practice. Literature reviews can also inform decisions or support proposals or conclusions with credible evidence. This point is of particular relevance to business communication courses, where proposal and report writing is commonly a major component of the syllabus. Literature reviews synthesize what is known about an issue or practice. An alumna of our school, who is now a highly successful consultant, frequently gives presentations in our classes in which she explains how her recommendations to organizations typically begin with a review of the research literature. Thus, it is easy for students to imagine themselves as consultants making a recommendation to a client along these lines: “Given Computech’s situation, research suggests that the most successful strategy is likely to be . . .” COMMON PROBLEMS IN LITERATURE REVIEWS Of course, for literature reviews to achieve these goals, they must be based on a thorough search and provide a clear, focused synthesis of the literature. Yet a number of common problems may lead literature reviews to fail. Although our focus is primarily on the writing of literature reviews, it is important to acknowledge that a key problem may be that the search is not systematic or comprehensive enough. As a result, the literature reviewed may be too narrow, scattered, or out of date. The search may also focus on the wrong sources, for example, relying on textbooks and popular press articles at the expense of scholarly sources. Regarding problems in the writing itself, first, reviews often lack a clear sense of purpose. Students sometimes mistakenly assume that the goal of the literature review is simply to cite or describe as many sources BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 6:51 PM Page 175 Zorn, Campbell / IMPROVING LITERATURE REVIEWS 175 as possible relevant to the topic. One result may be that they assume the goal is to string together a series of quotes from the literature reviewed. Another result may be what we call the “he said/she said” problem; that is, the writer tells us what each source says but does not convey the relationships among the sources. It is the writer’s job to synthesize, or make sense of, the literature. Simply describing or quoting the literature may be adequate, but in doing so the writer loses the argument as well as his or her own voice. Instead, the writer should have a clear objective, usually that of synthesizing the literature that responds to a specific research question or objective. Similarly, he or she should have a clear audience in mind. A clear audience and objective can help avoid some of the other problems typically associated with a review. Second, writers may assume too much reader familiarity with literature—for example, by not defining jargon or key terms or by not explaining key assumptions. A related problem is that of failing to distinguish fact from opinion. Some sources reviewed will be based on empirical research, and others will be opinion pieces or conceptual articles. However, phrases like “Smith said” or “Smith concluded that” do not clearly indicate the basis of the conclusions or arguments reached in the source cited. At other times, the writer may use phrases that suggest an empirical basis for the source’s conclusions (e.g., “Smith found that…”). Such phrasing is appropriate if that is the case, but not if the source is simply someone’s opinion. Third, a problem that may occur is that the writer may assert generalizations that are not sufficiently supported by the literature cited. As a result, the reader is not convinced of the writer’s conclusions. Finally, poor organization or structure is a final writing problem that detracts from the effectiveness of literature reviews. Poor structure can make the argument or logic of the synthesis difficult for the reader to comprehend. CHARACTERISTICS OF WELL-WRITTEN LITERATURE REVIEWS To a large extent, the features that characterize effective writing in general also characterize effective literature reviews. Therefore, we will focus on those aspects of writing that are unique to literature reviews or are particularly problematic. Literature reviews should include the following main components (UC–Santa Cruz, 2003): Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 176 6:51 PM Page 176 BUSINESS COMMUNICATION QUARTERLY / June 2006 1. An introduction that provides an overview of the focus and objectives of the review, along with a thesis statement 2. A set of themes that categorize and make sense of the sources reviewed and develop the thesis (e.g., sources that support a particular position, those opposed, and those offering alternative views) 3. Explanation and evaluation of conclusions reached by key sources, and explanation of how they converge and diverge from the conclusions reached by other sources 4. Conclusions, reasonable speculations, and gaps that emerge after considering the sources as a whole The introduction should articulate a clear and appropriate focus for the literature review. Like any good research project, a literature review should be guided by a specific objective or, better yet, a question to be answered. This will not only guide the search strategy for the literature review, but it should also guide the writing. Most parts of the written literature review—the introduction, the major headings, and the conclusion—can often be derived from this question. For example, imagine that the overall question driving an applied research project is, “How do employees perceive that communication about the restructuring at Computech has influenced morale?” This can be easily converted into an appropriate question for the literature review such as, “How does communication about restructuring influence morale?” A guiding research question encourages development of a thesis statement that responds to the question. Given the example question above, the thesis statement for the literature review might be something like, “The literature suggests that communication about restructuring appears to influence morale in three primary ways.” Students may derive the set of themes from the key elements of the research question or from the thesis statement. The themes may then serve as the major headings for the body of the literature review. To continue with the example just mentioned, the major themes might be the various means by which communication about restructuring affects morale, or they might be (a) the ways organizations typically communicate about restructuring (or major changes generally), (b) the demonstrated effects of communication on morale, and (c) the features of communication known to affect morale. Within the discussion of major themes, the writer should focus on explaining and evaluating conclusions reached by key sources. It is critical that in doing so, the writer integrate and synthesize rather than just summarize—and this applies to individual paragraphs as well as the overall literature review. So the writer should explain the BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 6:51 PM Page 177 Zorn, Campbell / IMPROVING LITERATURE REVIEWS 177 common or divergent conclusions reached by two or more sources and any issues of concern in evaluating their claims—for example, controversial issues or questionable methods. Consider this example from a recent published article: Empirical studies of service encounters, relationships, and pseudorelationships have found that customers are more satisfied with their experience in service relationships than service encounters or pseudorelationships [three sources cited]. Specifically, . . . (Koermer, 2005, p. 249) In one sentence, the author synthesized the main findings from three studies, and then in subsequent sentences, he went on to explain the points of convergence and divergence. This is much more effective than devoting each paragraph to explaining the findings from one study, then leaving the reader to do his or her own synthesis—which, unfortunately, is what we see in too many literature reviews. It is also important that the explanations are accurate and clear in describing research reviewed. Writers need to keep in mind that the reader usually has not read the original reports; therefore, they need to provide adequate information so the reader can have confidence in the conclusions reached. In some cases—especially when the conclusion reached is critical to the overall thesis—this may require providing a summary of the evidence presented in the original source, for example, “Based on a survey of 213 human resource managers in large U.S. companies, Smith found that a slight majority had changed their policies in the past two years.” Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review Quotes should be used sparingly, but brief excerpts add credibility and clarity when they make a point particularly well. Synthesizing the literature amounts to constructing an argument about the conclusions reached, questions or concerns about these conclusions, and the gaps that remain. Thus, the features of good argumentative writing should be prominent. Particularly important is clear paragraph structure. This includes topic sentences that make claims and also indicate the logical flow of the argument, for example, through connecting phrases such as “similarly” or “in addition” or “in contrast.” The remaining sentences in the paragraph should clarify, elaborate, and substantiate the topic sentence. The end result of the literature review should be a coherent set of answers to the question. That does not mean that the review should reach stronger conclusions than are warranted by the research reviewed. But it does mean that in concluding the review, the writer BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 178 6:51 PM Page 178 BUSINESS COMMUNICATION QUARTERLY / June 2006 should summarize the answers to the research question as clearly as the literature allows. The writer can also speculate from the literature, as long as the speculations are clearly labeled as such, and can (and should) identify important gaps in knowledge. Thus, the writer should identify the important questions that remain to be answered in future research. The gaps identified may provide the justification for a larger study of which the literature review is a part. Finally, the writer should pay careful attention to the tone of his or her writing. The tone should be respectful of the studies reviewed, not condescending or dismissive, which novice writers sometimes are guilty of. Additionally, it is important that the writer’s voice remain foregrounded and not lost behind a series of quotes. Even though the literature review summarizes the work of others, the thesis presented in the literature review, as well as the support for it, is that of the writer. AN IN-CLASS LITERATURE REVIEW EXERCISE Presenting explanations such as those provided so far in this article is helpful, but students also need the experience of writing literature reviews and getting feedback on them to do them well and improve their skill. Unfortunately, doing a substantial literature review requires many hours of work, so it is difficult to develop the skills needed in the classroom. However, we suggest the following mini–literature review exercise to develop some of the writing skills needed. The exercise involves giving students several abstracts of articles that are all on the same topic (Krone, 1992; Waldron, 1991; Waldron & Hunt, 1992; Waldron, Hunt, & Dsilva, 1993). Appendix A contains a set of four abstracts from articles focusing on upward influence. Any set of articles on a common theme would do for the exercise. However, these four have a similar topical focus and research approach, so that students can easily see how the content of one relates to the others. Therefore, they can focus their energy on the writing task rather than trying to figure out how the articles relate to each other. Typically, before students do the exercise, we present a brief lecture covering the ideas discussed above. Then we provide the students with the following instructions: In this handout are the abstracts of four research articles, all on a similar set of topics. Your goal is to use the principles just discussed to write a brief literature review—about 2-4 paragraphs. In particular, focus on BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 6:51 PM Page 179 Zorn, Campbell / IMPROVING LITERATURE REVIEWS 179 incorporating the key elements outlined in the lecture and synthesizing the findings of the four articles. Assume that your audience is the manager of corporate training, who has asked you to find out what the research says about patterns of upward communication. Usually, students work individually. Sometimes, however, we allow them to work in pairs, especially if it is not an advanced class. And if there is time, we ask several of them to write their reviews on transparencies to share with the class. After discussing the best features of each, we give students a handout that has two sample solutions—one that is generally well written but not very well synthesized and one that is much better synthesized (see Appendix B). We use the “Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review Comments” feature on Microsoft Word to point to particular elements of the two answers that relate to the problems identified and the characteristics of good literature reviews discussed in the minilecture. If time permits, we ask students to look back at their initial attempts and compare them to the model answer. They are encouraged to look for opportunities where they might incorporate the lessons learned from the exercise. Although the experience of synthesizing four abstracts is far less complex than that of a typical literature review, the exercise enables the instructor to focus on some of the most challenging writing problems. It can be used as a stand-alone activity to develop students’ skills in gathering, synthesizing, and reporting information in well-defined scenarios, to develop skills important to business communication courses, or as a preliminary step in proposal or report writing. In either case, the exercise brings literature reviews into focus and provides students with not only a better understanding of their purpose and usefulness but also guidance on how to write them effectively. The features presented in the model answer also make useful points of reference for the instructor when the students’ own literature reviews are later evaluated. APPENDIX A Four Abstracts of Research Articles on Upward Influence Wa … Get a 10 % discount on an order above $ 100 Use the following coupon code : NURSING10

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Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review

Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review ORDER NOW FOR CUSTOMIZED AND ORIGINAL ESSAY PAPERS ON Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review Here are lots of resources to you understand the Literature Review. Please use the below resources and then complete below task. Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review The article by: Ted Zorn and Nittaya Campbell, “Improving the Writing of Literature Reviews through Literature Integration Exercise” Using the below article and links, help complete the below task. Article attached: Literature Review the tutorial from The University of North Carolina on writing literature reviews . https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/literature-reviews/ . the tutorial from UMUC’s Effective Writing Center on writing the literature review . http://writingcenter.tamu.edu/Students/Writing-Speaking-Guides/Alphabetical-List-of-Guides/Academic-Writing/Literature-Reviews Task: After reviewing the material on the Literature Review posted above, please return to your annotated bibliography and begin developing “categories” to help you to organize your sources. Post one category below and list several sources that might fill that category. Remember that some sources may fall into more than one category. Please feel free to post questions or concerns because your instructor wants to help you. Please respond generously to at least two of your fellow classmates. ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————>>>>>> I am not sure what the professor wants here. But i am thinking we have to use the first writing assignment “annotated bibliography” to complete this task literature_review.pdf BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 6:51 PM Page 172 INNOVATIVE ASSIGNMENTS IMPROVING THE WRITING OF LITERATURE REVIEWS THROUGH A LITERATURE INTEGRATION EXERCISE Ted Zorn Nittaya Campbell University of Waikato, New Zealand STUDENTS ARE OFTEN required to write literature reviews in advanced business communication courses, especially as part of a research project. Likewise, in the workplace, business communicators may need to review the literature in analyzing a problem or proposing a solution. However, instructors often find that even students who otherwise write well are not able to write good literature reviews. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate a method for teaching students some of the key techniques for writing literature reviews—particularly the challenge of synthesizing multiple sources of information into a coherent analysis of the literature. A recent publication in this journal (Nienhaus, 2004) provided a useful set of guidelines for helping students improve their citation performance. Other published works have provided useful advice on search strategies (e.g., McGuire, 1981; Spears, 1983; Suchan & Snow, 1981). Although it has been argued that “perhaps the most difficult part of [producing a literature review] lies in the final step, that of synthesizing the information selected and critiqued” (Parker et al., 1998), very little guidance is available on how to synthesize effectively. As a genre, the literature review is more typically associated with academic articles, dissertations, and theses (Rowley & Slack, 2004) and has not received the attention it deserves in the business communication discipline. A search through the past two and a half decades of this journal and the Journal of Business Communication turns Business Communication Quarterly, Volume 69, Number 2, June 2006 172-183 DOI: 10.1177/1080569906287960 © 2006 by the Association for Business Communication 172 BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 6:51 PM Page 173 Zorn, Campbell / IMPROVING LITERATURE REVIEWS 173 up no article that addresses the writing of literature reviews in any depth. Business communication textbooks generally point out, in the unit on proposals and reports, the need to review relevant literature but do not provide sufficient explanation, let alone exercises, on how to present the information effectively. Therefore, this article focuses primarily on that aspect of producing a literature review. First, we briefly discuss the importance of literature reviews, the key problems that students experience, and some guidelines for writing carefully synthesized reviews of the literature. These are the same points that we typically cover in a brief lecture to students on how to do literature reviews. Then, we present an exercise that we developed for teaching the practice of writing literature reviews. The exercise involves integrating four pieces of research into a coherent synthesis of the literature, then providing students with examples that demonstrate the key features of well-written literature reviews. WHY CONDUCT A LITERATURE REVIEW? While the answer to the question, “Why conduct a literature review?” may seem obvious to business communication teachers, to students a literature review often seems like just another academic requirement—something they are required to do for their courses but that has little relevance to their future work (unless they intend a career in academia). However, literature reviews have many potential benefits both in and beyond the university setting. They often support a research proposal or report, but they are also conducted to synthesize information for other purposes (Parker et al., 1998). First, literature reviews are indeed important for scholarly research within the university setting. They can be a source of ideas, research questions, and hunches to explore. That is, through finding exemplars of well-executed research, interesting ideas that are not particularly well executed, or gaps in the body of knowledge in a discipline, we can identify possibilities for future research. Literature reviews also help scholars avoid “reinventing the wheel” by enabling them to build on what others have done. Finally, literature reviews help researchers develop an argument for their study by demonstrating that they are extending existing knowledge—building on what is already out there and filling gaps that exist. Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review Thus, if students are to write research reports effectively in their university studies, they must master the writing of literature reviews. BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 174 6:51 PM Page 174 BUSINESS COMMUNICATION QUARTERLY / June 2006 Second, and often more impressive to students as a justification, literature reviews have multiple real-world applications. For example, they can be sources of tools or solutions to organizational problems. The first author often tells students how he first learned the practical value of literature reviews when he was a training and development specialist for a private company. His boss at the time often reviewed, or required him to review, the literature as a means of identifying key strategies or principles to include in their corporate training programs. Literature reviews not only provided useful content for the programs, but they also gave the training programs a sense of credibility and currency because the trainers were able to cite recent research to support their recommendations for management practice. Literature reviews can also inform decisions or support proposals or conclusions with credible evidence. This point is of particular relevance to business communication courses, where proposal and report writing is commonly a major component of the syllabus. Literature reviews synthesize what is known about an issue or practice. An alumna of our school, who is now a highly successful consultant, frequently gives presentations in our classes in which she explains how her recommendations to organizations typically begin with a review of the research literature. Thus, it is easy for students to imagine themselves as consultants making a recommendation to a client along these lines: “Given Computech’s situation, research suggests that the most successful strategy is likely to be . . .” COMMON PROBLEMS IN LITERATURE REVIEWS Of course, for literature reviews to achieve these goals, they must be based on a thorough search and provide a clear, focused synthesis of the literature. Yet a number of common problems may lead literature reviews to fail. Although our focus is primarily on the writing of literature reviews, it is important to acknowledge that a key problem may be that the search is not systematic or comprehensive enough. As a result, the literature reviewed may be too narrow, scattered, or out of date. The search may also focus on the wrong sources, for example, relying on textbooks and popular press articles at the expense of scholarly sources. Regarding problems in the writing itself, first, reviews often lack a clear sense of purpose. Students sometimes mistakenly assume that the goal of the literature review is simply to cite or describe as many sources BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 6:51 PM Page 175 Zorn, Campbell / IMPROVING LITERATURE REVIEWS 175 as possible relevant to the topic. One result may be that they assume the goal is to string together a series of quotes from the literature reviewed. Another result may be what we call the “he said/she said” problem; that is, the writer tells us what each source says but does not convey the relationships among the sources. It is the writer’s job to synthesize, or make sense of, the literature. Simply describing or quoting the literature may be adequate, but in doing so the writer loses the argument as well as his or her own voice. Instead, the writer should have a clear objective, usually that of synthesizing the literature that responds to a specific research question or objective. Similarly, he or she should have a clear audience in mind. A clear audience and objective can help avoid some of the other problems typically associated with a review. Second, writers may assume too much reader familiarity with literature—for example, by not defining jargon or key terms or by not explaining key assumptions. A related problem is that of failing to distinguish fact from opinion. Some sources reviewed will be based on empirical research, and others will be opinion pieces or conceptual articles. However, phrases like “Smith said” or “Smith concluded that” do not clearly indicate the basis of the conclusions or arguments reached in the source cited. At other times, the writer may use phrases that suggest an empirical basis for the source’s conclusions (e.g., “Smith found that…”). Such phrasing is appropriate if that is the case, but not if the source is simply someone’s opinion. Third, a problem that may occur is that the writer may assert generalizations that are not sufficiently supported by the literature cited. As a result, the reader is not convinced of the writer’s conclusions. Finally, poor organization or structure is a final writing problem that detracts from the effectiveness of literature reviews. Poor structure can make the argument or logic of the synthesis difficult for the reader to comprehend. CHARACTERISTICS OF WELL-WRITTEN LITERATURE REVIEWS To a large extent, the features that characterize effective writing in general also characterize effective literature reviews. Therefore, we will focus on those aspects of writing that are unique to literature reviews or are particularly problematic. Literature reviews should include the following main components (UC–Santa Cruz, 2003): Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 176 6:51 PM Page 176 BUSINESS COMMUNICATION QUARTERLY / June 2006 1. An introduction that provides an overview of the focus and objectives of the review, along with a thesis statement 2. A set of themes that categorize and make sense of the sources reviewed and develop the thesis (e.g., sources that support a particular position, those opposed, and those offering alternative views) 3. Explanation and evaluation of conclusions reached by key sources, and explanation of how they converge and diverge from the conclusions reached by other sources 4. Conclusions, reasonable speculations, and gaps that emerge after considering the sources as a whole The introduction should articulate a clear and appropriate focus for the literature review. Like any good research project, a literature review should be guided by a specific objective or, better yet, a question to be answered. This will not only guide the search strategy for the literature review, but it should also guide the writing. Most parts of the written literature review—the introduction, the major headings, and the conclusion—can often be derived from this question. For example, imagine that the overall question driving an applied research project is, “How do employees perceive that communication about the restructuring at Computech has influenced morale?” This can be easily converted into an appropriate question for the literature review such as, “How does communication about restructuring influence morale?” A guiding research question encourages development of a thesis statement that responds to the question. Given the example question above, the thesis statement for the literature review might be something like, “The literature suggests that communication about restructuring appears to influence morale in three primary ways.” Students may derive the set of themes from the key elements of the research question or from the thesis statement. The themes may then serve as the major headings for the body of the literature review. To continue with the example just mentioned, the major themes might be the various means by which communication about restructuring affects morale, or they might be (a) the ways organizations typically communicate about restructuring (or major changes generally), (b) the demonstrated effects of communication on morale, and (c) the features of communication known to affect morale. Within the discussion of major themes, the writer should focus on explaining and evaluating conclusions reached by key sources. It is critical that in doing so, the writer integrate and synthesize rather than just summarize—and this applies to individual paragraphs as well as the overall literature review. So the writer should explain the BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 6:51 PM Page 177 Zorn, Campbell / IMPROVING LITERATURE REVIEWS 177 common or divergent conclusions reached by two or more sources and any issues of concern in evaluating their claims—for example, controversial issues or questionable methods. Consider this example from a recent published article: Empirical studies of service encounters, relationships, and pseudorelationships have found that customers are more satisfied with their experience in service relationships than service encounters or pseudorelationships [three sources cited]. Specifically, . . . (Koermer, 2005, p. 249) In one sentence, the author synthesized the main findings from three studies, and then in subsequent sentences, he went on to explain the points of convergence and divergence. This is much more effective than devoting each paragraph to explaining the findings from one study, then leaving the reader to do his or her own synthesis—which, unfortunately, is what we see in too many literature reviews. It is also important that the explanations are accurate and clear in describing research reviewed. Writers need to keep in mind that the reader usually has not read the original reports; therefore, they need to provide adequate information so the reader can have confidence in the conclusions reached. In some cases—especially when the conclusion reached is critical to the overall thesis—this may require providing a summary of the evidence presented in the original source, for example, “Based on a survey of 213 human resource managers in large U.S. companies, Smith found that a slight majority had changed their policies in the past two years.” Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review Quotes should be used sparingly, but brief excerpts add credibility and clarity when they make a point particularly well. Synthesizing the literature amounts to constructing an argument about the conclusions reached, questions or concerns about these conclusions, and the gaps that remain. Thus, the features of good argumentative writing should be prominent. Particularly important is clear paragraph structure. This includes topic sentences that make claims and also indicate the logical flow of the argument, for example, through connecting phrases such as “similarly” or “in addition” or “in contrast.” The remaining sentences in the paragraph should clarify, elaborate, and substantiate the topic sentence. The end result of the literature review should be a coherent set of answers to the question. That does not mean that the review should reach stronger conclusions than are warranted by the research reviewed. But it does mean that in concluding the review, the writer BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 178 6:51 PM Page 178 BUSINESS COMMUNICATION QUARTERLY / June 2006 should summarize the answers to the research question as clearly as the literature allows. The writer can also speculate from the literature, as long as the speculations are clearly labeled as such, and can (and should) identify important gaps in knowledge. Thus, the writer should identify the important questions that remain to be answered in future research. The gaps identified may provide the justification for a larger study of which the literature review is a part. Finally, the writer should pay careful attention to the tone of his or her writing. The tone should be respectful of the studies reviewed, not condescending or dismissive, which novice writers sometimes are guilty of. Additionally, it is important that the writer’s voice remain foregrounded and not lost behind a series of quotes. Even though the literature review summarizes the work of others, the thesis presented in the literature review, as well as the support for it, is that of the writer. AN IN-CLASS LITERATURE REVIEW EXERCISE Presenting explanations such as those provided so far in this article is helpful, but students also need the experience of writing literature reviews and getting feedback on them to do them well and improve their skill. Unfortunately, doing a substantial literature review requires many hours of work, so it is difficult to develop the skills needed in the classroom. However, we suggest the following mini–literature review exercise to develop some of the writing skills needed. The exercise involves giving students several abstracts of articles that are all on the same topic (Krone, 1992; Waldron, 1991; Waldron & Hunt, 1992; Waldron, Hunt, & Dsilva, 1993). Appendix A contains a set of four abstracts from articles focusing on upward influence. Any set of articles on a common theme would do for the exercise. However, these four have a similar topical focus and research approach, so that students can easily see how the content of one relates to the others. Therefore, they can focus their energy on the writing task rather than trying to figure out how the articles relate to each other. Typically, before students do the exercise, we present a brief lecture covering the ideas discussed above. Then we provide the students with the following instructions: In this handout are the abstracts of four research articles, all on a similar set of topics. Your goal is to use the principles just discussed to write a brief literature review—about 2-4 paragraphs. In particular, focus on BCQ287960.qxd 4/12/2006 6:51 PM Page 179 Zorn, Campbell / IMPROVING LITERATURE REVIEWS 179 incorporating the key elements outlined in the lecture and synthesizing the findings of the four articles. Assume that your audience is the manager of corporate training, who has asked you to find out what the research says about patterns of upward communication. Usually, students work individually. Sometimes, however, we allow them to work in pairs, especially if it is not an advanced class. And if there is time, we ask several of them to write their reviews on transparencies to share with the class. After discussing the best features of each, we give students a handout that has two sample solutions—one that is generally well written but not very well synthesized and one that is much better synthesized (see Appendix B). We use the “Discussion: Developing Categories for the Literature Review Comments” feature on Microsoft Word to point to particular elements of the two answers that relate to the problems identified and the characteristics of good literature reviews discussed in the minilecture. If time permits, we ask students to look back at their initial attempts and compare them to the model answer. They are encouraged to look for opportunities where they might incorporate the lessons learned from the exercise. Although the experience of synthesizing four abstracts is far less complex than that of a typical literature review, the exercise enables the instructor to focus on some of the most challenging writing problems. It can be used as a stand-alone activity to develop students’ skills in gathering, synthesizing, and reporting information in well-defined scenarios, to develop skills important to business communication courses, or as a preliminary step in proposal or report writing. In either case, the exercise brings literature reviews into focus and provides students with not only a better understanding of their purpose and usefulness but also guidance on how to write them effectively. The features presented in the model answer also make useful points of reference for the instructor when the students’ own literature reviews are later evaluated. APPENDIX A Four Abstracts of Research Articles on Upward Influence Wa … Get a 10 % discount on an order above $ 100 Use the following coupon code : NURSING10

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