Skip to main content

Educational Leadership - Ed.D.

A guide to support students in the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program.

Definition

A literature review surveys scholarly articles, books and other sources relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, and by so doing, providing a description, summary, and critical evaluation of these works. Literature reviews are designed to provide an overview of sources you have explored while researching a particular topic and to demonstrate to your readers how your research fits into the larger field of study.

Importance of a Good Literature Review

A literature review may consist of simple a summary of key sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis, often within specific conceptual categories. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information in a way that informs how you are planning to investigate a research problem. The analytical features of a literature review might:

  • Give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations,
  • Trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates,
  • Depending on the situation, evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant, or
  • Usually in the conclusion of a literature review, identify where gaps exist in how a problem has been researched to date.

The purpose of a literature review is to:

  • Place each work in the context of its contribution to the understanding of the research problem being studied,
  • Describe the relationship of each work to the others under consideration,
  • Identify new ways to interpret, and shed light on any gaps in previous research,
  • Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous studies,
  • Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication of effort,
  • Point the way in fulfilling a need for additional research, and
  • Locate your own research within the context of existing literature.

Fink, Arlene. Conducting Research Literature Reviews: From the Internet to Paper. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2005; Hart, Chris. Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1998; Jesson, Jill. Doing Your Literature Review: Traditional and Systematic Techniques. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE, 2011; Ridley, Diana. The Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Guide for Students. 2nd ed. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE, 2012.

Importance of Evaluating Sources

Evaluating the authority, usefulness, and reliability of resources is a crucial step in developing a literature review that effectively covers pertinent research as well as demonstrating to the reader that you know what you're talking about. The process of evaluating scholarly research also enhances your general skills and ability to:

  1. Seek out alternate points of view and differing perspectives,
  2. Identify possible bias in the work of others,
  3. Distinguish between fact, fiction, and opinion,
  4. Develop and strengthen your ability to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant content,
  5. Draw cogent, well thought out conclusions, and
  6. Synthesize information, extracting meaning through interpretation and analysis.