Literature Review Chapter

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Literature Reivew is typically the 2nd chapter of your proposal or thesis. Its purpose is to describe the state of the field for the topics that are relevent to your study. Your goal is to show why your study is needed for a complet understanding of education. It should not be just a collection of paper summaries.


Doing Research

The key to finding literature relevent to your study is to really define what you study is about. That is to go beyond the surface features of your study to the core pedagogical ideas.

Here are some useful links for finding relevent literature:

Writing the Lit Review Chapter


Your review should start with a short summary of your research question or hypothesis and then identify the key topics that are in the literature (advance organizer for the rest of the chapter)


It is often (but not always) a good to start with the most basic or theoretical ideas (e.g. constructivism, inquiry, feedback, community of learners). Most readers will be familiar with these ideas and the references and it will provide a strong base for your study. The How People Learn book (Bransford, Brown, Cocking, 2000) is a good reference for basic ideas.

Review the other topics and what the literature says about them. Make sure to define any jargon (e.g. peer-review, jigsaw, IEP) rather than assume that the reader will be familiar with them. Cite your references according to APA Style.

Use direct quotations only when the quote is particularly interesting. For most referenes you can simply paraphrase their findings using terms like "they found", "the authors argue", "their study shows". Try to avoid words like "proves", "the fact that" and be sure to qualify statements as appropriate (e.g. "seems to show", "indicates", "demonstrates").

The closest research to yours should probably come last (especially any pilot studies). You will have already given support for that type of study and then you can talk about what is missing is the similar studies - and thus justify the need for your study.


A short conclusion is useful to turn the reader's attention back to your study.

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