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Research Lab for Senior Research

Session Information

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this Research Lab, students will be able to:

  • Identify gaps in existing scholarship
  • Situate their research in the context of the current conversation on their research topic
  • Synthesize relevant scholarship

Mastering synthetic writing is key to a successful literature review. Use these resources to learn how to analyze the articles you want to use for your literature review, keep track of common themes using an article analysis matrix, and how to convert the notes in the analysis matrix into a piece of synthetic writing.

Think of working on your literature review as a multi-step process:

  1. Identify a topic.
  2. Find research articles on that topic.
  3. Read and analyze each article.
  4. Compare all of the themes addressed in the articles, as well as methodology/findings/limitations.
  5. Use your notes from the article analysis matrix to decide how to organize your literature review.
  6. Write your literature review by discussing one theme at a time--how is this theme covered in the literature?
  7. Your literature review will also need an introduction and a conclusion. Some students like to start with the introduction, while others find it is easier to write the introduction after they have written the body of their literature review.
  8. Don't forget to include References at the end of your paper (and to cite them properly within the text)!

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Researching and Writing a Literature Review

Mapping your Literature Review

When working on a literature review, it can be helpful to think about the major themes within your topic. It may be beneficial to add additional columns (for more articles) or additional rows (to include a place to record each study's research method, findings, or limitations). The more work you do on the front end, thoroughly analyzing various aspects of each article, the easier it will be to pull it all together in the end for your literature review.

  Article 1 Article 2 Article 3 Article 4
Article Analysis Matrix Example: Gender Wage Gap
Marital Status   X   X
Education X X X X
Professional Culture X   X  
Technical vs. Social Work X      
Investment Strategies.                                                          X.                                                                                                                       

Based on this matrix:

  • What themes are well covered in the literature? Education
  • Which are lacking? Technical vs. Social Work AND Investment Strategies.                 
  • Some of these articles overlap, and should be connected in your literature review.

In the google doc below: is a matrix listing the articles will analyze in the top row of the matrix, and the major themes in the far left column. In groups, you will then review an article to see what themes are covered in that article. Check the appropriate boxes for what themes are discussed in each article. When you are done, you will be able to easily see which articles share common themes, and where there are gaps in the research regarding coverage of certain concepts.

Looking at Models