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Kits: How Do I Describe the Literature?

How Do I Describe the Literature?

The next main area of the proposal is describing and synthesizing the current literature. It is important for students writing this part of the proposal to cover all areas relevant to the topic and problem.


Figure 1

Literature Review Triangle Concept

literature review triangle

Note. If one thinks of the literature review as an inverted triangle, it should begin with the broadest concepts related to the identified areas in the problem.

For example, one broad concept may be organizational innovation, the specific topic area may be flexible work, and the specific concept in a study may be employees who work remotely. Before the student can discuss the specific concept of remote workers, they would need to familiarize the reader with the research on flexible work. Before the student does that, they should review innovative work practices.

One way doctoral students might begin an outline for the literature review is to look at the problem statement they already have drafted. Circling all of the variables or concepts mentioned in this section will reveal the elements that belong in the literature review. Next, students should determine what level of discussion or scope, based on the example in Figure 1, is necessary for the reader.

Students should work closely with their committee to determine how to best demonstrate saturation and describe previous knowledge on their topic.

Purpose and Samples of the Search Strategy Description

The purpose for describing the search strategy for your literature review is to demonstrate that you have searched the literature comprehensively to locate all relevant, current, and authoritative research for your topic or research problem. The strategy description includes sufficient detail to accurately report your search process so that another researcher could replicate the search. There is no one formula for reporting the search process; the topic or research problem will inform the process.

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