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KAM Resources: Depth

About the Depth

In the Depth component of your KAM, you will review current peer-reviewed and mostly empirical literature in your chosen field, familiarize yourself with the research methodology used by these authors, and identify gaps in the literature where you can make a scholarly contribution. The conclusions you draw in the Breadth should inform the research you conduct in your Depth, and you will conduct this research in your annotated bibliography and Depth essay.

The Depth section requires at least 15 peer-reviewed, mostly empirical, articles from the past 3-5 years.

This section explores the current research on a topic or theme that is related to the theorists in your Breadth section. It has a narrower focus than the Breadth but is not yet as specific as the Application. 

If you aren't sure what topic you want to tackle, consider what you might like as an Application. Working backward from the tightly focused Application should provide logical approaches to the Depth.


Three highlighter pens.


Tips for the Literature Review

1. Learn or review search skills and strategies

2. Gather more than the minimum 15 articles! You should include the best of what's available—what is most pertinent to your theme and theorists, provides the most solid evidence for an argument, proposes the most interesting solutions, and so forth.

The goal of a literature review is to provide a comprehensive look at a topic, but this doesn't mean including everything. It requires making choices about what's important. You can't decide what's important—what meaningfully contributes to and connects with the rest of your KAM—if you look at only 15 items.

Gathering and evaluating a larger number of articles allows you to select the best ones to include on your final list (remember, you can have more than 15). 

3. Articles you read may lead you to others. It's tempting to want to find everything at once—and you might make considerable progress in a single search session.

As you read articles, however, you learn about other research based on what it cites. You may also learn new terms you can use in a search or discover researchers whose work you wish to explore.

Conduct new searches based on the knowledge you gain as you read. This strategy is especially good if you initially struggle to find articles. Your reading might also compel you to shift your topic; run new searches to capture your revised focus so the articles you use align more closely with your theme and better support your overall KAM.

Writing the Depth

Example #1

Arter, M. (2008).  Stress and deviance in policing.  Deviant Behavior, 29(1), 43-69.  doi: 10.1080/01639620701457774

In this article, Arter stated that policing is a highly stressful occupation; however, he asserted that the level of stress varied based upon assignment. Arter reported the findings of a qualitative study conducted at two large metropolitan police departments in the South that deployed officers in undercover capacities to investigate crimes.  The researcher noted that current literature primarily focused on juvenile delinquency when examining general strain theory.  Therefore, the purpose of this study was to extend the empirical application of general strain theory to a high-stressed adult population, specifically police officers on undercover assignments.

Arter pointed out that since the early 20th century criminologists have used strain theories to describe crime and delinquency.  For the purpose of this study, he used general strain theory as a theoretical framework to test the application of the theory on a high-stressed adult population and to determine how officers in different policing assignments cope with stress and deviance.  He utilized phenomenological methodology to mitigate one of the criticisms of the general strain theory: that individuals experiencing the same or similar circumstances often react differently to deviance or delinquency.

Arter's research added to the general strain theory with regards to the concept of deviance beyond acts labeled as delinquent or criminal and confirmed his hypothesis that the application of the theory could be extended to an adult population.  Arter found further support of strain theory in the coping strategies utilized by undercover officers to reduce strain.  For example, officers who employed adaptive coping strategies reported less deviance than those who used maladaptive strategies.  Arter provided a comprehensive evaluation of the strengths and limitations of Agnew’s general strain theory, but he also noted that his finding could be explained using other theories, such as subculture theory, social support theory, cognitive dissonance, or differential association.

One of the limitations of the study included the lack of current literature comparing the adult populations to juvenile populations.  Although the population included two large police departments, the sample size was somewhat small due to the number of officers working in undercover assignments.  Despite its limitations, this article is useful for this KAM because it provides empirical data related to occupational stress in policing and how assignments influence the level of stress that police officers experience. (Gregory Campbell, Depth)

Example #2

Gathman, A. C., & Nessan, C. L. (1997). Fowler's stages of faith development in an honors science-and-religion seminar. Zygon, 32(3), 407–414. Retrieved from

Gathman and Nessan described the construction and rationale of an honors course in science and religion that was pedagogically based on Lawson's learning cycle model. In this course, each student writes a short paper on a subject before presenting the material to the group, and then he or she writes a longer paper reevaluating his or her views from the first paper. Using content analysis, the authors compared the answers in the first and second essays, evaluating them based on Fowler's stages of development. Examples of student writing are presented with the authors' analysis of the faith stage exhibited by the students, which demonstrated development in Stages 2 through 5.

The authors made no specific effort to support spiritual development in the course. They were interested in the interface between religion and science, teaching material on ways of knowing, creation myths, evolutionary theory, and ethics. They exposed students to Fowler's ideas, but they did not relate the faith development theory to student work in the classroom. There appears to have been no effort to modify the course content based on the predominant stage of development, and it is probably a credit to their teaching that they were able to conduct such a course with such diversity in student faith development. However, because Fowler's work is based largely within a Western Christian setting, some attention to differences in faith among class members would have been a useful addition to the study. There was no correlation between grades and level of faith development.

Fowler's work would seem to lend itself to research of this sort, but this is the only example found in recent literature. This study demonstrates the best use of Fowler's model, which is assessment. While the theory claimed high predictive ability, the change process chronicled is so slow and idiosyncratic that it would be difficult to design and implement research that had as its goal measurement of movement along the faith development continuum. (Diana White, Breadth)


In each of these examples, the student first provides a concise summary of the article that he or she read, including the subject of the article, the methods and theories that formed the basis of the research, and the authors' findings. The student then assesses the article critically, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the research, as well as describing the author's (or authors') methodology. Finally, the student includes a brief statement of the article's value to his or her own research.

Note that, while the phrase "the authors" is normally not used in APA style, it is permissible in an annotation because your readers will understand which authors you are referring to in your text because you have included a reference. Similarly, in an annotation you do not need to include citations, as you will only be discussing the source you have referenced.

Example #1

Experiential education is the process by which a student attains knowledge through a meaningful learning experience (Bruner, 1966; Itin, 1999).  Experiential education, part of the progressive movement, contrasts with the traditional methods of education.  As stated in the Breadth, progressive education is student focused and contains intentional, meaningful learning experiences (Dewey, 1938).  The practice of experiential education by teachers is meant to enhance content-area knowledge by providing experiences that students can draw from when faced with new experiences.  The students gain skills in collaborating, strategizing, reflecting, and self-evaluating through the experiential learning cycle (Kolb, 1984).
In this essay, I will look at experiential education from different perspectives.  In the first section, I analyze research on how students learn experientially.  People learn in different ways, and research that compares and contrasts experiential methods with didactic methods of learning could help educators understand the practice of experiential education.  (Raelyn Viti, Depth)

In this example, the student provides context for the subject of her Depth component and introduces the major theorists whose work she will examine. She also connects the theories in her Depth to the conclusions she made in her Breadth, as well as introducing the topic of her literature-review essay.

Example #2

The subject of ethics is a popular topic in business today, as there have been many scandals recently that have made consumers wary of corporations and the business industry (Allis-Fry, 2009).  The Breadth component provided some background on moral development theory in humans.  Building on this theoretical foundation, the Depth component will address the current literature in the area of business ethics, as well as how these theories have evolved over the years. Also, I will analyze the effects of these theories on business practices today and identify practices that could benefit from the application of these theories (Neely Elstrodt, Depth)

Though this is a brief introduction, the student introduces the Depth's subject, context, and theoretical background, as well as its purpose and the ways it connects to the ideas in the Breadth.

Example #1

Ortega et al. (2007) argued that physical and psychological work demands were significant factors of increased officer stress.  As a result, Ortega et al. argued that police officers use a variety of coping strategies to correct the imbalance or reduce the amount of occupational stress.  Ortega et al. defined occupational stress as “the transaction between the person and their work environment, where stress arises from the imbalance between perceived demands and perceived resources to deal with those demands” (p. 38).  They defined coping as the process that a person uses to reduce or eliminate the imbalance between demands and perceived resources available to address the demands (Ortega et al., 2007).   (Gregory Campbell, Depth)

Example #2

Bandura (1995) defined perceived self-efficacy as "beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations" (p. 2). That is, when a person believes that he or she is capable of performing in nearly any situation, he or she has a high level of perceived self-efficacy. Such a person has an advantage in a variety of situations over a person who assumes that he or she cannot perform in that environment. It is important to note that Bandura (2007) did not argue that a person's ability to perform leads to a high level of perceived self-efficacy; instead, he argued that a person's belief in his or her ability results in such a perception. A person having a great deal of self-doubt in his or her efficacy sees little point in even attempting to perform in a situation (Bandura, 2007). In the case of correctional education, if a potential learner has enough doubt in his or her ability to attempt learning in a classroom, he or she would likely not make that attempt. (Adam Jones, Depth)

In both of these examples, the students concisely cover the main points of the authors they discuss by paraphrasing and quoting their authors' texts. Note that each only uses a direct quotation when the author's exact words help to convey an idea.

Answering employees' questions can increase their acceptance of change and promote their engagement in both the organization and the change process ("Kaiser Permanente," 2008; "MasterCard Worldwide," 2008; Stragalas, 2010). This follows the idea that the change process should involve some compromise between the organization and employees. Furthermore, complete transparency can help to eliminate some of the complexity inherent in the change process (Eddy, 2003). Such complexity, when paired with the difficulty of adapting to change, can make even the best employees resistant to change. Transparency helps to combat this issue by providing a number of ways to increase employee buy-in. As Eddy (2003) asserted, it is imperative to gain buy-in at all levels to achieve lasting change in an organization.
Additionally, Stragalas (2010) argued that sharing specific details about the change will help to eliminate any difficulties. Steele-Johnson et al. (2010) echoed these sentiments when they reported that revealing all of the details about a change process can help those involved better understand and support the change. Steele-Johnson et al. also asserted that a high level of transparency during the change can help those involved prepare for and welcome the change. Similarly, Nahata et al. (2010) showed that transparency through excessive communication can allow for a wider range of acceptance of the change. Maintaining clear communication with employees during an organizational change, then, can contribute to those employees' acceptance of the change.
Failure to include a high level of transparency in a change process can cause confusing situations or moments of uncertainty between the leadership team and the employees affected by the change process (Stoelinga, 2010). Eddy's (2003) examination of change in community colleges supported this claim with an example of a lack of transparency that triggered a great deal of uncertainty. In Eddy's study, he found that many members of the change were unsure of where the change would lead them, how they would participate in the change, and why they would even want to support the change. Because of these transparency breakdowns, the change process became challenging and difficult for employees (Eddy, 2003). Bacon et al. (2010) also found that a lack of transparency could lead to a situation where uncertainty can lead to rebellion in response to the change initiative. (Adam Jones, Depth)

This student effectively paraphrases the ideas of several authors and connects their ideas to his own, a process called synthesis which helps to advance his overall argument. For example, he connects the ideas of Eddy and Stragalas to those of Steele-Johnson et al., Nahata et al., and Bacon et al. to bolster his argument that transparency is a vital component of organizational change.

In the Breadth component, Bertalanffy's general system theory provided the theoretical foundation for understanding the importance of the interrelationship between the USPS and USPIS, including the influence of the postal reorganization, economic hardships, government restrictions, downsizing, and the acceleration of modern technology.  In the Depth component, I illustrated how the Postal Reorganization Act and Postal Accountability Enhancement Act changed the way the USPS conducted business, which also influenced the operations of the USPIS.  Additionally, when Congress created an independent Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the USPS, the USPIS underwent significant changes in its organizational structure, including the transfer of over 200 postal inspectors to the OIG (USPS, 2007).  All of these factors illustrate one of the major findings of the literature review: that organizational factors influence occupational stress more than traumatic events.
Another common theme of current literature was that policing is a highly stressful occupation; however, researchers differed as to whether organizational or operational factors were more of an influence on officer stress.  For example, Collins and Gibbs (2003) found that organizational issues were more of a determinant of officer stress than operational factors.  Additionally, Huddleston et al. (2007) argued that organizational factors have more of an influence on psychological well-being than operational concerns.  In contrast, Brough (2004) found that operational stressors are directly relational to traumatic stress and psychological strain.  All these themes are relevant to the USPIS, as the organization is currently experiencing challenges with operational stressors, organizational stressors, and traumatic incidents.  All of these could lead to a postal inspector having occupational stress, psychological strain, or PTSD.  
Finally, the issue of workplace violence has resurfaced as a major issue for the USPS and USPIS.  After nearly a decade of low rates of assaults, robberies, and homicides, the Postal Service experienced an increase in these kinds of violence between 2000 and 2010 (USPIS, 2010).  The current workplace environment leads, therefore, to the Application project: to redesign and implement a new national prevention program for workplace violence, which involves the USPIS and USPS. (Gregory Campbell, Depth)

This student begins his Depth conclusion by briefly summarizing the foundational theories and conclusions of his Breadth, and he follows this with the major points of his Depth, including the context of his subject and the findings of his literature review. He finishes by identifying the connections between his Depth and his Application, which sets up the next component of his KAM for the reader.

Abstracts have specific formatting rules that should be followed.  For example, page numbers should not appear on the abstract page, and the abstract should be flush left (rather than indented).  Each abstract should be properly labeled with a heading that is centered and in plain text, and the abstract should be limited to 120 words or fewer.  There should be an abstract for each section, Breadth, Depth, and Application, prior to the main text of the KAM.

In addition to the formatting requirements, each abstract should concisely summarize the subject, methods, purpose, and results of each KAM component. Think of it as being similar to the information on the back of a DVD case that lets you determine whether you want to watch that movie. Your abstract should give your readers a clear idea of what you cover in your KAM component and the conclusions you draw in it. Many students find it helpful to write their abstracts after they write their KAM components; that way, they have a clear idea of what their components include before they summarize them.

Example #1

The conclusions I made in the Breadth component form the foundation for contemporary research in the Depth component, in which I examine scholarly literature on moral decision making and its effect on the establishment of business legitimacy.  Furthermore, in the Depth component, I compare and contrast the conceptual framework of Bandura, Kohlberg, and Skinner with current literature as they relate to the development of moral reasoning for accounting professionals. I then identify 3 major influences on the decision-making process of accounting professionals. If accounting professionals had a better understanding of these influences, they could more easily avoid the effects of bias in their business decisions. (Delores King, Depth)

Example #2

In the Depth component, I examine current research on social-emotional development and its impact on learning. For this investigation, I examine current scholarly articles on the effects of poverty on emotional development.  Integrating the themes of the Breadth and the current research of the Depth, I have used this section of the KAM to provide educators with knowledge on the influence the environment has on the emotional development of children. Furthermore, educators will be able to identify this influence and will be better able to support the emotional intelligence of their students.  (Anneka Wiggins, Depth)

In these abstracts, each author describes the topic of her Depth component, the methods she uses to explore that topic, and the connection between the ideas in her Breadth and the ideas in her Depth. As with the Breadth abstracts, each author also includes a clear purpose for the Depth component.