The Literature Review Toolkit

Tools to help you search for, understand, organise, and utilise literature with confidence. Build analytical skills, develop content, generate ideas, and strengthen arguments, to help you write your literature review. 

A suite of 12 specially designed tools to enable you to approach your literature review with confidence. Work systematically on your literature review to use time effiecntly and make consistent progress. Build analytical skills as you use the tools. Complete the tools to produce structured content and to generate ideas for you to write about. Situate your project in existing literature and justify your investigation in relation to past research.

Tool Number 1 Phenomena Identifier Table

Build a basic table of sources to commence your literature review. Skim read sources to identify the key phenomena being investigated and discussed. Examine the diversity and scope of phenomena investigated across multiple sources, and consider the most important or relevant phenomena to your own research. Use the complete table to update and refine the keywords, and use these to conducted a more focused and targeted search for further literature.

Tool Number 2 Literature Organiser Table

Form an initial body of literature by organising a large number of sources into distinct subareas according to similarities in the phenomena. Identify the types of evidence and issues being investigated and discussed in each subarea. Add, remove, or move sources to clarify subareas and more effectively organise the literature. Reflect upon the table to determine the relevance and importance of subareas to your own project, and consequently decide which to investigate in more detail with further search for and analysis of literature. Used the completed table to draft example paragraphs summarising each literature, and then comment on tentative explanations of their potential relevance to your own project.

Tool Number 3 Literature Characteriser Table

Analyse literature in more depth. Compare and contrast evidence and issues across sources to identify themes within subareas of a body of literature. Accurately describe the themes according to the types of patterns or trends they indicate. Determine the relevance and importance of themes and subareas to your own project and begin to form tentative observations and arguments about the literature. Use the completed table to write a deeper analysis of the literature, which will firstly enables you to demonstrate your growing comprehension of the literature (by identifying and describing themes / patterns / trends), and secondly to begin to frame your project around existing literature.

Tool Number 4 Historical Analysis Of Established Literature Canvas

Analyse a large and well established body of literature into distinct stages or phases in the development of the research area over time. Determine how the phenomena, issues, themes, concepts, debates, etc change from one stage / phase to the next. Summarise an indicative article or source which exemplifies each stage / phase. Identify which ideas from the stages / phases are of relevance to your own project. Use the completed canvas to write a historical analysis of the literature, to demonstrate your appreciation for how the focus of research has changed over time, and to explain which ideas you will use from the literature.

Tool Number 5 Literature Constellation Canvas

Bring together key content from 4-6 highly relevant sources to form a constellation of literature. Visualise connections between the focus, findings, and contributions of the sources. Use these connections to determine issues or themes, reveal potential gaps, or to develop new research questions / hypotheses or clarify existing ones. Use the completed canvas to consider how your own project fits within the constellation, and how you can use it to write an initial framing for your project in relation to existing literature.

Tool Number 6 Multiple Literatures Project Connector Canvas

Tackle the complexity of a project which incorporates multiple bodies of literature or areas of research. Establish connections between two, three, or four bodies of literature / research areas to identify new issues, themes, gaps or problems. Use this analysis of the connections to refine existing research questions or create new ones, and strengthen or modify the justification for investigating them. Use the completed canvas to write more confidently about the role and importance of each area of research / body of literature to your own project, and to determine the logic sequence in which to introduce them.

Tool Number 7 Gap / Problem Articulator Canvas

Understand how researchers in your topic area critically evaluate past research to articulate gaps or problems with existing literature, and to subsequently justify their own research investigations. Identify gap / problem statements, determine the type of gap / problem, and evaluate how well they are justified. Consider the analysed examples to reflect upon, modify, a gap / problem for your own research and corresponding justification. Use the completed canvas to help you frame and justify your own project by writing more convincingly about what is missing or even wrong with past research.

Tool Number 8 Research Question Type Identifier & Justifier Canvas

Analyse the research questions being investigated by other researcher in your topic area. Determine the type of questions being asked and evaluate how the research questions are justified by researchers. Refer to the analysis to reflect upon, improve, or better justify your own research questions. Use the completed canvas to refine or modify your written introduction and description of, and justification for, your research questions.

Tool Number 9 Research Framing & Justification Canvas

Bring together your analysis of existing literature and the research questions for your project to achieve fit and alignment between others research and your own research. Improve and clarify observations and arguments about past research, the determine the mechanics of how you will frame and justify you project. Use the completed canvas to write a double layer of justification for your investigation, firstly by identifying the negative consequences of not addressing a gap / problem, and secondly by explaining the corresponding value of your research questions or hypotheses.

Tool Number 10 Literature Review Deconstructor Canvas

Analyse and understand how researchers introduce, explain, and discuss past literature. Analyse an example review of literature in your topic area to determine the structure of the review, the focus of individual paragraphs, and the specific function of individual sentences within them. Use the completed canvas to improve the structure of your own literature review and to help you write more purposeful paragraphs and sentences which communicate analysis and ideas to readers.

Tool Number 11 Idea / Argument Developer Canvas

Examine how a crucial idea, concept, question, argument, etc in a key article / source in your literature review has been used by other researchers in more recent research. Search within more recent sources to identify citations to the original source, determine how ideas or information were used, and identify any new investigations, findings, or conclusions of relevance. Use the completed canvas to write in more detail about how the original idea, issue, argument, question, etc in the crucial source has been developed, extended, discussed (or criticised) by other researchers.

Tool Number 12 Citation Anaylser & Utiliser Canvas

Analyse literature reviews from key sources to determine how the authors cite and utilise individual sources when analysing past research. Determine different types of citations and then create similar example citations for your own literature review. Use the completed canvas to strengthen your writing by purposefully incorporating citations to support observations and arguments you are developing about existing research.

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