Tuesday 18 July 2017

Logic and Flow in Your Literature Review

Logic and Flow in Your Literature Review

Now that you have a basic structure and you know what’s expected of you when writing a literature review, it should all be fairly easy to put one together, right? There’s one final aspect that often challenges researchers, and that is making sure that their literature review is logical and coherent in its layout. Each of the ideas you present needs to logically lead to the next idea in some way. This is often challenging for early researchers as they try to navigate the large amount of information required for their literature review, and don’t see the patterns between readings that would help to organize their reviews more clearly.

The most effective way of presenting your ideas logically is to start with very general and broad ideas and become much more specific throughout the process of your piece. Start with the large-scale ideas that relate to your field, like the overarching theories, the broad meta-analyses, and other points that might even be more familiar to your readers. For example, if you are doing a study of the effectiveness of behaviorist theory in treating alcohol addiction in women, you could first start out by talking about what behaviorism is very broadly, and then speak about the specific problems women face, and then try to bring them together in a more specific way by showing how alcoholism is one of the problems women struggle to deal with in particular settings, and how behaviorism could help to battle this addiction. Then, your later subsections could become much more specific, looking at particular studies which were undertaken that tried to combine behaviorism and addictive tendencies. The ideas flow logically from very broad to very specific, and the reader will be able to follow your points without any problems.

Another issue which often arises in terms of logic is that ideas are at times not logically linked to the topic being discussed. In your study of women and alcoholism, you might have included a subsection on how these women deal with childrearing and how their children see their alcoholism. But does this have anything to do with your study on behaviorism as impacting female alcoholism? The point doesn’t seem relevant, and thus it compromises the coherence of your dissertation. The reader will be left confused if you include ideas that don’t logically link to the discussion at hand. You should stick to the point you are trying to make, and don’t try to say everything, even if a certain point seems interesting to you.

Finally, try and make sure that you are always critically engaged with the material you are reviewing in your study. You shouldn’t just repeat ideas from articles as though they’re gospel, and you shouldn’t try to link points that aren’t logically linked. For example, if one of the studies found that alcoholism was reduced in a particular population, but this was actually because of greater social support and not due to behaviorist psychology, then you can’t use it as support for your hypothesis. Make sure that you understand your readings well enough to use them effectively, and don’t assume that you understand something if it feels even slightly unclear to you. You can’t be expanding on knowledge and understanding if you don’t fully understand the field.

Finally, you need to make sure that each subsection is logically linked to your main point and to the next subsection. At the end of each subsection, before you move on to your next subheading, include a small section where you show the reader the links between the information you’ve just presented and the focus of the study that you are doing. Tell them how these readings are useful in giving context for your thesis. Then, add a sentence that links your current subsection to the next one. Why are you moving from your current point of focus to the next one? Your reader needs to know or they might feel lost in the information you are presenting to them. This helps with the logical flow of your literature review, in the same way that it does in any piece of writing.

Review Your Learning:
  • Your literature review should logically flow from one idea to the next
  • A good logical framework for any piece of writing is to move from the general to the specific, or from broader ideas to more specific ideas
  • Make sure that you fully understand your readings, and critically engage with the content so that you don’t end up making the same mistakes that another researcher made in their article or study