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Literature Review

There are different methods to organize and present the materials collected for the literature review.

The list below goes over different organizational frameworks that can be used to present the research conducted. If you are not sure what method to use, check with your professor.‚Äč

  • Chronological: The chronological framework organizes the literature in the order in which they are published. For example, if you were writing about a specific teaching method, you would begin with the materials that first introduced the method. You would then follow with case studies applying that method. You would conclude your review with contemporary papers that may even give a historical perspective on the method from when it was first conceived and how it is applied today.

    • by publication: This framework is useful if you notice a series of articles that are written in response to one another that are all within one publication. You still follow chronological order, but you break it so that the articles responding to one another are grouped together.

    • by trend: This framework looks at specific trends and organizes them chronologically. For example, if you were looking at the history of assistive technology in helping students with disabilities, you may organize the reviews by what disability was being treated, and then present the history of using assistive technology to treat that particular disability in chronological order.

  • Thematic: The thematic framework is similar to organizing by trend, except that you are not organizing the reviews in the order that they were published. This does not mean that you do not consider the timeline for how a topic or issue developed, but that you will not focus on organizing your reviews chronologically. Rather, the emphasis will be on the themes you find within the topic or issue — such as commonalities — and from there you fit your reviews into the separate ideas in which they fit. For example, if the review topic was arts-based research, your review may focus on different ways artistic inquiry was used to understand the creative process, focusing then on the concepts rather than the development.

  • Methodological: The method or practice applied in a case study can be the basis for organizing a literature review. This framework focuses on how the author(s) or the person(s) administering a study applied similar methods as another study. As a result, the types of literature in a literature review that applies the methodological framework tends to review similar materials. For example, if you reviewed methods used to treat post traumatic stress syndrome, the review would organize the studies by the methods used to treat the patients and not the order that the studies were published.

Note: After choosing the organizational framework for the literature review, it should be easier to write because you should have a clear idea of what sections you need to include in the paper. For example, a chronological review will have subsections for each vital time period. A thematic review will have subtopics based upon factors that relate to the theme or issue.

In some cases the literature does not quite fit the framework you have chosen. In this case, you should determine where it makes sense to place the literature and confirm this choice with your professor.

Literature Review frameworks based on "Literature Reviews - The Writing Center," by The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill