Argument

When you review the literature in your field you are conducting research about the research others have done, so the written review is a report of your findings.

In the same way that you construct an argument to present the findings from your data, you need to make an argument in your literature review. That argument will establish what has already been done, what still needs to be done, and how your study contributes to meeting that need.

Summary of an argument

The outline for a summary of a literature review argument might look like this:

The study builds on and contributes to work in………………

Although studies in …………… have examined ………………there has not been an…………………..

As such, this study provides an additional insight into ………………….

The analytic focus on…………………….enables another contribution.

This study analyses …………………………………………………………

Although numerous studies (              ) have identified …………… …………………., little analytic attention has been paid to ……………..

I address this issue by demonstrating ……………………………………..

(Kamler & Thompson, 2006, p. 57)

This example is based on the social sciences. How different would the outline be in your discipline?

Activity

Adapt the outline and try writing a seven-sentence summary of your literature review argument.

Argument in the body of the literature review

Like any argument, that of a literature review is built up through claims supported by evidence - in this case, evidence from the literature. In the example below, the writer makes statements about the literature related to the aims and interest of the thesis. This is what propels the review onward. 

Which part of each sentence links back to the substance of the thesis? The relevant phrases will be highlighted when you click on them.

The 'skills' discourse itself has been critiqued from philosophical perspectives (for instance, Taylor, 1990), from the psychological perspective (Scribner & Cole, 1981), as well as from the educational perspective (Barton, 1994; Clanchy & Ballard, 1995). Reading, often described as a 'skill', is a higher order psychological activity according to Vygotsky (1962, 1978), based on lower order skills, but not necessarily divisible into them. A practice such as reading or writing, for Scribner and Cole (1981), consists of technology, knowledge and skills, with 'skills' referring to the application of knowledge in particular settings. It becomes problematic if the skill in question needs to be measured out of context, because writing, for example, 'can only be evaluated in terms of the purposes for which it is intended' (Barton, 1994, p. 167).

Education PhD dissertation, 2005

Phrases Found: 0 of 4

In each case, the link to the subject-matter of the thesis occurs at the beginning of a sentence. This makes it prominent, making the argument more visible to the reader.