literature review (the scary kind)

13 Jul

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess (haha) named Samantha. And Samantha had to write a literature review. Everyone in the kingdom (clinic) would ask Samantha how to write a literature review and Samantha, oh-so-wisely, said,


But seriously, a literature review is just what it sounds like. Graduate students around the world hear the term and they shudder in disgust. Because it really is a review of the literature – and that is super boring my friends. Alas, such is life. Don’t worry though! I’m here to walk you through it!

The purpose of a literature review is as follows:

1) provide background that puts your study in perspective. What does this mean? It means people will want to know why they should care about your project. You should probably tell them.

How do you go about making the purpose of your project clear?

You review the literature. The best way to do this, I’ve found, is Google Scholar because it is all encompassing. It will capture the literature you need, and it will tell you what you have access to. If you don’t have access to something but you need it – you just go to your library website and request an interlibrary loan.

In reviewing the literature you really need to analyze your project. What are the major aspects of your project? In my project I’m analyzing expressive language in regards to picture stimulation in people with dementia. So I’m breaking down my literature review – introduction, current literature on language therapy for people with dementia, current literature on language characteristics of people with dementia, literature on what type of picture stimuli has been used in assessment and intervention in people with dementia – as well as people with aphasia.

That’s where it gets tricky. What do you put in a lit review and what do you leave out? I think you kind of have to follow your gut. Dementia is a cognitive-communicative disorder, and aphasia is a language disorder. They are different. However, there are language deficits in people with dementia. They may not be aphasic, but when people assess spontaneous language in ANY disorder they always consider the same things. So yes, I’ll include information on aphasia. But I won’t include information on say – the treatment of TBI because that is going to focus namely on executive functioning and the like.

See? It’s confusing, I know.

How long should your literature review be? That all depends I suppose. Mine should be pretty long because there is a lot of literature on therapy for people with dementia. But maybe your project doesn’t have a lot of background, maybe you’re looking at something that is relatively untouched. A literature review requires some creativity because you need to think in terms of “what do other people want to know?” You need to do a little reaching and make sure your bases are covered.

The whole point of a literature review is finding the deficit. Find what is missing. You’re doing research to investigate something – there is a HOLE in the literature somewhere and you are trying to find it. You need to make that hole clear to your reader. You’re saying “HEY! Look at ALLLLLL of this research but they never mention THIS. THAT’S what my project is all about”

Good luck my speechies.

NP: Riga Girls – The Weepies


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