Writing a literature analysis
Instructions for labs. Read the lessons 9 and 10 to help understand what the teachers want from these labs 7 and 8).
Writing Lab 7: Outline Your Paper
The goal of this assignment is to create an outline for a literature analysis paper about social work identity and write a first draft of introductory and concluding paragraphs based on the outline.
Review the paper that you posted for Writing Labs 5 & 6 (demonstrating various writing styles). Check out additional sources from the Social Work Identity Articles folder in the Resources section of the course website.( I ATTACHED A COPY OF THE ARTICLES) I have also posted suggestions for writing this paper in the Assignments section. ( I ATTACHED ALL SUGGESTIONS POSTED BY THE TEACHER)
What would you like to say in your literature analysis paper? What do you find interesting? What is your analysis after reading many different ideas about social work identity or definition? What points can you use to illustrate or provide evidence for your analysis? What are your conclusions and recommendations?
Write an outline for your literature analysis paper about social work identity. You can include information from your earlier writing labs or throw it all out and start over.
Write an opening paragraph that introduces the topic of your paper. Clearly state your purpose — your conclusion based on your analysis and what you want to reader to know or do. In addition, briefly describe the two or three points that you will explain in the paper which illustrate or provide evidence for your purpose / conclusion.
Then write a concluding paragraph for your paper. This paragraph should restate the purpose of your paper and explain how the text accomplished the purpose. Persuade the reader to agree with your analysis and/or conclusions. Answer the “so what?” question by explaining why it is important for social workers to agree with your analysis. This many include the implications of your recommendations (i.e., what benefit will occur if social workers follow your recommendations and/or what disadvantages will occur if they do not).
Talk with your group members about your outline and paragraphs. This will help you prepare for Writing Lab 8 — which is a brief draft of the literature analysis paper. These labs become the first draft for your Literature Analysis assignment.
Writing Lab 8: Brief Literature Analysis Draft
Use the outline and paragraphs that you completed for Writing Lab 7 to begin a “first draft” for a literature analysis paper about social work identity.
The goal of this writing lab is to write a first draft of a literature analysis that communicates the basic elements of the paper without writing details.
1. Copy the opening and concluding paragraphs from Writing Lab 7. Use the outline from Writing Lab 7 and the summary in the opening paragraph to plan the two or three sections that will make up the body of your paper.
2. Write a level one heading for each section.
3. Then write three sentences for each section.
The opening sentence describes the point or thesis for the section. It may describe the “argument” that is presented in the section, raise or answer a question, or describe your analysis.
The next sentence synthesises the overall ideas from the sources that you are using to illustrate or prove the argument or point from the section.
The last sentence communicates your analysis, if you did not already state it in the first sentence. Alternatively, the last sentence could briefly explain how the “argument” or point illustrates or proves the overall purpose of the paper. This keeps the reader focused on your purpose.
Get feedback and suggestions from your group members. This is an opportunity to get feedback about your Literature Analysis assignment which you can use when writing this paper.
Edit your writing lab based on feedback and your own re-reading. NOTE: do not try to write the whole paper for the writing lab. This is a first draft that only contains the “bones” of the paper. (I’LL GET FEEDBACK AND LET YOU KNOW IF I NEED ANY CORRECTION ON THE PAPER)
Once the writing lab is complete, you may use the feedback for writing your Literature Analysis paper, BUT you should make sure that your paper uses your words (rather than the words of a classmate). Do not cite your classmates in your paper. Find a way to communicate ideas that you have learned which have now become your ideas. Consult with the instructor if needed about this.
Researching and Analyzing a Topic
This lesson asks you consider how you start planning a paper and researching a topic. Lesson Outcome: Successful students will be able to plan a paper’s topic and primary propositions and find and manage source material which sustains the paper’s goal and propositions.
Planning Your Paper
Review pages 9-11 of the APA Manual and pages 164-165 in McAleer.
The following questions and suggestions can help you plan your paper.
1. What is your topic? Do you choose the topic or is one assigned? What should the topic illustrate or demonstrate? (e.g., most papers for courses require topics that demonstrate learning of course concepts).
2. What is the purpose of the paper? Writing a paper because the instructor assigned it is NOT a good purpose. Writing a paper to demonstrate the writer’s analysis and conclusions about a topic is a BETTER purpose.
3. What does the paper need to demonstrate? Papers for courses have instructions that often include addressing specific areas. Writing for publication requires presenting something that interests and informs readers. This type of writing also requires manuscripts that follow accepted standards for content and organization. Writing reports or grant applications in social work practice often have specific sets of instructions and rules. Make sure that you follow the instructions.
4. Does this paper require knowledge of professional literature about the topic? Where is this type of knowledge published? Journal articles (what categories of journals?), books, government reports, newspaper articles, websites, blogs, examples of real-life situations?
5. Keep track of your searches. It is not efficient to redo a search because you forgot that you did not find anything useful the first time.
6. How much research do you need to do? How much detail do you need?
7. Start an outline for your paper that states the primary points that you need to explain to effectively accomplish your purpose. Use the outline to search for evidence/ideas that support your points. On the other hand, keep changing the outline as you discover new ideas. This can help you organise your paper before you start writing the first draft.
Researching a Topic
Step 1: Choosing a subject and goal
First, identify a manageable and relevant subject and goal. Do not be too broad because then you will end up with an unmanageable amount of literature. What do you need or want to know? You should be specific and focus on a reasonable goal. For example, you might start off with the topic of homeless youth; redefine that to homeless adolescent girls in Canada, and finally focusing only on emotional distress and mental health services use among urban homeless adolescents.
Step 2: Literature Search
If you have never conducted academic research before you might feel a little overwhelmed at this point. The library is the primary place to find literature. The library has databases, journal archives, books, and online resources that will lead to every piece of literature you might ever want to find. In addition, internet searches can also be helpful, although it is essential to evaluation the reliability and validity of information.
Refer to the Leddy Library Homepage for information about:
• Research Help (Menu at top) forresearching effectively, searching the library catalog and the library databases (PsycInfo, Social Work Abstracts, Social Service Abstracts, JSTOR, Medline, ERIC etc)
• Statistics Canada (link in Library Places at bottom) for finding statistical information from government organizations
• Writing Help (Menu at top) for information about citation guides (including APA) and writing effectively
• Social Work Research Guide leddy.uwindsor.ca/social-work-research-guide
Once you have access to research databases you need to consider where you want to look for your supporting points in the literature. Do you need academic literature or government documents? Policy reports or papers published by professional societies? If you are looking for country-specific statistics you might want to look at government or agency data. If you are looking for evidence-based support of a particular theory or program you might want to look at the academic literature. What sources you look at will depend on the information you are seeking. However, you always need to consider that journals are the most peer reviewed, books less so, online reports’ validity depends on the author, etc. Sometimes you might choose to look at sources that you know aren’t peer reviewed on purpose. For instance, if you wanted to look at the public response to a new social policy you might look up the media articles that cover the social policy and what their take on it is and include quotes in your paper.
Another thing you should consider when choosing your sources is their publish date. Current sources are usually better than older sources since they reflect the latest research and thinking. What you consider to be “current” will depend on your topic. If you are looking at the issue of forced adoption in the 1960s then your “current” literature would need to stretch back as far as the 1960s. If you are looking at the effects of anti-depressant medication as compared to cognitive-behavioural counselling you might want to consider looking at research only since 2005 as modern pharmaceuticals tend to be constantly changing.
Next you should judge the expertise of the author. What are their credentials? You should always include sources that are experts in your topic. For example, if you are writing a paper on the incidence of child abuse in Canada you should cite Nico Trocme. Why? Because he is the lead on the Canadian Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect and therefore an expert in the field. If you aren’t sure who the expert for your topic is, you should look at who all of your other sources are citing. Usually the experts will be referenced in most research on a topic (it is a signal of their validity).
Lastly, you should cite secondary sources only when the original source is unavailable. Always work to find the original source, but if you are unable to acess the original source, cite a secondary source according to APA format: “Sarig’s model of community (as cited in Doron, 2005).”
Once you have found some literature you need to evaluate it. First you need to consider its relevance and specificity to your topic. If you find that it is relevant and specific to your topic, you need to then consider the validity and credibility of the source. If a study on the use of anti-depressant medication to treat post-traumatic stress disorder is sponsored by the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the anti-depressant you might question its credibility. Usually peer-reviewed literature has been tested for validity and credibility and is the favourite of researchers. If you find that your source looks to be credible, you should then consider the methodology used, if the source you are looking at is a study. The validity of the research methodology will tell you about the generalizable of the findings. For instance, a study on suicidal ideation that has only male participants might not have findings that are applicable to females. Lastly, you need to consider whether the source reflects current thinking, or if it reflects older values. For instance, you might want to avoid studies that base their theoretical framework on outdated theories like the deserving versus underserving poor.
Step 3: Organize your Research
First, ensure you record your searches. Write down what database you were searching through what key words you used and what sources you found. Likely you will not be able to find all the literature you need in one day, so it is helpful you write down what you have already searched so that you do not cover the same ground all over again the next time you do research on the topic. For online searches you can note URLs and book info and call numbers for library searches. You should also keep copies of all documents that you plan to use (journal articles, print copies of web pages, copies of library materials).
Second, you might consider organize your information in a “matrix” or table. This will help you compare and contrast your sources and their findings and conclusions and it will make it easier for you to sort the material by topic. Here is an example of what your table might look like:
Organizing Source Material
Reference Topic Findings/Conclusions Notes
Step 4: Review and Revise
After finishing your search of the literature you might want to consider again what articles/sources are relevant, fit your goal, are valid, specific, etc. Next, based on the research you have found you need to consider if there is a need to revise your purpose or the outline of your paper. As mentioned in Module 2, your outline should have a clear goal; identify the main points, and an inclusion of all articles/sources that fit each point. You should now check that your research and outline covers all of these points before continuing on to Step 5.
Step 5: Organize your Paper
Consider what the overall structure of your paper will be. Consider if you will organize the literature based on chronology, themes, or an inverted pyramid (broad to narrow). Usually chronological organization is used when you are considering the state of your topic over time. Thematic organization, on the other hand, is very effective for compare and contrast topics, because it allows you to compare/contrast each aspect of your topic in turn. Whatever you decide, make sure you always focus on the ideas of your sources not on the authors of the sources.
Step 6: Summarize, Synthesize, and Analyze
This is the part of the process where you actually begin writing. Begin by briefly summarizing/describing the findings of your sources. Synthesize the literature by identifying common themes (may be agreement or disagreement) and by differentiate between what is “known” and “unknown.” Next, you should analyze the findings – what makes sense or does not make sense and how do findings fit with your goal. Note: Make sure you clearly cite and reference each source you use.
Lesson 10: Analyzing and Synthesizing
Most scholarly writing uses a combination of descriptive, analysis, and synthesis writing styles. Usually you will describe an issue or situation, then use synthesis to highlight the elements of the existing literature (rather than list what other say), and lastly use analysis to reach a conclusion.
Analytic Papers and Organizing your Paper
Also known as position papers or persuasive papers, analytic papers look to argue a point based on existing literature in order to get the reader to consider the issue from their perspective. The goal of the analysis paper is to look at an issue from a critical point of view. An analysis paper is similar to a literature review, in that an analysis paper will often have a literature review in it; however, the analysis paper also presents an alternative way of thinking about the literature. Where the literature seeks to outline what exists and synthesize it, an analysis paper will go one step further to critically consider what has been found in the literature.
Before starting an analysis paper, or any paper for that matter, you should consider who your audience is and what they need from you. For instance, a professor will require different word choice and research requirements from a funding source or a legal entity.
Parts of an Analysis Paper
Here is a guide for how you might choose to structure your analytic paper:
1. Introduction: Introduce the topic and your purpose or hypothesis. Outline what the paper will be about (refer to Module 2 for tips on starting your paper).
2. Body: Start with a description of the issue. For instance, you can talk about the prevalence, impact, or etiology of the issue in order to highlight its importance and why the reader should be interested in your topic. Next you will demonstrate critical analysis by presenting your ideas and view of the issue. Highlight what is important about the topic, what is suggested by the literature, and outline the points that support your hypothesis. Turn to the literature and cite sources that support your ideas andsynthesize supportive literature into a coherent argument. Make sure you do not exclude literature that presents alternative views. To have a comprehensive analysis, you should also look at contradictory literature and analyze why it might differ and why it should not be applied to your argument. Lastly, explain gaps or uncertain information in the literature and your ideas. These gaps might lead to some of your recommendations (ex further research in a particular part of your topic or more dissemination of information).
6. Conclusion: Summarize your analysis of the literature and present your conclusions based on this analysis with recommendations for future action, research, and/or advocacy.
What is a Literature Review?
A literature review is a synthesis of the existing literature on a specific topic. A literature review is not the same thing as an annotated bibliography (a summary of sources). Instead, a literature review starts when you have a thesis, or which to develop a thesis, and you need to figure out what literature already exists on the topic, what the gaps in the literature are, and where your paper can add to the existing knowledge base. Literature reviews are often used in research proposals, funding proposals, and advocacy work in order to convince the reader of the importance of the topic at hand. For example, as a student you might consider going to your professors and asking them to take all exams off the curriculum. In order to get them to listen to you, you would need to conduct a review of the literature on the topic of students stress and undergraduate examinations in order to have a solid background of research on which to base your proposal. In general literature reviews are a way to compare studies and know “what’s out there” on a specific topic. You then have to analytically consider the body of research that you have found and decide what is valid and what is not. At the end of the literature review you will have brought an order to an abundance of information spread across many places into a more coherent framework for you purpose.
Why do a Literature Review?
Evidence based practice, a cornerstone of social work practice, refers to practicing social work based on the best evidence from research and practice. This evidence is summarized and made coherent through the use of literature reviews. They provide support needed to make grant proposals and funding requests, to start the development of new programs or the reworking of old ones. They justify the interventions you use as a social worker, the evaluations you use during intake, and the training you receive as an employee or student. In other words, literature reviews give your work credibility and put your work in context with what others are doing or have done. Through literature reviews you can discover best practices and not-so-good practices and use that to frame your own social work practice.
First, you need to identify a purpose. What do you think after reading and thinking about the topic? The literature review is meant to reflect your perspective on an issue therefore it is important that you not only find the relevant literature, you also think about how the literature might affect your purpose.
Second, you will outline the points that support the purpose that you found in the literature. You should define points by category rather than by authors (ie use synthesis to combine like ideas from different sources as some categories may be supported by multiple authors). A good literature review will use description, analysis, and synthesis and will work to include alternative views and literature “gaps.” As well, you should include examples when appropriate to further highlight your points.
Third, you will need to suggest implications for your findings. For instance, do your conclusions suggest a theory or model that explains the topic? Do they reveal things that need further research? Do they demonstrate that some interventions are more effective than others and therefore should be used in practice?
Lastly, you will write a conclusion that restates the purpose, summarizes the points that illustrate the purpose, and persuades the reader to think or act. The conclusion should NOT include new points or content. If you find that there is something you forgot to include, go back and insert it earlier in the paper, do not just stick it in the conclusion.
In summary a good literature review includes a clear research purpose or question, makes an argument for the necessity of your research, program, or knowledge development, describes your search (how you found and decided which articles to include), is thorough (range of literature – not just sources that make your point), and is well organized, clear, and concise