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The Literature Review

The Literature Review
Six Steps to Success

Second Edition

200 pages | Corwin
This new edition of the best-selling book offers graduate students in education and the social sciences a road map to developing and writing an effective literature review for a research project, thesis, or dissertation. Organized around a proven six-step model and incorporating technology into all of the steps, the book provides examples, strategies, and exercises that take students step by step through the entire process:

Selecting a topic

Searching the literature

Developing arguments

Surveying the literature

Critiquing the literature

Writing the literature review

The second edition includes key vocabulary words, technology advice, and additional tips on when and how to write during the early stages—including the use of journals and memoranda—to make the literature review process a success.

New to This Edition


Special Features and Text Organization

About the Authors
Key Vocabulary

The Purpose of a Literature Review

The Literature Review Defined

The Literature Review Process

Step 1. Select a Topic

Step 2. Search the Literature

Step 3. Develop the Argument

Step 4. Survey the Literature

Step 5. Critique the Literature

Step 6. Write the Review

Inquiry: The Necessary Precondition


Pack Wisely Before You Begin




Chapter 1: Step 1. Select a Topic
Key Vocabulary

Task 1. Choose a Research Interest


Researcher Bias

Task 2. Refine a Research Interest From a Personal Interest

Activity 1. Specifying a Research Interest

Activity 2. Focusing the Interest

Activity 3. Selecting a Perspective

Activity 4. Reflection: The Key to Interest Selection

Task 3. Using the Research Interest to Identify a Preliminary Research Topic

Rules for Library Use

Task 4. Write the Preliminary Research Topic Statement




Chapter 2: Step 2. Search the Literature
Key Vocabulary

Task 1. Select the Literature to Review

Task 2. Conducting a Literature Search

Activity 1. Managing Your Data

Activity 2. Scanning the Literature

Activity 3. Skimming the Literature

Activity 4. Mapping Your Materials

Activity 5. Creating Subject Memoranda

Task 3. Refine Your Topic




Chapter 3: Step 3. Develop the Argument
Key Vocabulary

Concept 1. Building the Case for a Literature Review

Concept 2. Arguments–the Basics

Concept 3. Evaluating the Basic Parts of an Argument

Concept 4. Understanding Claims


Claim Acceptability

Concept 5. Building Evidence

Data Versus Evidence

Data Quality

Data Relevance

Qualifying the Claim

Concept 6. Warrants–Logically Connecting the Evidence to the Claim

Concept 7. Multiple Claims Arguments




Chapter 4: Step 4. Survey the Literature
Key Vocabulary

Task 1. Assemble the Collected Data

Activity 1. Cataloging the Data

Task 2. Organize the Information

Activity 1. Arranging Information to Build Evidence

Activity 2. Organizing the Information and Building Claims

Task 3. Analyze the Patterns of the Data

Complex Reasoning

Comparative Reasoning

Building the Discovery Argument: An Example

Activity 1. Mapping the Argument of Discovery

Activity 2. Analyzing the Argument




Chapter 5: Step 5. Critique the Literature
Key Vocabulary

Concept 1. Implicative Reasoning

Concept 2. The Two Arguments

Concept 3. Argument Patterns

Concept 4. Backing

Concept 5. Fallacies

Concept 6. The Case Is Everything




Chapter 6: Step 6. Write the Review
Key Vocabulary

The Writing Process: Overview

Task 1. Write to Understand

Activity 1. Reviewing Notes and Memoranda

Activity 2. Exploratory Writing

Activity 3. Outlining

Activity 4. Preliminary Drafting

Task 2. Write to Be Understood

Activity 1. Writing the First Draft

Activity 2. Working With the Second and Third Drafts

Activity 3. Completing the Final Draft

Style Manuals

Tips on Writing

Last Words

References and Further Reading

"If I had known about this book when I began working on my dissertation, it would have saved me at least a full year and much, much consternation! The clarity and organization with which this book is written make it a tremendous and exceptionally user-friendly asset to anyone who is serious about presenting clear, well thought-out research."

Dr. Cindy Wilson, Associate Professor and Department Chair
University of Illinois at Springfield

"This is the one book a graduate level student in education will be able to use from cover to cover. It provides the perfect roadmap for the successful completion of an outstanding literature review. It should be a required text for all students attempting to complete a literature review."

Dr. Cathy Patterson, Elementary Educator 5th Grade
Walnut Valley Unified School District

"The Literature Review: Six Steps to Success is a must-have for both novice and experienced researchers. The authors provide a roadmap as researchers journey from inquiry to argument for advocacy. If a strong literature review is the foundation for a successful thesis or dissertation, Machi and McEvoy offer the building blocks for that foundation."

Louanne Jacobs, Associate Professor of Education, Department Chairperson
Birmingham Southern College

"This book provides invaluable support for graduate students in writing a literature review. The authors provide a clear, straightforward model for taking a researchable idea and transforming it into a research study. I have already recommended this text to all of my doctoral students!"

Dr. Sara McNeil, Associate Professor, College of Education
University of Houston

"Every graduate student would benefit from reading this text on how to do a literature review and working through the questions to refine their own work. This is a concise, logical and very well written tool for graduate students and their advisors."

Dr. Sherry Markel, Associate Professor, College of Education
Northern Arizona University

Excellent book. My students find it easy to read and follow, and they wind up producing excellent reviews.

Professor James Robert Bitter
Human Dev Learning Dept, East Tennessee State Univ
September 12, 2014

good organization
Cheap for students to buy

Dr Teruko Bredemann
Psychology Dept, Univ Of Alabama At Birmingham
July 29, 2014

Recommended for beginner researchers based on level of experience, university decided not to adopt at this time (conserving costs for students)

Dr Margaret Carter
Business Administration , National Graduate Univ
June 25, 2014

This textbook was the most

recent edition. I had used the

older copy previously

Dr Mark Brown
Education Dept, Daemen College
May 22, 2014

The Literature Review: Six Steps to Success was a great supplementary

paperback that assisted my graduate students in understanding the process

for developing and writing their literature review that pertained to a self-selected

topic in the area of special education. The six steps that are given in this paperback

provide the framework for a graduate student to begin organizing the information

(i.e., research articles) that is needed to write a quality literature review.

Dr Mark Brown
Education Dept, Daemen College
May 22, 2014

Lawrence (Larry) Anthony Machi

Lawrence A. Machi is a Professor Emeritus of Organizational Leadership at the University of La Verne, in La Verne, California. He holds an MA in curriculum development and an Ed.D. in organizational leadership. He has taught research methods and design and has chaired doctoral dissertation research in addition to teaching classes in organizational development. He has extensive experience in higher education, and prior to his tenure at La Verne, he taught in schools of education at the University of San Francisco, St. Mary’s College of California, and Sonoma State University. Dr. Machi has served as a Fulbright Specialist and recently... More About Author

Brenda Tyler McEvoy

Brenda T. McEvoy taught high school English, history, and science for 36 years. Research skills were always part of her curriculum. For eight years, she worked for the California State Department of Education, leading groups of educators in improving their ability to edit and assess student writing. She has also served as a mentor for beginning English and history teachers. Participation in the California Writing Project extended her knowledge of writing and the difficulties students face when producing a major assignment. She has worked as an editor for several books, focusing on helping writers create work that is clear and logical. More About Author