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Literature Review

Corresponding Article(s):
Randolph, Justus (n.d.) A Guide to Writing the Dissertation Literature Review
Available free via google search

Ellis, T. & Levy, Y. (2008). Framework of Problem-Based Research: A Guide for Novice Researchers on the Development of a Research-Worthy Problem. Informing Science: The International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline. Volume 11.
Available free via NCU Dissertation Center

Purpose of the literature review, at this stage, is to determine what has already been done in the field, prevent you from unintentionally duplicating research already conducted, provide understanding and insight needed to situate your topic within an existing framework, and enable acquisition of understanding criticisms, controversies and gaps in the literature. This is how you situate your research study. Through continued literature search and review; you will become an expert in the field.

Purpose of the literature review is to place your research in context within the discipline and link your research to other disciplines if your research area is addressed by more than one discipline. Focus on and amount of information will increase as you guide he Reader from the global discipline to the specific topic and topic related themes.

The literature review will support information within the Concept Paper Introduction and Statement of the Problem sections. The Introduction and Statement of the Problem sections contain synthesized information from the literature review and are heavily referenced with sources contained within the literature review.

1. Determine the Global Discipline, General Domain, and Topic of your proposed research.
Using a form of the Ellis & Levy (E&L) article discussion on pages 20, identify the primary components of your proposed topic. Such that, using the E&L example:

Global Discipline – Information Technology


General Domain – Knowledge Management Systems


Topic – Implementation of Knowledge Management Systems

2. Determine relevant subtopics of the topic. This may be an expansion of a direct theme and/or an expansion of an indirect theme.

3. In performing the literature search. Keep notes, or a table, or your search terms, search engines, libraries, and search history. This will be required information for inclusion in the Dissertation Proposal. Feel free to include this information in the Concept Paper if appropriate. Of course, this information will expand for the Dissertation Proposal because the literature review itself will expand to a minimum of 40 pages in the Dissertation Proposal.

4. NCU requires 85% of references used in the Literature Review be peer-reviewed, scholarly sources published within the last 5 years. This requirement would not apply to a subsection describing history of the topic, phenomenon, or theory.

5. Commonly asked question: “How many pages should my literature review be for the Concept Paper?” There are no NCU page or word length requirements for the literature review section of the Concept Paper. The Concept Paper Literature Review section should include adequate information to meet the purpose of the literature review described above. It is better to err on the side of too much information than too little information.

6. The NCU Literature Review is written from a neutral, objective perspective. (Randolph article, 3.3 Perspective, pg. 4) Do not write the NCU literature review from a subjective perspective. In the literature review, there should be more of an emphasis on the actual literature rather than the researcher’s conjecture, it should contain a critical evaluation of the studies, and be synthesized into logical thematic sections (or subsections).

7. It is best to work on developing the Annotated Bibliography (see Degree Type Guidebook, page 13) simultaneously. The Annotated Bibliography contains only those sources primary to the general domain, research topic, and topic related themes. Heavier emphasis is placed on the research topic and relevant topic related themes. Do not annotate all works (sources).

8. Annotations of sources should include an objective summarization of work’s primary points and arguments. For research articles, include specific information around research methodology, recruitment techniques, sample size, analysis, outcomes and limitations. For each annotation, include a sentence or two on how the source is related to, and/or how it will be used, in your proposed research study. (For more information on Annotated Bibliographies, see the NCU Dissertation Center.)

9. NCU requires 85% of references used in the Annotated Bibliography be peer-reviewed, scholarly sources published within the last 5 years.

10. To facilitate the alignment and a sense of organization, it is recommended (although not mandatory) to list annotated bibliographies by subsection theme contained in the Literature Review.
NCU Announcement 06/30/2015:
“Did you miss the recent webinar on literature reviews? Dr. Robin Throne in collaboration with the Academic Success Center (ASC) presented: Beyond Summary: The Three-Step Dissertation Literature Review. Here is the link to the recording: http://www.viddler.com/v/5ffd0700. If you would like a copy of the presentation slides, visit the ASC Coaching Service community and select the link to Recorded Webinars on the left side.”
– For a PhD (theoretical) dissertation – the first step may be to use the study’s theoretical framework (if known) to organize the literature review.
o The focus of the PhD (theoretical) research study is to contribute new knowledge to the field by providing a revelatory (“not seen before, or not predominantly developed or augmented) view through extending or contributing to theory. (Note, in rare situations new theories may be developed.)
o If the focal theory (or theories) are not yet solidified – then review of current research and theories around the topic would be a good starting place. A thorough understanding of this may lead to imputation or consideration of extension of or contribution to an existing theory or exploration of the role or contribution (to understanding the problem) of a theory not yet considered. This theory may be from the same or a related discipline.
– Keep a tracking mechanism for the search terms and search engines used for your literature search. Keep notes on the terms and engines or common journal articles. Summarize this information for the Introduction to the BRL section to alert your Reader to how the search was performed, the sources searched and the terms used. Note: Although this is not specifically stated in the CP template for this area. The information is needed for the Dissertation Proposal. It is better to document this information and develop the discussion while you are performing this search rather than attempt to recall months later. OK to include in the CP even though not formally requested within the Template. See! Now you have laid the groundwork that may, or may not, need some finessing at the DP stage.
– Ensure there is sufficient information to:
o Place your research topic and in context within the discipline
 And link your research to other discipline if appropriate
 Describes the variables of interest
o Provide justification for why the study is being conducted, to include what is already known on the research topic
o Outline why the proposed research study is the logical next step in investigation of the topic.
– ERR on the side of too much information! The BRL expands considerable into Chapter 2 of the Dissertation Proposal.
– What area was not researched and may need further studies regarding teachers and staff in regards to functioning in a safe climate that leadership can provide ?

 Explicitly identify the theoretical based problem using evidence supported by recent (within the past 5 years) scholarly, peer-reviewed sources that are more specifically detailed in the BRL. Remember, the Statement of the Problem section is limited to 300 words. At best, this section is a collection of assertions around the problem. Each of these assertions needs to be fully qualified by a detailed discussion in the BRL. The detailed discussion will provide greater understanding and credibility to the assertion.
 What is the problem? A research problem is specific and indicates the need for the research study.
 How do we know this is a problem? What is the evidence that this is a problem?
 Why is this problem worthy of addressing with a research study?
 What might be the “potential negative consequences to the field or stakeholders if the proposed research is never conducted?

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