Monday, August 20, 2012

Lit Reviews are Like What?

Excellent piece here on what a lit review is and is not supposed to be by thinking about the metaphors.  The idea that a lit review is a dinner party is quite sharp--you invite some, not all, people, you provide the organization, you focus the conversation, and you have a good time.

Oh, and don't call the section of your piece "The Literature Review" unless someone is forcing you to do so.  It puts you in the wrong mind-set.  If you call it "Lit Review," you are already separating out that hunk of the writing from the rest, making it less organic and making easier for the reader to skip it.* Instead, entitle it with something that describes the lit that you are reviewing as you see it.  Such as "The Conventional Wisdom Sucks."  Well, that might be a bit too bold, but the general idea applies.  The idea of the lit review is not to satisfy reviewers--that is something you have to keep in mind, but that should not be the purpose of the enterprise.  The idea is to define the question, explain how key "others" have addressed it, where they fall short, and how others have written stuff upon which you can build your argument.  None of that requires an exhaustive list or summary of all lit.  Instead, as the linked piece above suggests, the trick is that you need to write from your perspective and focus on the goal of the article/book.  Lit reviews should not be painful to read--but if you think of them as lit reviews, they almost assuredly will be.
* Except, of course, for looking for citations of their own work.

1 comment:

JoVE said...

The heading suggested for the SSHRC grant proposal is good in this respect -- "Context". You are providing the context in which the questions you address are significant.