Monday, April 8, 2013

Analyzing and Evaluating the Use of Literature

One of the primary characteristics of research is that it is substantiated by its foundation in the research of others (Creswell, 2009; Laureate Education, Inc., 2009). Empirical study is founded on the works of previous thinkers and discoverers. Researchers make progress because they begin where others have left off. The literature review in research is pivotal in the progress of empirical study. According to Creswell (2009), this component gives the researcher an understanding of ongoing dialogue, and general knowledge about a specific area of inquiry. Central to the topic of study, the literature review unearths what others have found, and whether shortcomings, inconsistencies, or gaps exist in the current knowledge (American Psychological Association, 2010; Laureate Education, Inc., 2009). Further, it can summarize or synthesize and offer a new interpretation of older literature, and provide a reference point for augmenting, adjusting, or contradicting contemporary insight (Creswell, 2008).

In a qualitative study literature may be used as an introduction and to review contemporary knowledge about the topic. The authors may use the literature review to frame the study and present background information. In the qualitative study of McGrath and Pistrang (2007), the authors use a review of the literature to describe what is known, what remains unknown, the limitations of current research, and their goal within the study to increase what is known about the circumstance and the population studied. As addressed in the Use of Literature Checklist (Laureate Education,Inc., n.d.), the literature review was used to introduce the issue central to the research. The authors identified and discussed the problem they sought to address and the central purpose of the study is stated. Further, the authors describe the participants in the study, and they summarized their findings. The journal article is clearly a qualitative research study that formulates a new idea about the relationship between homeless youth and the individuals who care for them. In the final discussion, the authors used literature to draw similarities between their findings and other studies that found a perceived dichotomy in the relationships between clients and counselors/workers.

The authors do not present the literature in a separate section, although definitively state the use of literature in presenting their study. They made the point that literature about similar circumstances in other populations was used to frame their study because of a paucity of research on their specific population and topic. The authors not only present research directly applicable to their central topic, but present the literature on similar topics and populations.

The literature review provides a perspective of the overall climate within a specific area of inquiry. Within that climate, researchers determine what is known as well as what is not known, and what they determine to make known. Prior to engaging in research on a topic, it is prudent to understand how and where one's research will fit in to the knowledge base (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009). Scholars and researchers have an obligation to the established knowledge base as well as other scholars and researchers to understand the foundations upon which they build their research (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009). The goal of researchers is to add to the knowledge base and foster future research (Creswell, 2009). In the qualitative study of McGrath and Pistrang (2007), the authors utilize the literature review to describe current knowledge, the gaps in similar research, and their goal to increase the level of knowledge about the quality of relationship between homeless youth and their key workers.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC: Author.

Creswell, J. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Theory. Baltimore: Author.

McGrath, L., & Pistrang, N. (2007). Policeman or friend? Dilemmas in working with homeless young people in the United Kingdom. Journal of Social Issues, 63(3), 589-606. doi 10.1111/j.1540-4560.2007.00525.x

Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d.) Use of literature checklist. [Handout] Baltimore: Author

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