Week 3 - Lit Review

Writing a Literature
• What is a literature review?
• Questions that a literature review should answer
• Selecting Articles to Review
• Structure of a Literature Review
• Useful phrases and Sentences for academic writing
What is a literature review?
A literature review is a summary and
critical analysis of writings by scholars
on a particular topic/theme.
A literature review, however, does not
simply reproduce/summarise the
literature; it is both descriptive and
What is a literature review?
• Discuss the most widely accepted findings on the topic.
• State the most widely accepted definitions of concepts,
hypotheses etc. in relation to your topic.
• Identify the methods used to make and support the findings in
the literature.
• Establish the most recent authoritative theory on the subject.
What is a literature review?
• The integration of ideas from different sources, highlighting
differences and similarities.
• Showing the relevance of the literature to your research topic.
(how it supports & is contradictory to your main hypothesis)
• Illustrate which arguments are most important/ pertinent in
the field of study – using examples/primary sources to do so.
Questions that a LR should answer
• The following should be answered by a literature review:
• 1. What do we already know in the immediate area
• 2. What are the characteristics of the key concepts or the
main factors or
• variables?
• 3. What are the relationships between these key concepts,
factors or
• variables?
• 4. What are the complementary existing theories/approaches?
Selecting Articles to Review
The aim is not to discuss every single article,
but the major opinions/themes on the
The main articles you should aim to use in
your review are the ‘seminal’ articles,
referenced by most authors in the particular
field/topic you are researching.
Selecting Articles to Review
It is difficult to discuss the following topics without these
• Post-colonial state: Crawford Young
• Elections and voting systems: Arend
• Nationalism: Gellner
• Democracy: Huntington
Finding Sources:
The UCT library website has a link to a database (ISI Citation
Database) which can find all other articles which have cited a
particular article.
- Go to ‘cited reference search’
- Type the author’s last name, the journal & year in which the
article appeared in the appropriate boxes
- This will give you a list of authors and articles which have
followed or disagreed with the author.
Google Scholar (‘Cited by’ link) and the Academic Search
Premier on the UCT library website (‘cited references’ link) have
similar functions.
Structure of a Literature
Introduction Example
The Neopatrimonial School refers to literature that attributes
Neopatrimonialism, which is said to have weakened the state’s
capability to foster development and economic growth.
Increasingly arguments have emerged which challenge this view
on the basis of the very utility of the concept as an explanatory
tool in Africa. The main argument is that neopatrimonialism
merely describes the style of governance in a country, but does
not indicate the type of strategies or policies a state will pursue
and with what success. This paper aims to review these two
contrasting sets of literature in order to illustrate that
underdevelopment. The review first highlights the main
arguments of the neopatrimonial school and critiques these
arguments by reflecting on the contrasting emerging literature.
Structure of a Literature
Introduction Example
Revolutions: Types, Causes and Theories
The increased revolutionary activity in the twentieth century led to a growth and development in the study and
theories of revolutions. The origins of the modern study of revolutions can be traced back to Alexis de Tocqueville
who analysed the causes and effects of the French Revolution and, more influentially, the theories of Karl Marx in
the nineteenth century (Foran, 2005:5). In the twentieth century, social scientists drew on these theories as well
as the examples of revolutions occurring around them to form their own revolutionary theories or revise and
improve existing ones. The twentieth century theorists can be divided into two generations. The first generation of
the 1920sand1930s theorised on the Natural History of Revolutions which offers a descriptive account of what
happens during a revolution as can be seen in the works of L. P. Edwards (Foran, 2005:8).The second generation
from the 1960s is more focused on identifying the causes of revolutions (Foran, 2005:9). These theoristsbranch
out into the Aggregate Psychological, Political-Conflict, and Structural approaches. The leading theorists of these
respective approaches are James Davies, Charles Tilly, and ThedaSkocpol (Skocpol, 1979:9).
Revolutionary theories are concerned with both their causes and effects. The effect of a revolution defines its
type, while its causes determine the theory used to analyse it (Goldstone, 2009:213). The following literature
review will, firstly, look at the different types of revolutions with special reference to social revolutions. It will then
analyse the different theories used to identify the causes by contrasting and critiquing the different approaches. I
will conclude that all theories contain components that can be applicable when studying revolutions and the
theories often complement each other. Although the structural approach is fundamentally different from the
“purposive” approaches, it is not without faults and cannot be used by itself to analyse a revolution
Structure of a Literature Review
Introduction Example
Social Revolutions
“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be
attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes
tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They
have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite” (Marx & Engels : 268)
In this well know and insightful call to arms Marx and Engels finish the work that pioneered the
study of revolution, as well as created a whole new discourse about the nature and ordering of
society: the Communist Manifesto. This essay shall in its own small way continue in the shadow of
these great thinkers as it seeks to plot an evolution of the body of work on social revolutions,
framing this in the broader context of the discussion on revolutions more generally. It shall give a
brief overview of the work on revolution sighting such important thinkers as Marx & Engels and
de Tocqueville. It shall then shift focus towards, and provide an overview of the work on social
revolutions specifically (defined later) here the important work of Skocpol, Davies, Goldstone,
Huntington and Tilly, will be focused on. We shall seek to frame the debate, critique and discuss
the conversation on social revolutions, and to provide a direction for future research.
Structure of a Literature
Developmental States in Africa
i) 1964-1989: the authoritarian advantage: the success of the
East Asian Tigers.
ii) 1990- date: democracy is crucial to development: democratic
developmental states.
Structure of a Literature
‘Why do Authoritarian Regimes often endure?’
Literature on this topic cites the following main themes:
• i)
Coercive Apparatus
• ii) Strength of State
• iii) International Support Networks
Structure of a Literature
Conceptualising Revolutions
•Davies’ J-Curve vs Skocpol’s characterization of revolutions as
rapid, fundamental change of socioeconomic and political
institutions and large-scale class upheaval.
Useful phrases and Sentences for academic
Referring to another authors ideas
• Huntington put forward the idea that….
• In Young’s view……
• According to Davies’ perspective…….
• Goldstone argues that….
Providing support
• Tilly’s findings (1973) support this idea.
• For example in 1984…
• This shows that….
Useful phrases and Sentences for academic
Making a concession
• Bellin’s study provides much relevant information.
• Skocpol makes several interesting points…
• Chandra argues convincingly
Showing Disagreement
• There are several flaws in Przeworski’s argument.
• While the discussion makes some good points, there are
serious problems.
• Taylor’s argument cannot be accepted for several reasons.
Useful phrases and Sentences for academic
• Whereas Molomo argues for……….., Samatar presents a case
against it.
• Botswana is considered to have a good democracy, however….
Weakening a statement
• Milan’s argument is not completely valid because….
• This is possibly a result of…….as a result of…
Main Tips
- Summarise the articles with as much detail as each
article merits.
- Identify consistent patterns and points of agreement &
inconsistencies, disagreement & unresolved issues across
these texts to establish what is known.
- Read widely but make sure to only use the most
significant and relevant sources of information to date.
- Each paragraph should have a topic sentence and a clear
main idea.
- Pay attention to the vocabulary you use to aid in your
overall analysis.
- Summary of what you have drawn from the literature:
e.g. major methodological flaws, gaps in the research,
inconsistencies in the findings and therefore areas that
are pertinent to future study of the topic.
- Where might the discussion proceed; identify the gap
your work will fill/ if your purpose was simply to identify
the gaps in the literature, discuss the importance of
filling these gaps.
- Remember to: maintain the focus established in your

similar documents