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The Literature Review

The Literature Review
Six Steps to Success

Fourth Edition

January 2022 | 264 pages | Corwin

The essential guide—updated, expanded, and easier to use than ever.

Creating a successful literature review can be a daunting task, which is why so many researchers have relied on previous editions of this book to make the process more manageable. Using the six-step model, you’ll work seamlessly to narrow your research topic, focus your literature search, negotiate the myriad of books, periodicals, and reports about your topic—and, of course, write the review.

Updated, expanded, and reorganized to improve ease of use, the fourth edition of this bestselling handbook includes:

  • New and improved graphics ideal for visualizing the process
  • More explanations and tips, especially for writing in the early stages
  • An expanded range of learning tools
  • Additional reflection sections to direct metacognitive activities
  • Four new reference supplements

This pioneering book has provided countless graduate students and researchers with a road map to success. Its model takes you through the logical progression needed for producing a quality literature review—while taking the mystery out of the process.

Literature Review Flow Chart
About the Authors
Introduction: Doing and Producing a Literature Review
Key Vocabulary

Introduction Overview

The Purpose of a Literature Review

The Literature Review Defined

The Literature Review Process

Mindset: Personal Dispositions on Thinking, Doing, and Deciding

The Ethics of Reviewing the Literature

Reflective Oversight

Plan Wisely Before You Begin



Reflective Exercise

1. Step 1: Select and Define a Topic
Key Vocabulary

Chapter Overview

Task 1. Identify a Subject for Study

Task 2. Translate the Personal Interest or Concern Into a Research Query

Task 3. Link the Research Query to the Appropriate Discipline

Task 4. Write the Preliminary Research Topic Statement



Reflective Exercise

2. Step 2: Develop the Tools of Argumentation
Key Vocabulary

Chapter Overview

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

Concept 5. Building Evidence

Concept 6. Warrant—Logically Connecting the Evidence to the Claim

Concept 7. Complex Claims



Reflective Exercise

3. Step 3: Search the Literature
Key Vocabulary

Chapter Overview

Task 1. Select the Literature to Review

Task 2. Conduct a Literature Search

Task 3. Refine Your Topic



Reflective Exercise

4. Step 4: Survey the Literature
Key Vocabulary

Chapter Overview

Task 1. Assemble the Collected Data

Task 2. Organize the Information

Task 3. Analyze the Patterns of Data



Reflective Exercise

5. Step 5: Critique the Literature
Key Vocabulary

Chapter Overview

What Is a Literature Critique?

Concept 1. Making the Case for the Literature Review

Concept 2. Descriptive Argument Patterns: Factual Reasoning

Concept 3. Implicative Argument Patterns: Implicative Reasoning

Concept 4. The Implicative Argument: Nine Basic Patterns

Concept 5. Backing

Doing a Critique of the Literature: Building the Advocacy Argument

Task 1. Determining the Implicative Logic Pattern Inferred by the Topic of Study

Task 2. Reframe Claims to Meet the Prerequisite Conditions Identified by the Selected Logic Type

Task 3. Build the Advocacy Argument

Concept 6. Fallacies

Concept 7. The Case Is Everything



Reflective Exercise

6. Step 6: Write the Review
Key Vocabulary

The Writing Process: Overview

Task 1. Write to Understand

Task 2. Write to Be Understood

Style Manuals


Reflective Exercise

Last Words

Supplement A The Role of the Literature Review
Supplement B Literature Review 101
Supplement C Writing a Journal
Supplement D SQRRR
References and Further Reading

Free resources

Step 1: Select and Define a Topic

Step 1: Select and Define a Topic

Step 1 of The Literature Review, Fourth Edition, walks through the four tasks of selecting and defining a topic for study, including graphic examples, activities, exercises, tips, and a final checklist. 

Read Now

This book is clearly outlined with easy-to-understand steps supported by wonderful visuals. The key vocabulary, tips section, and checklist all provide tremendous support to any reader wanting to take the needed steps to write a meaningful literature review. This book provides sections that are concise and to the point, making it very easy for readers to skim and refer back to as needed. I commend the authors for presenting such a complex task with so much simplicity. The exercises provided are a great resource for the reader, as well as to a professor who wants to use this book as a text and assign the exercises as class activities . . . I will be sharing this book with colleagues and recommending it to my graduate students. I will also be considering how I can incorporate this book into classes that I teach.

Rebecca Brooks, Associate Professor
California State University San Marcos; Spring Valley, CA

The strengths of The Literature Review include visuals, graphic organizers, checklists, practice activities, chapter structure, and glossary.

Jennifer Shettel, Professor of Literacy Education
Millersville University; Lititz, PA

Major strengths are the detail and explicitness of the narrative. Everything is spelled out and there are lots of graphics to present a visual support for the content. The book does not skip anything but also does not talk down to the reader.

Lori Helman, Professor, Curriculum & Instruction
University of Minnesota; Minneapolis, MN

Clear, thorough, accessible, easy to read with good examples. Love the mapping in Step Three! The authors do an excellent job of discussing ideas, strategies, and tips. Logical, clear, and helpful conclusions are made throughout.

Linda R. Vogel, Professor of Education Leadership
University of Northern Colorado; Greeley, CO

There is a clear framework for critically thinking about and applying a 6-step process for conducting a literature review . . . Unlike any other book, it provides a deep dive examination of how to approach and complete a high-quality literature review via a systematic critical thinking process.

Dr. Jacqueline Thousand, Professor Emerita
California State University, San Marcos, San Marcos, CA

Excellent for all stages of studying

Mrs Sarah Johnson
School of Health, University of Central Lancashire
March 25, 2024

I have recommended this text, particularly for my research project students. This is a brilliant guide for students doing research for the first time.

Ms Aneeza Pervez
Psychology, Nottingham University
June 1, 2023

Used as a text for Research literacy in educational leadership and policy. An excellent resource for learning about literature review.

Dr Barnabas C Emenogu
Ontario Int for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto
May 30, 2023

Very informative but a little too high for the level taught.

More apt for final year and postgrad courses.

Miss Amber Heaviside
Law, Bolton University
October 3, 2022

Machi & McEvoy do a great job breaking down the literature review. The 4th edition offers some additional exercises, reading strategies, and helpful supplements.

Dr Pamela Rutledge
School Of Psychology, Fielding Graduate Institute
July 22, 2022

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ISBN: 9781071852903
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