Writing the Literature Review: A Banquet Hall Analogy

Are you writing a literature review? One of the most difficult tasks of writing
a literature review is determining how to best structure and organize the literature
that you’ve read. What information does your reader need to
know first? How do you build their understanding logically and progressively? To help you do this, I’m going to give you
an analogy. I want you to think about the literature review
as a banquet hall, a room with many tables, and at each table, there is a different yet
related conversation about your research topic. As the author of your literature review, you
are responsible for organizing the seating arrangement. You will need to think about which authors you were going to sit together. You are the host of the banquet and you will
walk your reader through the hall introducing them to the literature that you have read,
the literature that helps you answer different components of your research question. So, take your reader by the hand and walk them
to the first table and sit down. Introduce them to the general topic of discussion
at this table, and then introduce them to the most important voices at this table. Focus specifically on the parts of their work
that help you think more deeply about your own research. Next, tell your reader who agrees with each
other and who disagrees. What are the similarities and what are the major debates. And finally explain how this table helps you answer part of your research question. Then get up, move to the next table, sit down,
and do it again. Introduce the general topic of conversation,
the major authors, their contributions, those who agree with them and those who disagree,
the similarities and the debates, and how this table helps contribute to your research question. And on it goes. You may have an author who can sit at more
than one table. Sometimes this author can act as a transition
or a stepping stone from one table conversation to next. Now, your biggest challenge is to determine the order that you walk your reader through
the banquet hall. These tables are building blocks of knowledge
that help your reader understand how you are going to answer your research question. In what order do they need this information? Don’t try to include everything that you’ve
ever read. Keep focus on your research question.

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