A literature map of the research

One of the first tasks for a researcher working with a new topic is to organize the literature. As mentioned earlier, this organization enables a person to understand how the proposed study adds to, extends, or replicates research already completed.

A useful approach for this step is to design a literature map. This is an idea that we came up with several years ago, a tool for students to use when organizing their review of the literature for making  presentations to graduate committees, summarizing the literature for a scholarly presentation, composing an article for journal publications.

This map is a visual summary of the research that has been conducted by others, and it is typically represented in a figure. Maps are organized in different ways. One could be a hierarchical structure with a top-down presentation of the literature, ending at the bottom with the proposed study. Another might be similar to a flowchart in which the reader understands the literature as unfolding from left to right with the farthest right-hand section advancing a proposed study. A third model might be a series of circles; each circle represents a body of literature and the intersection of the circles as the place in which the future research is indicated. We have seen examples of all of these possibilities and found them all effective.

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