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A Quicklook at Literature Reviews


Research reports relate the results of evaluation research. The exercise of reading evaluation research will be beneficial for two reasons: (1) It will demonstrate the value of doing literature reviews in evaluation and (2) You will begin to develop a foundation for reading research that can be built on in the future. I hope what you learn here will help you be a better professional by enabling you to plan and deliver more effective programs based on the best available knowledge.

A literature review is very important for the sake of evaluation. You can learn a great deal from literature reviews, including:

  1. the problem or need you’re interested in,
  2. programs other professionals have designed to address the problem or need
  3. evaluation designs that have been used to measure the effectiveness of programs.

Don’t try to hold reseachers up to ideal standards. They conduct research under less than ideal conditions, usually with limited resources. They usually have to make compromises given the practical realities of their situation.

Here are some guidelines for evaluating research reports:

Title and Abstract

  • Does the title of the report clearly describe the topic of the report?
  • Does the abstract (a summary of the research report that appears just below the title of the report):
    • Refer to the purpose of the study
    • Highlight the research methodology
    • Highlight the results
    • Avoid making vague references to the study

The introduction and literature review is the beginning of every important piece of professional caliber research. Its how we respect the intellectual efforts of others and acknowledge their contribution to the field. What can you learn from it and what should you look for?

Research reports should begin with an introduction in citing literature. The introduction and literature review has five purposes:

  1. Introduce the problem area
  2. Establish its importance
  3. Provide an overview of the relevant literature
  4. Show how the current study will advance knowledge in the area
  5. Describe the researcher’s specific research questions, purposes, or hypotheses, which are usually stated in the last paragraph of the introduction.

Does the introduction and literature review in general:

  • Introduced the problem area clearly and specifically?
  • Persuade you of the study’s importance by providing specific evidence?
  • Provide conceptual definitions of key terms?
  • Flow logically from the introductory material to the research purposes, questions, or hypotheses?
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