Introducing research in law and beyond
Introducing research in law and beyond

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Introducing research in law and beyond

3.5 Analyse

A colleague once commented on a student’s work in the following vein: ‘I don’t really need you to tell me what the author thinks, since I can read her thoughts myself, but I do want to know what you think about what the author thinks’. Literature reviews are not a description of what has been written by other people in a particular field, they should be a discussion of what you think of what they have written, and how it helps clarify your own thinking.

This is why critical judgement is so important for your literature review. You must exercise critical judgement when determining which sources to read in depth, and when evaluating the argument they put forward. Finally, critical judgement is important in communicating how those arguments might frame your research. It should not be a narrative of what you have read and the stories those sources tell. It should be sparing in its description of others’ arguments, and expansive in how those arguments have shaped your own thinking.

You need to exercise critical judgement as to which resources are the most useful and worthy of discussion. Having done this, you also need to ensure that your review is analytical rather than descriptive. A critical review extracts elements from the resource that directly relate to the chosen research interest; it debates them, or compares and contrasts them with how other resources have analysed them. A critical examination of the literature should allow you to develop your understanding of your research question. It should guide you to what knowledge you will need to answer your research question, and begin to develop some subsidiary questions. This will break the content down into more manageable and achievable segments of knowledge that you require.

Some elements of a good critical literature review are:

  • relating different writings to each other, indicating their differences and contradictions, and highlighting what they lack
  • understanding the values and theories that inform, and colour, reading and writing
  • viewing research writing as an environment of contested views and positions
  • placing the material in the context of your own research.
W800_1

Take your learning further371

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses372.

If you are new to university level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. Find out Where to take your learning next?373 You could either choose to start with an Access courses374or an open box module, which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification.

Not ready for University study then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn375 and sign up to our newsletter376 to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371