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As a scholar-practitioner, you know that your work needs to be evidence-based. The literature review provides the empirical justification for the project. Literature reviews involve collecting resources directly related to the selected problem, critically analyzing those resources, and synthesizing them into a coherent narrative. The critical analysis not only considers the validity of the argument, but the credibility of the source as well. Where did the information come from? Was it the author’s personal opinion? Did he or she conduct a study or analyze data? These questions should be considered in completing a critical review of literature. For this assignment you will critically evaluate a selected resource that relates to your capstone project. To prepare:Review the article attached on writing an integrative literature review.View the article on how to critically evaluate resources.Review the research resource related to the capstone project topic regarding the effectiveness and importance of special education and inclusive classrooms.Review the attached problem statement.The assignment:In 2-3 pages, please complete the following:Briefly synthesize the resource Meeting the Needs: Inclusive ClassroomsCritically analyze that resource.IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not a literature review; it is a brief summary of just 1 article and a critical analysis of that article. Following are a few questions to consider as you write the critical analysis of the article for this week. A critical analysis is an evaluation of the resource. Is the source credible? Is the information based upon opinion? Who conducted the study and analyzed the data and what are the author’s credentials?


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Instructor’s Corner
/ September 2005
Writing Integrative
Literature Reviews:
Guidelines and Examples
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
The integrative literature review is a distinctive form of research that generates new knowledge about the topic reviewed. Little guidance is available on how to write an integrative literature review. This article discusses how to organize and write an integrative literature review and cites
examples of published integrative literature reviews that illustrate how
this type of research has made substantive contributions to the knowledge
base of human resource development.
Keywords: literature review; integrative literature review; integrative
research review: synthesis
The integrative literature review is a form of research that reviews, critiques, and synthesizes representative literature on a topic in an integrated
way such that new frameworks and perspectives on the topic are generated.
Several integrative literature reviews have made seminal contributions to
our knowledge of human resource development (HRD) and related fields;
some are cited in this article. Recognizing the value of work that reviews,
critiques, and synthesizes knowledge from the literature on topics of interest to the field, Human Resource Development Review (HRDR) has published at least one integrative literature review in every issue since the journal began almost 4 years ago. The editors of HRDR continue to seek wellwritten review articles that yield provocative, new perspectives on key
issues in the field.
This article discusses the distinctive characteristics of this form of
research. In addition, we hope to counter the misconception that integrative
literature reviews are less rigorous or easier to write than other types of
research articles. On the contrary, the integrative literature review is a
sophisticated form of research that requires a great deal of research skill and
insight. Authors of review articles are expected to identify an appropriate
topic or issue for the review, justify why a literature review is the appropriate means of addressing the topic or problem, search and retrieve the approHuman Resource Development Review Vol. 4, No. 3 September 2005 356-367
DOI: 10.1177/1534484305278283
© 2005 Sage Publications
priate literature(s), analyze and critique the literature, and create new understandings of the topic through one or more forms of synthesis. This article
offers guidelines for writing integrative literature reviews and cites examples of exemplary review articles. After reviewing the purposes best served
by literature reviews, the article discusses how to organize and write an integrative literature review that offers valuable new perspectives on an issue.
Examples of published integrative literature reviews are provided that illustrate how this type of research has made substantive contributions to the
knowledge base of HRD.
Before Writing—Why Write a Review Article?
Most integrative literature reviews are intended to address two general
kinds of topics—mature topics or new, emerging topics. Because HRD
deals with topics and issues that vary along an age continuum from old to
new, all integrative literature reviews do not fit neatly into “old” or “new”
categories. Nonetheless, we discuss both kinds of literature reviews, because
features of a review article differ depending on the maturity of the topic it
As a topic matures and the size of its literature grows, there is a corresponding growth and development in the knowledge base of the topic. An
integrative literature review of a mature topic addresses the need for a
review, critique, and the potential reconceptualization of the expanding and
more diversified knowledge base of the topic as it continues to develop. Several examples of this kind of literature review exist. Ford and Weissbein
(1997) conducted a review of the literature on training transfer that synthesized existing research, including a previous review of this topic. Other integrative literature reviews of well-developed topics include reviews of organization development (Porras & Robertson, 1987; Weick & Quinn, 1999),
mentoring (D’Abate, Eddy, & Tannenbaum, 2003), work design (Torraco,
2005), teams (Guzzo & Dickson, 1996), and cross-cultural research on
HRD (Hansen & Brooks, 1994). Each of these literature reviews resulted in
fresh, new understandings and, in most cases, significant reconceptualizations of the mature topics reviewed.
A second kind of integrative literature review addresses new or emerging
topics that would benefit from a holistic conceptualization and synthesis of
the literature to date. Because these topics are relatively new and have not
yet undergone a comprehensive review of the literature, the review is more
likely to lead to an initial or preliminary conceptualization of the topic (i.e.,
a new model or framework) rather than a reconceptualization of previous
models. Bailey and Kurland’s (2002) review of research on telework, an
increasingly prevalent form of work, provides a timely contribution to our
knowledge of this recent phenomenon. The authors examined who partici-
Human Resource Development Review / September 2005
pates in telework, why they do, the implications of the spread of telework,
and a research agenda for generating new knowledge about telework and its
consequences. Other integrative literature reviews of new or emerging topics include reviews of contingent work and new employment relationships
(Kalleberg, 2000), knowledge work (Brown & Duguid, 2000; Cook, Scott,
& Brown, 1999; Spender & Grant, 1996), work-family balance (Edwards &
Rothbard, 2000), and new forms of organizations (Liker, Haddad & Karlin,
1999; Smith, 1997). Whether the literature review addresses a mature or
emerging topic, readers expect to see the knowledge from the literature synthesized into a model or conceptual framework that offers a new perspective
on the topic. This expectation that literature reviews provide new frameworks or ways of thinking about an issue is consistent with Whetten’s
(1989) observation that “the mission of a theory-development journal is to
challenge and extend existing knowledge, not simply to rewrite it” (p. 491).
Why Write a Literature Review?
Early in the article, the author should explain why a literature review is
the research method of choice to address the problem or issue. The need for
the review article should be supported by discussing the importance of the
problem or topic to be examined and by justifying why an integrative literature review is an appropriate way to address the problem. The notion of a
need for a literature review of a topic derives from a condition or situation in
which something is required or wanted. On the other hand, the author may
be interested in learning more about phenomenon x, and thus, undertake a
review of the literature on this phenomenon. Yet, does the literature review
make a significant, value-added contribution to new thinking in the field?
This conception of need arises from the value that the literature review contributes to the discipline and its constituents (Torraco, 2004). Included in
eight criteria for evaluating a theoretical contribution, Patterson (1986)
characterized importance as being “applicable to more than a limited,
restricted situation” and “having relevance to life or to real behavior” (p.
xx). This corresponds to journal editor Bem’s (1995) warning that authors
who wish to publish review articles in Psychological Bulletin should avoid
narrowly conceived topics as the basis for writing review articles.
In some cases an omission or deficiency in existing literature on an issue
is suggested by a discrepancy between the literature and observations about
the issue that are not addressed in the literature. In this case, the omission or
deficiency is confirmed in the literature review section of a larger empirical
or theoretical study that addresses the issue. Thus, a new study that examines the problem specifically rather than a literature review alone may be the
best approach. In addition to writing integrative literature reviews on
mature topics or new topics for the reasons given above, literature reviews
are also appropriate when contradictory evidence appears, when there is
change in a trend or direction of a phenomenon and how it is reported, and
when research emerges in different fields. Try to hook your reader early and
motivate them to read on by arguing for the importance or need for your literature review. Readers who may not share the intensity of your interest in
the topic may be persuaded of its significance by a compelling argument that
your review article addresses an important need for the HRD discipline and
its constituents.
Organizing an Integrative Literature Review
Authors of review articles do not have the benefit of following a wellestablished format to organize their articles because there is no standardized
format for review articles as there is for empirical work. Referring to the format of review articles, the Publication Manual (American Psychological
Association, 2001) states only that “the components of review articles,
unlike the sections of reports of empirical studies, are arranged by relationship rather than by chronology” (p. 5). Consequently, the author of a review
article must begin with a topic in need of review and a broad conception of
what is known about the topic and potential areas where new knowledge
may be needed.
Conceptual Structuring of the Review
The organization of the review starts with a coherent conceptual structuring of the topic by the author. The author should begin conceptually structuring the topic early in his/her work because this is central to organizing the
article. Beginning the article without a conceptual structuring of the topic
creates difficulties later. As the review article takes shape, subsequent alteration of the conceptual structure of the topic requires repeated modifications to the rest of the article, which becomes increasingly difficult as more
of the article is written. For most integrative literature reviews, conceptual
structuring of the topic requires the author to adopt a guiding theory, a set of
competing models, or a point of view about the topic. Wrzesniewski and
Dutton’s (2001) work on job crafting provides an example of their use of a
guiding theory to organize their literature review and conceptual model on
job crafting. The authors defined job crafting as the physical and psychological changes individuals make in the task or relational boundaries of their
work. The guiding theory that organized Wrzesniewski and Dutton’s work
is based on social-information processing and assumes that employees can
actively change their jobs. This theoretical orientation differs from existing
theory on job design (Hackman & Oldham, 1980) and sociotechnical systems theory (Emery & Trist, 1969) by deemphasizing the technical and environment requirements of the job setting. The authors used their guiding the-
Human Resource Development Review / September 2005
ory of employees as the primary shapers of their jobs to effectively structure
the article by showing how the authors’ assumptions, literature review, and
critique of the literature supported their new conceptual model of job
Another approach for conceptually structuring the review is to use a set of
competing models. Bem (1995) cited Nolen-Hoeksema and Girgus’s (1994)
review article on gender differences in depression during adolescence as a good
illustration of the use of competing models to organize a review article. Bem
(1995) described the authors’ use of competing models to organize their literature review as follows:
The relevant literature consists primarily of studies examining specific variables
correlated with depression, a hodgepodge of findings that less creative authors
might have been tempted to organize chronologically or alphabetically. The
authors, however, organized the studies in terms of whether they supported one of
three developmental models: (a) the causes of depression are the same for the two
sexes, but these causes are more prevalent in girls than in boys in early adolescence; (b) the causes of depression are different for the two sexes, and the causes of
girls’depression become more prevalent in early adolescence; or (c) girls are more
likely than boys to carry risk factors for depression before early adolescence, but
these lead to depression only in the face of challenges that increase in prevalence
in early adolescence. With this guiding structure, the findings fell into a recognizable pattern supporting the last model. (p. 174)
Whether a guiding theory, a set of competing models, or another approach is
used, authors should give serious attention to a coherent conceptual structuring
of the topic to organize the review article.
Describing How the Review Was Conducted
Although an integrative literature review article can be organized in various ways, the author is still expected to follow accepted conventions for
reporting how the study was conducted. This relates to the methodology of
writing an integrative literature review—how the literature was identified,
analyzed, synthesized, and reported by the author. First, the author’s strategy for selecting the literature to be included in the study should be
described. The literature is the data of an integrative literature review.
Learning about the literature and how it was obtained, including the keywords and databases used, is of particular interest to readers, who may wonder if the literature they are familiar with was examined. Authors should
ensure that recently published literature and older literature are both systematically searched. Authors can examine older literature by reviewing the
citations from the articles obtained through the search of selected databases.
Recently published literature is examined by using the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) or the Web of Science.1 The criteria used for retaining or
discarding the literature yielded by the literature searches should also be
stated. Authors should consider using a table, endnote, or appendix to list
the sources of literature reviewed in the study.
Various aspects of the literature can be reviewed with more or less scrutiny by the author depending on the purpose and topic of the review. Authors
may do a complete reading of each piece of literature, analyze methods and
findings only, or conduct a staged review (i.e., an initial review of abstracts,
then an in-depth review) to analyze the literature. Webster and Watson
(2002) illustrated the use of a concept matrix that lists the key concepts of a
topic along one axis of the matrix and the articles in which they were
addressed along the other axis. Entries in the cells of the matrix show more
frequently used concepts and their sources in the literature. (Also see
Salipante, Notz, and Bigelow [1982] for a discussion of the use of concept
matrices in literature reviews.) The description of how the literature was
reviewed by the author should be followed by a discussion of how the main
ideas and themes from the literature were identified and categorized. Steps
taken to verify the validity or authenticity of key ideas and themes that
emerged from the analysis should be described, especially for literature
reviews of new topics or phenomena for which accepted models and
frameworks do not yet exist.
In general, the review article should be written so that if other researchers
attempted to replicate the study, sufficient information would be available to
do so. The research methods used to conduct the study should be made as
transparent as possible to the reader. As with other types of research, readers
of an integrative literature review expect to see how the review process was
used to develop and present the synthesis and findings of the study.
Writing an Integrative Literature Review
The best literature reviews examine the literature with a particular lens
defined by the article’s objectives. Rarely do reviews examine all aspects of
previous research. Rather, this lens points the author (and reader) to specific
aspects of previous research that are critically examined and evaluated. As a
result, the review “tells a story” by critically analyzing the literature and
arriving at specific conclusions about it.
Critical Analysis
Critical analysis of literature involves carefully examining the main
ideas and relationships of an issue and providing a critique of existing literature. The critique is the critical evaluation of how well the literature represents the issue. Critical analysis often requires the author first to deconstruct
a topic into its basic elements. These may include the history and origins of
the topic, its main concepts, the key relationships through which the concepts interact, research methods, applications of the topic, and so on. Care-
Human Resource Development Review / September 2005
ful analysis often exposes knowledge that may be taken for granted or hidden by years of intervening research. It allows the author to reconstruct,
conceptually, the topic for a clearer understanding of it and to assess how
well the topic is represented in the literature.
This lays the foundation for critique, the product of critical analysis. Critique identifies the strengths and key contributions of the literature as well
as any deficiencies, omissions, inaccuracies, and other problematic aspects
of the literature. The critique should identify aspects of a phenomenon that
are missing, incomplete, or poorly represented in the literature, as well as
inconsistencies among published perspectives on the topic. It also identifies
knowledge that should be created or improved in light of recent developments on the topic. Thus, by highlighting the strengths and identifying the
deficiencies in the existing literature, critical analysis is a necessary step
toward improving the knowledge base.
Synthesizing New Knowledge on the Topic
With the strengths and deficiencies of a body of literature exposed,
authors can take advantage of the breadth and depth of their insights to create a better understanding of the topic through synthesis. Synthesis integrates existing ideas with new ideas to create a new formulation of the topic
or issue. Synthesizing the literature means that the review weaves the
streams of research together to focus on core issues rather than merely
reporting previous literature. Synthesis is not a data dump. It is a creative
activity that produces a new model, conceptual framework, or other unique
conception informed by the author’s intimate knowledge of the topic. The
result of a comprehensive synthesis of literature is that new knowledge or
perspective is created despite the fact that the review summarizes previous
New ideas from the literature review can be synthesized in several ways.
The most common forms of synthesis include a research agenda, a taxonomy (Doty & Glick, 1994), an alternative model or conceptual framework,
and metatheory (Ritzer, 1992). A metatheory explains or elaborates on a
body of theory. Synthesis of a body of literature can provide the basis for
developing metatheory across theoretical domains. For example, systems
theory as a metatheory for HRD is examined in a monograph edited by
Gradous (1989) and a metatheory of knowledge is presented by Wilson
(1998). Two other forms of synthesis, a new conceptual model and a
research agenda, are commonly used together to synthesize the literature in
review articles. The review and critique of existing literature culm …
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