How to Integrate Critical Voice into Your Literature Review
This video will explain what critical voice is, and how to successfully develop it in your own literature review.
How to Integrate Critical Voice into Your Literature Review
Have you been told to integrate your critical voice into your literature review and you are not sure what that means?
What is critical voice?
Critical voice is when you indicate in your own writing that you are stating your interpretations, ideas, evaluations, and analysis of the literature that you have read.
This video will show you how to develop your critical voice in your literature review.
First, let’s talk about some questions you can ask yourself while reading and note-taking to help develop your critical voice.
Some of the questions you might ask are...
Do you agree with the authors’ conclusions, and are they significant?
Could anything be influencing the authors’ perspective, conclusions, or arguments, such as funding agencies, stakeholders, etc.?
What are the strengths and limitations of the data collection methods?
Does anything important seem to be overlooked or missing?
Are there other ideas related to this topic? Are there other possible interpretations?
While writing your literature review, you can use the following 7 tips to help you integrate your critical voice.
#1: Build your argument and use citations to support your position, interpretation, or hypothesis.
[Example: Canadians should moderate their summertime ice cream consumption. Food disappearance data show that in July through August, twice as much ice cream is consumed when compared to January (Statistics Canada, 2018).]
In this example, the first sentence shows the argument that the writer is making, while the second sentence provides supporting evidence.
#2 Indicate how your research project fits within your discipline or research area.
[Example: Recent provincial policy has recommended a shift in programming priorities towards primary and secondary prevention of cancer (Ima, 2018; Smit, 2016; Barsted & Juneberry, 2015; Halls, 2014). Since the 1990s, interventions have demonstrated that lifestyle cancer-prevention strategies are feasible and cost effective (Chua, 1999; Smit, 2001; Ready, 2011).]
You can do this by gathering multiple sources to draw conclusions about the current state of your research area, or by hypothesizing about how your field will develop.
In this example, ‘recent,’ ‘has recommended,’ and ‘Since the 1990’s, interventions have demonstrated” are words used to establish the research area.
#3 Compare multiple sources to draw conclusions.
[Example: Three key studies found that weight loss interventions that lasted one month in length were effective (Main, 2017; Major, 2009; Raj, 2018). However, studies that lasted six months showed that while participants lost weight initially, their weight rebounded by six months (Lee, 2008; Talmud, 2011; Harrington, 2013). These studies show that while short-term weight loss is possible, long-term weight maintenance is challenging.]
This example shows how you can compare sources and draw conclusions.
The first sentence summarizes one group of studies. The second sentence summarizes a second group. The comparison is indicated by the word “however.” The final sentence adds critical voice by providing a conclusion of these findings.
#4 Clearly indicate which ideas and opinions are your own in relation to the literature you’re discussing.
In some disciplines, you would state your opinion using “I” statements in your paper. [pop up example]
Whereas, in other disciplines, any statement without citation information is assumed to be the writer’s interpretation. [pop up example]
If you are not sure what the standard is in your discipline, ask your professor.
#5 Show how different articles agree or disagree on findings or interpretations.
[Example: Imran (1975), McGrath (2018) and Chen (2002) agree that ... While Green (1975) found no association between x and y, Talmud (1978) identified three associated causes]
In this example, we see specific language used such as ‘agree’ and ‘while’ to indicate agreement and disagreement.
#6 In your writing, identify what has not been studied in the literature. This is commonly referred to as “identifying the gaps.”
[Example: Shaf & Vegrien (1990) focus on community development projects in Paris, Madrid, and Munich, while Hans & Smith (1994) examine urban design in Shiang Hai and Hong Kong. Despite the importance of these studies, both have neglected to address the impact of community development on small cities.]
Again, we can see the use of specific language such as “despite the importance” and “have neglected to address.” These phrases help draw attention to gaps in the literature and contribute to your critical voice.
#7 Indicate the strengths and limitations of individual studies or groups of studies by using interpretive critical comments.
[Example: Another limitation of these findings concerns the validity of the survey design. For instance, information provided by participants' critical opinion about sensitive topics may reflect normative assumptions, rather than actual behaviour. Reports may be biased due to the participants' interactions with the researcher.]
This example shows how identifying strengths and limitations will help you assess the value of different articles.
We can see the use of specific language such as “Another limitation of these findings” and “may be biased.” These phrases indicate your critical opinion.
[Example: This mixed-methods study suffers from methodological problems that may limit confidence in the findings. Short-term practices, although useful, do not allow for athletes to monitor whether the measured effects adequately account for changes in overall fitness and health. A comprehensive review of the literature discovered strong support for suppressing the mutant gene. However ...]
Here are other examples of using specific words to integrate your critical voice into your own writing. Be specific in your choice of verbs, adverbs, and adjectives, while still being concise in your writing.
We can see the use of specific language such as “suffers,” “may limit,” “do not allow,” “adequately,” “comprehensive,” “strong,” and “however.”
If you’re having trouble integrating enough critical voice, speak to your professor or book a writing appointment in the library. Visit lib.uoguelph.ca.