Literature Review for Advanced Research – EDUC 860

CG • Section 8WK • 11/08/2019 to 04/16/2020 • Modified 05/26/2022

Course Description

This course provides doctoral students with advanced research skills and strategies for conducting a literature review. Critical thinking skills, synthesis of information, and application of the literature are emphasized to support the feasibility and relevance of a research study.

For information regarding prerequisites for this course, please refer to the Academic Course Catalog.


A literature review is a comprehensive investigation of previous research and scholarly articles on a topic. Beginning with a theory that serves to frame, or orient, the study, Chapter Two continues with a comprehensive review of the literature that addresses sufficient directly and indirectly related bodies of literature to show the reader that the researcher has a complete understanding of the topic. By conducting a thorough review, the researcher identifies any gaps in the literature and, therefore, a need for a study. Literature reviews are not merely listings or descriptions of the literature but are critiques of the literature that, when synthesized, create a conversation, or dialogue, among the various scholars that comes alive and inspires your reader to be even more interested in the topic and to be ready to consume the study’s findings. Poor literature reviews reflect poorly on the scholar, and, in the case of Christian scholars, reflect poorly on Christianity. As such, the need for Christian scholars to generate exemplary literature reviews is paramount to representing God as the supreme authority and creator of all knowledge. 

Measurable Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the candidate will be able to:

  1. Identify a general topic of interest for dissertation research.
  2. Use theory to frame the proposed research.
  3. Develop an outline of the literature review.
  4. Differentiate between summarizing, analyzing, and synthesizing the literature.
  5. Write a literature review on his/her dissertation topic.

Course Assignment

Textbook readings and lecture presentations

The Claxton and Dolan (2021) textbook is used for this course and includes any readings necessary for the candidate to ensure competence with basic literature review development. Additionally, the Galvan and Galvan (2017) text can be used for supplemental material. Finally, the latest APA Style Guide and dissertation templates are required for this course.

Course Requirements Checklist

After reading the Course Syllabus and Student Expectations, the candidate will complete the related checklist found in the Course Overview.

Discussions (2)

The candidate will complete the discussions in two parts. First, the candidate will post a new thread in response to the provided discussion prompt. Then, the candidate will reply to at least two classmates. During the week a discussion is assigned, new threads should be posted by the end of Thursday, and replies should be posted by the end of Sunday for Week 1 and Friday for Week 8. Discussions will take place during weeks 1 and 8 of this course. (MLO: A, E)

Topic Identification Essay Assignment

The candidate will submit a document containing two paragraphs identifying his/her proposed topic for the dissertation. The first paragraph will identify and discuss the topic, including a brief summary of its social and historical contexts, as well as its relationship to education. The second paragraph will give an explanation as why the candidate considers this a worthwhile topic, which may include personal experience and research goals. At least two scholarly, peer-reviewed articles published within the past five years must be cited in the essay with an appropriate reference page attached. The essay will be submitted in Module 1: Week 1. (MLO: A, E)

Overview Assignment

The candidate will submit a document containing a one-paragraph overview for the literature review. The overview will follow the template provided, be written in present tense, and be specific to the candidate’s topic from Week 1 (based upon professor feedback). The paper will be submitted in Module 2: Week 2. (MLO: E)

Theory Identification Essay Assignment

The candidate will identify 1-2 theories related to the selected topic of study and write a 2-4 paragraph paper. The first paragraph for each theory will explain the theory using the publication(s) of the primary theorist and at least one other work. In the second paragraph, the candidate will justify why the theory was chosen and connect it to the topic. A correctly formatted reference page must be included. This essay will be submitted in Module 2: Week 2. (MLO: B, E)

Literature Review: Outline Assignment

The candidate will develop a complete literature review outline that will include an improved overview and identify the theory (or theories) of the Theoretical Framework section based on previous professor feedback. The outline must include a Title Page, the four required level 1 headings (Overview, Theoretical Framework, Related Literature, and Summary), a one-paragraph (improved) Overview, the name(s) of the theory (or theories) in the Theoretical Framework. The outline must also include the level 2 and 3 APA headings (headings only) identifying the themes and subthemes of the Related Literature section, the Summary section, and the completed reference list. The outline should be 2-3 pages in length, excluding the title page and reference list section, and submitted in Module 3: Week 3. (MLO: A, B, C, E)

Theoretical Framework Section Assignment

The candidate will write the theoretical framework section of the literature review and include it in the working literature review document with the title page, revised Overview, revised Related Literature outline headings (with sources only, no written content), revised Summary, and reference list pages. The assignment should be a total of 3-5 pages, excluding title and reference list pages. The theoretical framework section will be submitted in Module 4: Week 4. (MLO: B, E)

Synthesis Paper Assignment

The candidate will demonstrate an understanding of how to synthesize literature by researching at least 5 sources related to his/her topic, identifying 2 themes evident across those sources, and synthesizing the concepts and source material related to those two themes. Synthesizing and writing concisely are learned skills, and this assignment is an opportunity to practice those skills. This paper must follow APA standards and will include a title page, 3-5 full pages of content, and a reference list. This paper will be submitted in Module 5: Week 5. (MLO: D, E)

Literature Review Rough Draft Assignment

The candidate will develop a rough draft of the literature review including the title page, Overview, Theoretical Framework, Related Literature section, Summary, and reference list. All work must be updated and developed based on previous professor feedback. While the Related Literature section may not include content under every level 2 (or level 3) APA heading, all headings must be updated per professor feedback, and the Summary section must be complete. The document must include a minimum of 5 full pages of content (excluding the title and reference list pages). This assignment will be submitted in Module 6: Week 6. (MLO: C, D, E)

Literature Review: Final Draft Assignment

The candidate will develop a final draft of the literature review containing a minimum of 10 full pages of content (excluding the title and reference list pages). The literature review must also use appropriate APA format, incorporate professor feedback, and be submitted in Module 7: Week 7. (MLO: E)

Quizzes (4)

Each quiz will cover the Learn section material for the module in which it is assigned. Each quiz will be open-book/open-notes; contain multiple-choice, true/false, or checklist completion questions; and have a 1-hour time limit. Quizzes will take place during weeks 2, 3, 5, and 6. (MLO: D, E)