You will likely write a literature review when writing a dissertation or a research paper. A literature review evaluates major writings and sources on a given topic. Such sources may include books, scholarly articles, websites, government reports, etc. Sometimes literature review can be written as a stand-alone piece, as a class assignment, or as a publication.
When it is part of a dissertation or research paper, it usually comes after the introduction and before the research methods part. If you are tasked with such assignments, you are expected to write a description, summary, and evaluation of a source. A well-written literature review summarizes the source and critically evaluates and analyses it to inform the reader of the state of knowledge on the topic. This article will teach you everything you need to write excellent literature reviews.
Importance of a Literature Review
Literature reviews are essential tools for learning. When given as class assignments, they help students learn about a particular topic. At the same time, they allow them to know about other researchers working or have worked on the same research topics.
Additionally, literature reviews enable students to identify gaps in the available research to propose new projects. In addition to proposing new projects, they can also develop methodologies for future research. When a literature review is written as a publication, it lightens the work for scholars as it collects existing information on a research topic and summarises and analyses it. It may also direct a group of scholars toward problematic questions that haven’t been solved.
A literature review is a part of writing an academic paper. The primary purpose of writing an article review is to showcase the sources you have used in your research. When you write a literature review, you are showcasing the following:
Writing a literature review is no child’s play. You will be required to write a literature review proposal and submit it to your instructor before starting the paper; this gives the instructor time to see what you intend to research on the methodology you plan on using. If needed, they will provide more feedback on what you should do, like new sources or methods to approach the topic of study.
An abstract and a literature review are not the same. However, the literature review and the abstract are critical sections for your academic paper. The main goal of an abstract is to help you engage readers and the researcher to understand if your work is suitable for their research or academic objectives. The literature review examines the behind-the-scenes of how you did your research.
Here are quick tips for writing an outstanding literature review.
A literature review is always built upon ideas and not sources. Therefore, you are not just required to list the sources. Instead, you are required to delve into more details about each of the sources you used. As you read through the sources in your study area, be specific and only go for topics related to your study objectives.
What are the issues or themes that are reconnected? Is there any part or aspect that I am missing? What are the various viable solutions to the problems at hand? How well has the existing literature presented tackled the issue in question? Is there a new trend or debate in the field? Ask yourself the earlier questions and choose a focal point to settle on.
A literature review does not have a typical thesis statement; however, you must tell the reader what to expect in your paper. Make it clear to the reader what your main objective or principle is.
You have a logical organization in your paper and be clear and direct. What are essential readings and subheadings that must appear in your documents? How and in what order are you going to present them?
Like most academic assignments, your literature review must contain three basic elements, introduction, body, and conclusion. You can divide your paper into the following categories.
Once you’ve established the fundamental sections, you must determine how you’ll present the sources individually within the body of your research. Create an organizational system to help you focus this section even more. Consider common approaches to organizing sources in a review, for example, by publication, chronological, trend, methodological, and thematic.
Sometimes the literature review requires you to add some crucial sections to the body’s typical sections. Some of the other sections you could include in your literature review such as:
After you have settled on a general organization part in the body section, you should get done writing each section. Use these tips when writing the body section of your paper.
Only focus on the most relevant points from each source in the review. The information you include should be directly related to the review’s subject, whether it be thematic, methodological, or chronological.
When making your case, you should cite various sources. In this way, a literature review is similar to any other academic research work. Your understanding of the sources available must be supported by evidence to demonstrate that what you are stating is correct.
Ensure you provide the author’s information or views accurately and provide the information of the original author.
Always synthesize and summarize the sources you have used in each paragraph in your literature review.
Although the literature review offers the thoughts of others, your voice should be distinguishable and central.
Some short quotes are OK, but if you want to stress a point or can’t write whatever the author said in your own words. You can quote phrases or terms that are not general knowledge coined by the authors or retrieved directly from the sources. If you need to add more quotes, speak to your instructor.
With a draft in hand? You are now ready to revise. A significant rewriting is a good idea since your primary objective is to provide the material, not the argument. Review your review to ensure it adheres to the task and outline. Then, as with most other academic types of writing, revise or tweak the wording of your review to ensure that you’ve conveyed your findings succinctly.
Always use terminologies that are relative to your audience. Remove any redundant phrases or slang. Double-check your sources and formatting to ensure they are per the required instructions.
Some basic rules of APA format apply to any APA paper. These include:
Type on standard-size (8.5-inch by 11-inch) paper.
The APA formatting style provides a few guidelines for writing a literature review. The literature review should:
MLA Literature Review Format
The MLA Handbook provides guidelines for creating MLA citations and formatting literature review papers. Start by applying these MLA format guidelines to your document:
Writing a literature review Checklist
Here is a literature review checklist. Ensure that you have done the following:
Now that you understand how to write a literature review, it is time to roll your sleeves and get down to writing. Here is a list of literature review topics you can choose from.
How to Write a Literature Review
Writing a literature review becomes easy with suitable sources and sufficient information. Make sure you choose the sources well and take your time to conduct research. Follow these steps to create an impressive literature review.
Begin by searching for literature that is related to your research topic. You can brainstorm and list keywords that are related to the research questions. Use these keywords to search for sources. To find journals, explore databases such as JSTOR, EBSCO, Google Scholar, Medline, Inspec, etc. Read the abstract to know if the article is relevant to your topic. Also, read bibliographies in books to try and spot other sources.
You probably have found many sources. Now it’s time to select only the relevant ones. As you cannot read everything about the topic, ask yourself the following questions to help narrow down the sources.
Ø What problem is being addressed?
Ø What are the main concepts, theories, models, and methods?
Ø Does the author use an innovative approach or an established framework?
Ø What are the findings?
Ø What do the studies conclude?
Ø Do the studies add, confirm or dispute existing knowledge?
Ø What strengths and weaknesses can you find in the studies?
Take notes as you read the literature. You will later include these notes in your work. Also, begin compiling your citations onto your reference page.
Look for trends over time in theory, methodology, and findings. Also, identify questions that keep appearing in the texts. Be keen to note areas where sources contradict. At the same time, check for issues the studies miss to address.
Identify the way to organize your literature review. There are several ways you can arrange a literature review. You can organize it chronologically, thematically, theoretically, or methodologically. Sometimes you can use a combination of strategies depending on their length and purpose.
The chronological approach presents the development of a subject over time. If you use this strategy, analyze the trends, the turning point, and any significant arguments that have significantly impacted the topic.
This approach is best used when sources come from disciplines that use varying research methods. Compare the findings and the conclusion that comes from the different techniques.
Sometimes, you will notice that your topic has some recurring themes. Where this is the case, subdivide the review into sections that discuss different aspects of the subject.
You can use a literature review to discuss theories and define concepts. You could support a specific theoretical approach or put together various concepts to form a basis for your research.
All forms of literature reviews are composed of an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction and the conclusion are short for literature reviews that are part of a research paper or dissertation. The ones that stand alone have a more detailed introduction and conclusion. At the same time, they allow you to have separate sections to write the goals and research methods.
The introduction paragraph discusses your topic and thesis. It also mentions the main literature pieces that will be reviewed. In stand-alone literature reviews, you can describe how you found the sources and analyzed them to include them in the review.
The body paragraphs consist of a summary of the key points of each source. This part allows you to interpret the texts and discuss the significance of the findings. Also, assess the strengths and weaknesses of the source. To create a good review flow, use transitions to link ideas and show comparison.
Finish the review by summarizing the articles’ main findings and explaining their significance. Make sure to tie this summary back to the research problem.
The last step is to proofread your work to check for any errors. You can use online tools such as Grammarly to identify and correct errors in grammar and spelling. Remove unnecessary information and include any missing information. Your literature is now ready for submission.