Write a Literature Review
- Narrow your topic and select papers accordingly.
- Search for literature.
- Read the selected articles thoroughly and evaluate them.
- Organize the selected papers by looking for patterns and by developing subtopics.
- Develop a thesis or purpose statement.
- Write the paper.
- Review your work.
How do I start a literature review?
One common way to approach a literature review is to start out broad and then become more specific. Think of it as an inverted triangle: First briefly explain the broad issues related to your investigation; you don’t need to write much about this, just demonstrate that you are aware of the breadth of your subject.
What is the format of a literature review?
Consider organization – You’ve got a focus, and you’ve stated it clearly and directly. Now what is the most effective way of presenting the information? What are the most important topics, subtopics, etc., that your review needs to include? And in what order should you present them? Develop an organization for your review at both a global and local level: First, cover the basic categories Just like most academic papers, literature reviews also must contain at least three basic elements: an introduction or background information section; the body of the review containing the discussion of sources; and, finally, a conclusion and/or recommendations section to end the paper.
Introduction: Gives a quick idea of the topic of the literature review, such as the central theme or organizational pattern. Body: Contains your discussion of sources and is organized either chronologically, thematically, or methodologically (see below for more information on each). Conclusions/Recommendations: Discuss what you have drawn from reviewing literature so far. Where might the discussion proceed?
Organizing the body Once you have the basic categories in place, then you must consider how you will present the sources themselves within the body of your paper. Create an organizational method to focus this section even further. To help you come up with an overall organizational framework for your review, consider the following scenario: You’ve decided to focus your literature review on materials dealing with sperm whales.
This is because you’ve just finished reading Moby Dick, and you wonder if that whale’s portrayal is really real. You start with some articles about the physiology of sperm whales in biology journals written in the 1980’s. But these articles refer to some British biological studies performed on whales in the early 18th century.
So you check those out. Then you look up a book written in 1968 with information on how sperm whales have been portrayed in other forms of art, such as in Alaskan poetry, in French painting, or on whale bone, as the whale hunters in the late 19th century used to do.
Chronological: If your review follows the chronological method, you could write about the materials above according to when they were published. For instance, first you would talk about the British biological studies of the 18th century, then about Moby Dick, published in 1851, then the book on sperm whales in other art (1968), and finally the biology articles (1980s) and the recent articles on American whaling of the 19th century. But there is relatively no continuity among subjects here. And notice that even though the sources on sperm whales in other art and on American whaling are written recently, they are about other subjects/objects that were created much earlier. Thus, the review loses its chronological focus.
By publication: Order your sources by publication chronology, then, only if the order demonstrates a more important trend. For instance, you could order a review of literature on biological studies of sperm whales if the progression revealed a change in dissection practices of the researchers who wrote and/or conducted the studies.
By trend: A better way to organize the above sources chronologically is to examine the sources under another trend, such as the history of whaling. Then your review would have subsections according to eras within this period. For instance, the review might examine whaling from pre-1600-1699, 1700-1799, and 1800-1899. Under this method, you would combine the recent studies on American whaling in the 19th century with Moby Dick itself in the 1800-1899 category, even though the authors wrote a century apart.
Thematic: Thematic reviews of literature are organized around a topic or issue, rather than the progression of time. However, progression of time may still be an important factor in a thematic review. For instance, the sperm whale review could focus on the development of the harpoon for whale hunting. While the study focuses on one topic, harpoon technology, it will still be organized chronologically. The only difference here between a “chronological” and a “thematic” approach is what is emphasized the most: the development of the harpoon or the harpoon technology.But more authentic thematic reviews tend to break away from chronological order. For instance, a thematic review of material on sperm whales might examine how they are portrayed as “evil” in cultural documents. The subsections might include how they are personified, how their proportions are exaggerated, and their behaviors misunderstood. A review organized in this manner would shift between time periods within each section according to the point made.
Methodological: A methodological approach differs from the two above in that the focusing factor usually does not have to do with the content of the material. Instead, it focuses on the “methods” of the researcher or writer. For the sperm whale project, one methodological approach would be to look at cultural differences between the portrayal of whales in American, British, and French art work. Or the review might focus on the economic impact of whaling on a community. A methodological scope will influence either the types of documents in the review or the way in which these documents are discussed. Once you’ve decided on the organizational method for the body of the review, the sections you need to include in the paper should be easy to figure out. They should arise out of your organizational strategy. In other words, a chronological review would have subsections for each vital time period. A thematic review would have subtopics based upon factors that relate to the theme or issue.
Sometimes, though, you might need to add additional sections that are necessary for your study, but do not fit in the organizational strategy of the body. What other sections you include in the body is up to you. Put in only what is necessary. Here are a few other sections you might want to consider:
Current Situation: Information necessary to understand the topic or focus of the literature review. History: The chronological progression of the field, the literature, or an idea that is necessary to understand the literature review, if the body of the literature review is not already a chronology. Methods and/or Standards: The criteria you used to select the sources in your literature review or the way in which you present your information. For instance, you might explain that your review includes only peer-reviewed articles and journals.
Questions for Further Research: What questions about the field has the review sparked? How will you further your research as a result of the review?
How many sources should be in a literature review?
How much do you need? – This will depend on the length of the dissertation, the nature of the subject, and the level of study (undergraduate, Masters, PhD). As a very rough rule of thumb – you may choose 8-10 significant pieces (books and/or articles) for an 8,000 word dissertation, up to 20 major pieces of work for 12-15,000 words, and so on.
Does a literature review need a title page?
The review should be approximately 10 double-spaced, typed pages ( not including title or reference pages.) In the beginning of your research there may seem to be too much information but as you read and think about your topic you will be able to narrow your focus and highlight those articles.
What not to write in a literature review?
The Literature Review, Part 2: What Not to Include The Literature Review, Part 2: What Not to Include This blog is about what not to include in your literature review. In short, the literature review is a snapshot of the current state of research on your topic, including research on study variables and major concepts or theories of your study.
The literature review also helps to support your research problem and rationalize why your study is necessary by identifying gaps in the literature and methodological weaknesses of previous studies. Below is what not to include in your literature review. Do not include purely historical or informational material, such as information from websites.
Information from reputable web sites, such as government and state sites, can be useful. But such information is typically more suitable for background or introductory sections of the dissertation. If it is necessary to include historical or informational material in your literature review, do so sparingly. Aligning theoretical framework, gathering articles, synthesizing gaps, articulating a clear methodology and data plan, and writing about the theoretical and practical implications of your research are part of our comprehensive dissertation editing services.
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Also, be cautious about the use of books in literature reviews. Although manuscripts of academic books are often sent to external reviewers, it is difficult to be certain whether a book manuscript was peer reviewed. Different publishers have different approaches, and there are no review standards for book manuscripts.
- Some schools and professors allow books in literature reviews; however, a general rule of thumb is that books should be used sparingly and with a degree of caution.
- Do not include extended quotations, and use direct quotes sparingly, if at all.
- The literature review is a synthesis and analysis of research on your topic in your own words.
Most ideas can be and should be paraphrased. Professors sometimes perceive undue reliance on quotations as intellectual laziness. However, if you feel it necessary to use quotations, use them sparingly. One caveat to the above suggestions is the theoretical framework.
- If you have a theoretical foundation or framework section in your literature review, it may be necessary to use books and older foundational articles to explain and support theories.
- Theories are developed over time; consequently, it takes longer to publish on theories compared to studies.
- Discussion and development of theories often appear in books.
However, do not use material from websites to support your theoretical framework. : The Literature Review, Part 2: What Not to Include
What are 4 characteristics of a good literature review?
Characteristics of an effective literature review Outlining important research trends. Assessing strengths and weaknesses (of individual studies as well the existing research as a whole). Identifying potential gaps in knowledge. Establishing a need for current and/or future research projects.
How do you start an introduction for a literature review example?
Start by giving a general outline of the broad issues related to your topic or question. You just need to demonstrate that you are aware of all the major issues surrounding it. Then narrow your focus to deal with the research and literature that overlaps with your topic.
What is a general introduction for literature review?
What is a literature review? – A literature review is a type of academic writing that provides an overview of existing knowledge in a particular field of research. A good literature review summarises, analyses, evaluates and synthesises the relevant literature within a particular field of research.
It illuminates how knowledge has evolved within the field, highlighting what has already been done, what is generally accepted, what is emerging and what is the current state of thinking on the topic. Additionally, literature reviews identify the gaps in the current knowledge – that is, uninvestigated or under-researched areas.
Whether the literature review is short or extended, similar structural and linguistic features apply. Literature refers to a collection of published information/materials on a particular area of research or topic, such as books and journal articles of academic value.
what has been established, discredited and accepted in your field of researchareas of controversy or conflict among different schools of thoughtproblems or issues that remain unsolvedemerging trends and new approacheshow your research extends, builds upon, and/or departs from previous research.
A review of literature presents much more than a summary of relevant sources. The act of reviewing involves evaluating individual sources as well as synthesising these sources in order to develop your own research project. A literature review functions as a tool to:
provide a background to your work by summarising the previously published work on your topicclassify the research into different categories and demonstrate how the research in a particular area has changed over time by indicating historical background if applicable (early research findings in an area) as well as explaining recent developments in an areaclarify areas of controversy and agreement between experts in the area as well as identify dominant viewsevaluate the previous research and identify gaps (i.e. unexplored or under-researched areas)help justify your research by indicating how it is different from other works in the same area.
Literature reviews can form part of a research project or proposal, or they can be stand-alone extended documents. A literature review that is part of a course assignment might be of 500 to 1000 words, while a literature review that is presented as a journal article might be in excess of 5000 words.
Literature reviews exist within different types of scholarly works. Short literature reviews can be presented in journal articles, book chapters, or coursework assignments to set the background of the research topic. The focus of a literature review in a graduate research thesis is to identify gaps and argue for the need for further research.
Depending on the purpose of the writer and the context in which the literature review will be presented, a selective or comprehensive approach may be taken. In the selective approach, a single or limited number of sources are reviewed (e.g. the introduction of a journal article).
- This relates to shorter literature reviews.
- A comprehensive approach requires the review of numerous sources (e.g.
- Books and articles), which can be presented as a substantial chapter in a research thesis or published on its own as a scholarly article.
- This relates to extended literature reviews.
- Adapted from under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.) What do you think a literature review is, and what is it not ? Drag and drop the following statements under the right heading and click ‘check’ to check your answers.
: Literature review
Do literature reviews have an introduction?
Your literature review, like any other document, should contain an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Your introduction should clearly explain the overall research topic and the depth of the information to be presented; it often also explains the types of sources that will be used.