A literature review involves more than summarizing an article that you have reviewed, it focuses on a broad area and usually covers the relationship among different works and how they are related to the research you have at hand. A literature review may aim to:
• Identify what is missing in previous research and state how it intends to contribute to the research
• To show different views among the authors
• To give a history of the study and show how the thesis will contribute to weaknesses that need to be addressed
• To show the significance of the research topic
• To show the different methodologies used in carrying out the research
These are just a few goals of what a literature review may address depending on the reason for the assigned work. It is vital to note that the aim of a literature review is not to analyze the material and come up with your fresh perspectives; rather, you should note differences, similarities, assumptions or ideas in the sources at hand.
Literature Review Writing Tips
1. Go through the instructions
First and foremost, go through the provided instructions and ensure that you fully understand them. Note the writing format that you are required to use, number of sources required and any other additional information. If you feel something is not clear you can always ask for assistance to get further clarification if necessary.
2. Choose a Topic
When choosing the topic for your literature review, it is advisable to choose a topic that you find interesting as with most forms of academic writing. This is to ensure that you won’t get to the middle of writing and lack the drive needed to complete the work.
You should come up with a topic that is of importance so that it can attract a reasonable number of readers for your review.
Choose an issue that is well defined so that you can have enough material to research, and to avoid including unnecessary publications which will render your literature review useless.
Ensure that you narrow down the topic you choose to something manageable and precise to help make your work easier.
3. Conduct Some Research
Having chosen a topic, you can now move on to the research phase. Identify all the sources that relate to the topic at hand. Remember to adhere to given instructions regarding which sources to use. Some studies may require that you use the most recent publications while others may require you to follow the history and show how ideas or views have changed over time. Carefully reading instructions will help you identify what is required in your literature review.
Get as much guidance as you can by using the library and the internet. You should also go through previous literature reviews to give you an idea of what is expected of you. Note down the references that are used in the reviews and make an effort to go through them since they might end up being used in your review.
4. Find a Focus
As you go through the sources that you have chosen, ensure that you identify the similarities or differences between the themes and ideas of different authors. Check whether your sources are all agreeing to particular ideas or whether they all have different views on the matter. Check whether something has been ignored or left out and ensure that you note it down. Be careful not to deviate from the topic at hand. If necessary, you should go back a few steps and check whether the themes you have identified are related to the topic you chose earlier. Make sure you write down the references so that you can use them later.
By now, you should have some short notes and points which will help in making your work easier and more memorable.
5. Come Up with a Thesis Statement
Having found a focus, coming up with a thesis statement should not be a difficult task. The focus can help to guide you when choosing the thesis statement. The thesis statement in literature reviews is different from other forms of writing, in that the statement does not argue for a particular position or opinion, rather it argues for a certain perspective on the material.
6. The Writing Process
Now that you have the focus, the thesis statement and your short notes, you can get to the writing phase. As with any piece of writing, the introduction is very important. It should give the reader an idea of what your literature review is about and should also include the thesis statement. Try making it as captivating as possible to help draw the reader in and capture their attention.
The body of the review should follow an ideal pattern and should group the points according to the similarities, for example:
• Chronologically - according to an era or changing trends over time
• By trends - according to patterns, different sources may have similarities in patterns
• Thematically - different sources may have similar themes
• Methodologically – similar methods employed in research by different sources
Ensure that you show evidence to back up your claims by citing the relevant sources. Remember just like any academic research paper; claims should be backed up with evidence. Quotes should be used sparingly when it comes to literature reviews unless instructed otherwise by your lecturer.
Try as much as possible to use your voice by beginning and ending each paragraph using your own words and ideas. When getting to paraphrase a source that is not your own, ensure to represent the author’s information or opinions accurately but in your own words, that is, the necessary references.
The conclusion to your review should wrap up the whole paper by reminding the reader what was stated in the introduction and discuss what you have drawn from the research.
Having completed the writing process, the next important step is to go through the whole paper and ensure that everything appears as planned and also, in the correct format. Ensure that your final draft meets the requirements that were stated in the provided instructions. This is very important since you could end up missing out on a good grade due to missed instructions.
It is important also to ensure that your review has a good flow to it and that it builds as you go along reading it. Check for correct tenses and punctuation. Go through the paper as many times as necessary until you feel you are fully satisfied with the outcome.
Just a Recap:
1. Go through the instructions
2. Choose a topic
3. Conduct some research
4. Find a focus
5. Come up with a thesis statement
6. Write the paper
7. Edit and proofread your work