A literature review discusses information in a certain subject that has been published. It can be a simple summary of the sources; however, it has an organizational pattern and combines summary and synthesis. The literature review might provide a fresh interpretation of old material or combine the new with old interpretations.
With a literature review, you are provided with a guide towards a certain topic. If you don’t have adequate time to conduct research, a literature review can give you a synopsis.
There are certain things you need to do before you write a literature review. Here are some tips on how to write a literature review that you should keep in mind:
If the assignment isn’t specific, find out from your professor the number of sources to be included, types of sources, if the sources need to be evaluated, and if subheadings and other background information have to be included.
Look for other literature reviews in your discipline and go through them to have an idea of the types of themes to look for in your own research. Moreover, the reference sections of the sources you’ve gone through are also good entry points into your research.
The narrower your topic is, the easier it will be to limit the number of sources you require to go through to get an excellent survey of the material. Your professor might probably not expect you to go through all materials on that topic. However, you’ll have an easy time if you narrow your scope.
For instance, in the sciences, medical procedures or treatments are often changing according to the latest studies. Information even three years old can be considered outdated. In the humanities or social sciences, however, a survey of the history of the literature may be what is required since what’s essential is how perspectives have changed over the years. Go through current bibliographies in your discipline to have an idea of what your field expects.
A literature review is normally organized around ideas and not the sources. This implies that you’ll not just list your sources and go into detail about each one of them. As you read widely but selectively, mull over which themes or issue connect your sources. Is there an aspect of the field that isn’t there? How well do they present the material? Is there any trend in the field revealed? An intense debate?
A literature review may not contain a traditional thesis statement. However, you have to inform your readers what to expect. Attempt to write a simple statement that informs the reader what your central organizing principle is. Here is an example of literature review excerpt to illustrate:
More cultural studies scholars are recognizing popular media as something worthy of academic consideration.
The present-day treatment for congestive heart failure combines both surgery and medicine.
What is the most efficient mode of presenting the information? What are the most crucial topics that need to be included in your reviews? In what order should they be presented?
Cover the basic categories A literature review should have an introduction, the body of the review containing the discussion of sources, and a conclusion and/or recommendations.
Organizing the body You need to consider how you’ll present the sources within the body of the paper. Come up with an organizational method of focusing this section further. For instance, to assist you to create an overall framework for your review, consider this literature review example:
You’ve chosen to focus your review on information concerning sperm whales. This is due to the fact that you’ve completed perusing Moby Dick and you wonder if the portrayal of that whale is real. You begin with some articles on the physiology of sperm whales in biological journals composed in the 80s. However, these articles allude to British biological studies done on whales in early 18th century. Thus look at them. Next, you search for a book composed in 1968 that contains information about how sperm whales have been depicted in other art forms like in French painting, in Alaskan poetry, or on whalebone. This makes you ponder American whaling techniques during the time depicted in Moby Dick; thus, you find some academic articles published in the last five years about how precisely Melville depicted the whaling scene in his book.
Then consider various ways of organizing the sources into a review;
Chronological – In case your review follows a chronological method, you could compose about the above materials in accordance with their date of publication. For example, you could mention the 18th century British biological studies, then Moby Dick (published in 1851, the book on sperm whales in other art (published in 1968, and ultimately the biological articles of the 1980s and the current articles about 19th century American whaling. However, there’s no continuity among subjects here. Notice that although sources on American whaling and sperm whales in other art are composed recently, they’re about other subjects that were created earlier.
By trend Another way of chronologically organizing the sources above is to look at the source under another trend, like the history of whaling. Your review would contain sections in accordance with eras in this period. For example, the review might explore whaling from pre-1700-1799, and 1800-1899. With this method, you would bring together recent studies on 19th century American whaling with Moby Dick in the 1800-1899 section.
By publication Organize your sources by publication chronology, and then only if the order portrays a more crucial trend. For example, you could organize a literature review on studies of sperm whales if the progression divulged a variation in dissection practices of the researchers who carried out the studies.
Methodological With this approach, the focusing factor doesn’t have to do with the content of the material. Rather, it concentrates on the methods of the writer. For the sperm whale project, one approach would be to examine cultural differences between the depiction of whales in British, French, and American at. Moreover, the review might concentrate on the economic impact of whaling on a community. This approach will impact either documents in the review or the manner in which these documents are talked about.
Once you’ve chosen the organizational tactic for the review, the segments you need to incorporate in the paper ought to be easy to decipher. They should arise out of your organizational approach. At times, you need to add segments that are necessary for your study but don’t fit in the organizational approach of the body. The following are other segments you might want to incorporate:
History The chronological progression of the literature, or an idea that is necessary to comprehend the review.
Current situation Information essential to comprehend the focus of the literature review.
Methods The criteria you utilized to select the sources in your review or the manner you present your information. For example, you might elucidate that your review incorporates peer-reviewed articles.
The moment you’ve chosen a general organizational pattern, you’re ready to compose each segment. There are several guidelines you ought to adhere to when writing. The following is a literature review example APA paragraph about language and sexism to elucidate the following discussion:
Nevertheless, research has revealed that precursors that gender-neutral can create male images than female ones (Gastil, 1990). Moreover, Hamilton (1988) requested students to complete sentences that asked them to fill in pronouns that concurred with gender-neutral precursors like “persons” or “writer.” The students were further requested to depict any image they had when composing the sentence. Hamilton discovered that people imagined 3.3 males to each female in the masculine ‘generic’ condition and 1.5 males per female in the unbiased condition. Therefore, whereas ambient sexism accounted for some of the masculine bias, sexist language increased the effect.
(Source: Falk, Erica and Mills, Jordan, Why Sexist Language Affects Persuasion: The role of Homophily, Intended Audience, and Offense.).
In the above example of a literature review, the authors allude to several other sources when making a point. A literature review, in this case, is like any other academic research paper. Your elucidation of the available sources should be backed up with evidence to prove that what you’re saying is legit.
Choose the most essential points in every source to highlight in the literature review. The kind of information you select to mention ought to relate directly you the review’s focus, be it chronological or methodological.
Summarize and synthesize your source in every paragraph and also throughout the review. The writers here summarize critical features of Hamilton’ study and then synthesize it by rephrasing the research’s significance and connecting it to their work.
In the above literature review sample, Falk and Mills don’t use direct quotes. This is due to the fact that the survey nature of the review doesn’t allow for exhaustive discussion or detailed quotes from the text. If you look at the text, Falk and Mills quote some terms that were created by the writer; not common knowledge or taken directly from the study.
When rewording a source that isn’t yours, ensure that you represent the writer’s information accurately and in your own words. From literature review sample above, Falk and Mills directly refer in the text to the writer of the source (like Hamilton) or offer sufficient notation in the text when the ideas they’re stating aren’t their own (such as Gastil’s).
Spare some time to revise your work. Check your review to ensure that it follows the assignment. Utilize terminology that is familiar to your audience. Double check to see if the sources have been documented.
There are several things you shouldn’t do when composing a literature review:
Including research that endorses assumptions and doesn’t consider contrary findings in the literature.
Not describing the search procedures utilized in identifying
Sentences not flowing logically and smoothly.
Reporting isolated results instead of synthesizing them in meta-analytical techniques.
Aside from the above tips, writers can learn more about what to incorporate in a literature review by going through other reviews. The more you read, the better you’ll comprehend the particular demands for literature in a particular study.