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Writing a Literature Review

This purpose of this guide is to assist students with writing literature reviews for research papers in the sciences

Managing the Literature

The Managing the Literature phase involves managing information in the review process. The first stage, Recording Information, concerns collecting, compiling and documenting citation information. The second stage, Evaluating Information, entails the process of reading and evaluating the individual research papers to determine whether an individual research paper is appropriate for inclusion into the literature review. 

The First Stage: Recording information


Recording Information. When the reviewer finds a potential literature resource for incorporation into the review, they need a process to record the citation information for further reference. Capturing information such as title of article, author, date of publication, serial data and publisher, are essential for gaining access to full text of the research paper.  You have two options: Record the information using print methods, or recording the information using citation management applications. 

Option 1: Using print method.  Use index cards or notebooks, or any print materials that you can compile in one source in order to organize the citation information. 

Option 2: Using electronic resources.  There are several citation management applications. The UNLV Libraries provide free access to students of two citation applications, which include RefWorks® from ProQuest and Mendeley® from Elsevier. There are few open source applications, such as Zotero, to name one. See next box

Evaluating Information

Evaluating information: After exploring the literature, you should have compiled a significant cache of literature resources. The next stage encompasses the selection of articles that fit the narrative of your literature review. 

To assess sources, the reviewer needs a set of criteria for evaluating each research article for possible inclusion into the review. The following parameters may serve as a checklist for the evaluation of each article:   

  • Does it cover the same parameters as your study, such as research questions and objectives?
  • Does it cover the same research problem covered in your research study?
  • What is the authority of the author?
  • What is the focus of the research study? 
  • What are the conceptual or theoretical frameworks used in the study?
  • What methodologies did they use in the study? What types of data are collected?  
  • Are the findings significant?

If the article evaluated has the majority of the criteria listed above, then it may be a good candidate for inclusion into the review.


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