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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

Organizing and Writing the Review

After selecting the citations for inclusion into the review, it is time to outline and organize the literature review.  There are three basic components of a literature review: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. Once the details of the outline are complete: it is time to write the literature review chapter of the research paper.   

Organizing the review

Introduction to the review.  It should be brief, describing the body of the literature review in terms of format and logical structure. This covers areas such as the research problem, methodology, and the literature that addresses the context of the research study.

Body of the Literature Review. It serves as the logical structure for describing the study’s conceptual or theoretical frameworks. It should cite seminal studies regarding the research problem.  This is where the reviewer can take the liberty of synthesizing what you learned during the course of the literature search. If using subheadings to organize your content in the literature review, then divide by category.

The reviewer may find it useful to format subdivisions of the review. Below are some common subheadings that can divide the review into categories:

  1. Theory
  2. Methodology
  3. Research findings
  4. Population

Conclusion.  It should also be brief succinctly summarizing what the researcher learned from the review and how it supports the underpinnings of the research study, identifies gaps in the literature and how it justifies the research study.

Writing the Review

Writing the Review  You completed all phases in the process. It is time to write the literature review for your research paper. 

Here are a few tips for writing the review

Tip #1: Know your audience Before writing, identify your audience: who reads the publication where you are submitting your manuscript?

Tip #2: Avoid jargon Especially if writing for a general audience. Do not use extravagant words.

Tip #3: Keep paragraphs short Pare down excessive wordage when possible. Remember: brevity of content.  Keep review logical structure intact when writing.

Tip #4: Use subheadings to clarify and lend coherence to review structure Subheadings help organize the review Use subheadings to drill down concepts you cover in the review.

       Tip #5: Focus and preserve continuity Stay on point, keep your focus, and do not stray.

Tip #6: Sustain logical flow Remember, the logical structure of your paper, makes your case in all instances. 

Tip #7: Avoid quotations Use only in rare instances. Always use paraphrasing whenever possible.

Tip #8:  Do not cite references you have not read! If you have not read the article, then DO NOT cite it.

Tip #9:  Use prudence in citing number of studies used Do not cite every source: only sources directly relevant.

Your goal: The reader, upon having read the literature review, should have confidence the author has a thorough understanding of the research topic; the reader has an appreciation of the research problem covered in the study through a grounding of the literature review.  

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