How to Write a Literature Review Research Paper

Introduction

The first think you have to understand is that a literature review is not necessarily going to be about a novel from English class or a book of poetry. “Literature” could be referring to any piece of writing in any given field - a collection government pamphlets, articles about a medical condition, ...etc. Unlike a book review you may see in a magazine, a literature review is not asking you what your opinion is about the piece at hand.

What is it?

A literature review discusses published information based around a central theme, topic, or time period. The review can be a combination of summaries of these materials with the synthesis (or reshuffling) of that information. The goal is to provide the reader with an interpretation of the reviewed materials that either offers a new perspective on the subject being discussed or can evaluate and advise the reader on the sources reviewed.

The crucial difference between a literature review and a normal academic research paper lies in its purpose. A research paper seeks to develop a new argument - a new discovery or statement. A literature review simply summarizes and finds ways to bring together information and materials without adding ones own new contributions to the ideas of others.

Construct Your Thesis

Literature reviews do still have a thesis statement, like a research paper would. However, rather than stating an opinion or formulating an argument on a subject, the literature review thesis statement should argue a particular perspective on the material being reviewed.

Organizing

Just like an academic research paper, you should have three sections of your literature review:

  • Introduction: Gives a quick idea of the topic of the review.
  • Body: Contains your discussion of the sources and is organized either either according to the time that the articles were published or by their topic.
  • Conclusion/Recommendations: Discuss what you have drawn from the sources you have reviewed on the topic so far. How might this apply to real life, or where might these studies lead you next?
  • Some things to keep in mind once you begin shaping the body section of your review:
  • Use good evidence: Just like in an academic research paper, your observations are only as good as the sources that prove your statements true. This is especially important in a literature review since your aim is not to make an argument, but to give a concise version of the arguments of others.
  • Use quotations sparingly: Using direct quotations in a literature review is essentially an unnecessary waste of space. Your goal should be to stick to short quotations and to only use those when necessary.
  • Give the basic ideas of the arguments of others: Remember that this is your ultimate goal. You are not reinventing the wheel in this essay, but mostly regurgitating information in a way that helps to summarize longer pieces, and then discuss those multiple pieces about the same topic in a such a way that relates to your own work.
  • Avoid plagiarism: Paraphrasing still requires the credit given to the original authors. When paraphrasing the work of one of the original authors, be sure to use names and cite in the proper way.

Conclusion

Literature reviews can be confusing, but they can actually be a great way to summarize the information you are learning about a certain topic in a succinct way while still drawing conclusions about how your research can apply to your own study. Be sure to follow specific instructions from your professors and teachers before beginning a literature review, as they may have more detailed instructions and requirements.

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