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How to Write a Literature Review for a Research Paper

A research paper does not come out of thin air, it is a work which is written on a serious scientific base. Therefore, a literature review plays almost the same role for your research paper that the process of writing does. It formulates the academic culture of the researcher.

So, the point of this article is to give students the tools and insights they will need to be able to create a review that is right for them and their subject area. The experts from review writing service will prove you that it can be completed in a timely and efficient manner. Fortunately or unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all literature review type. As such you can take, borrow from or reject anything you see here as long as it suits your needs. Without further ado, let us take a few minutes of your time and explain how to write a literature review for a research paper.

Literature Review: The Definition and the Purpose

Literature review writing

What is the literature review? There are many variations, but the most basic answer is that it is a piece of writing that marks the current state of knowledge in your field in a way that allows you to put your own research into perspective. What is the purpose of literature review writing? First of all, it allows you to gauge the field critically by assessing the major contributions and encourages you to engage with the primary materials that you will be placing your own research into perspective.

More importantly, the literature review ensures the continuous development of your analytical and critical skills and allows you to practice your writing. It is particularly important as opposed to writing a report or essay. Literature reviews are sometimes written in a little rough and ready manner, but we would encourage you to focus on creating a narrative in your literature review. It means you will constantly be practicing your ability to write and to think academically.

Where to Start Your Literature Review?

Step 1: the first things you have to think about are one of the major databases which have been recommended to you by the professors and lecturer. A lot of people begin the literature review process by looking through Google Scholar with several quickly chosen keywords. The issue with this approach is that you will either get far too many results or far too few, and they may not be specific enough to the questions that you need to answer in your review. Yes, you can check cited by list in Google Scholars but firstly, make sure you work in the right direction.

So, speak to your lecturer to ensure you are getting the correct portals to search through and you are looking at the correct magazines, books, etc.

Step 2: consider three or four central research questions and come up with keywords from these. What they do is they refer to the overall title of the literature review. By answering those questions, you can safely say you have basically completed objectives in mapping a particular section of the field. Make sure you pick the keywords that are adequate to your area.

Step 3: Draw up your bibliography. The majority of students get slightly intimidated by this process because there are so many different sources to choose from. But actually, there is specific software to make this process a little bit easier. Zotero and Mendeley are great examples. It is an add-on you can use with Google Chrome. It allows you to note all your sources with a click and save the bibliographical information of any article that you think might be useful. It means you do not have to go to the trouble of switching between documents on the laptop.

Pick Appropriate Sources for Your Literature Review

There is no set number of sources for a literature review. It depends on whether you are a master or PhD student, what university you go to and what kind of requirements you need to fulfill. But in order to pick appropriate sources for your literature review discuss with your lecturer the topic and possible options of sources.

For example, if you are doing a post-colonial studies literature review, and you do not have the journal of Commonwealth literature listed, there is a good chance you will miss a pivotal intervention or article that will allow you to map the state of the field.

Active Reading

Now, once you have picked your sources, reading them adequately is the next step. You are going to read them analytically; you do not want to read passively. You constantly need to think about what you are looking for and what your objectives are in the literature review. Have keywords in mind and mark margins with them. Compare to other pieces you have read. You might begin to discern different schools of thoughts in a subject area constantly trying to cross-reference.

A little advice – do not highlight, make a note instead. You might have a selection of articles with a lot of highlights on them, and when you try to take information, you won’t really know why you highlighted the section. So, the trick is to write down instead of highlighting.

Use subheadings and cross-referencing. It allows you to break up the review, make it easy to navigate and keep everything connected. Constantly bring up other critics, other positions, try to engage how critics rub off each other, find the particular ways they might look at a subject in comparison to others. That is the point of literature review – you are comparing and contrasting in order to position yourself in the field. Use only essential quotations.

A common mistake is that students use lots of block quotations. Their argument is that the critic’s work is too complex to be broken down into paragraphs. If you can’t put a quotation in your own words, the odds are you do not have a great understanding of it. Read a chapter, set yourself a challenge, give yourself to summarize it in relation to the other work you have done.

The Most Difficult Parts of Any Literature Review

Literature review

Abstract of the Literature Review

Do an abstract at the beginning of a literature review. The point of an abstract is to gauge what the review is about and what are the main points you are going to address. It is not like an introduction which lays out what you are going to do, it is much more complete than that. It is usually about 100 to 150 words. For example, if you are writing post-colonial studies literature review, you can look at the field through methodologies of Marxism and ecocriticism and demonstrate how these approaches have particular strengths and weaknesses in their historiography.

Introduction and Conclusion of the Literature Review

When it comes to introduction, give an overview of the research topic (for instance, “qualitative approaches to consumer psychology generally focus on…/ Political realism is principally informed by…”). Point out the precise parameters within the topic. List your subheadings and explain the general focus of each section. Set forth your overall aims with regard to the central research questions which may have evolved since you began your research.

When you are concluding the literature review, answer the following questions: what are the major trends and who are the main contributors? What gaps do you feel can be exploited or require more analysis? Can you contribute?

To make your writing easier, we highly recommend you look through the next book “They say/ I say: The moves that matter in academic writing” by Graff and Birkenstein. It talks about how to use source material in your writing and even gives you a list of proper verbs you can use in the introduction and conclusion.

We hope that 10 minutes of your time will get you A+ for your research paper!

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