Guide “comprehensive literature review

What this handout is about

This handout will explain what literature reviews are và offer insights into lớn the khung và construction of literature reviews in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

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OK. You’ve sầu got to lớn write a literature đánh giá. You dust off a novel & a book of poetry, settle down in your chair, & get ready khổng lồ issue a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” as you leaf through the pages. “Literature review” done. Right?

Wrong! The “literature” of a literature Reviews refers to lớn any collection of materials on a topic, not necessarily the great literary texts of the world. “Literature” could be anything from a phối of government pamphlets on British colonial methods in Africa to scholarly articles on the treatment of a torn ACL. And a Review does not necessarily mean that your reader wants you khổng lồ give your personal opinion on whether or not you liked these sources.

What is a literature Reviews, then?

A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period.

A literature Đánh Giá can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern & combines both summary và synthesis. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information. It might give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates. And depending on the situation, the literature Review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant.

But how is a literature review different from an academic research paper?

The main focus of an academic research paper is lớn develop a new argument, and a research paper is likely to contain a literature Đánh Giá as one of its parts. In a research paper, you use the literature as a foundation and as tư vấn for a new insight that you contribute. The focus of a literature Đánh Giá, however, is to lớn summarize and synthekích cỡ the arguments & ideas of others without adding new contributions.

Why vị we write literature reviews?

Literature reviews provide you with a handy guide lớn a particular topic. If you have limited time to conduct retìm kiếm, literature Reviews can give you an overview or act as a stepping stone. For professionals, they are useful reports that keep them up to lớn date with what is current in the field. For scholars, the depth & breadth of the literature Reviews emphasizes the credibility of the writer in his or her field. Literature đánh giá also provide a solid background for a research paper’s investigation. Comprehensive sầu knowledge of the literature of the field is essential to lớn most research papers.

Who writes these things, anyway?

Literature đánh giá are written occasionally in the humanities, but mostly in the sciences & social sciences; in experiment và lab reports, they constitute a section of the paper. Sometimes a literature nhận xét is written as a paper in itself.

Let’s get khổng lồ it! What should I bởi vì before writing the literature review?


If your assignment is not very specific, seek clarification from your instructor:

Roughly how many sources should you include?What types of sources (books, journal articles, websites)?Should you summarize, synthesize, or critique your sources by discussing a comtháng theme or issue?Should you evaluate your sources?Should you provide subheadings và other background information, such as definitions and/or a history?

Find models

Look for other literature Review in your area of interest or in the discipline and read them to lớn get a sense of the types of themes you might want to lớn look for in your own research or ways to organize your final Đánh Giá. You can simply put the word “review” in your tìm kiếm engine along with your other topic terms khổng lồ find articles of this type on the Internet or in an electronic database. The bibliography or reference section of sources you’ve already read are also excellent entry points inkhổng lồ your own retìm kiếm.

Narrow your topic

There are hundreds or even thousands of articles and books on most areas of study. The narrower your topic, the easier it will be khổng lồ limit the number of sources you need to read in order khổng lồ get a good survey of the material. Your instructor will probably not expect you to read everything that’s out there on the topic, but you’ll make your job easier if you first limit your scope.

Keep in mind that Libraries have retìm kiếm guides & lớn databases relevant to many fields of study. You can reach out to lớn the subject librarian for a consultation:

And don’t forget lớn tap inkhổng lồ your professor’s (or other professors’) knowledge in the field. Ask your professor questions such as: “If you had khổng lồ read only one book from the 90’s on topic X, what would it be?” Questions such as this help you lớn find & determine quickly the most seminal pieces in the field.

Consider whether your sources are current

Some disciplines require that you use information that is as current as possible. In the sciences, for instance, treatments for medical problems are constantly changing according to lớn the lakiểm tra studies. Information even two years old could be obsolete. However, if you are writing a đánh giá in the humanities, history, or social sciences, a survey of the history of the literature may be what is needed, because what is important is how perspectives have changed through the years or within a certain time period. Try sorting through some other current bibliographies or literature Reviews in the field khổng lồ get a sense of what your discipline expects. You can also use this method lớn consider what is currently of interest to lớn scholars in this field và what is not.

Strategies for writing the literature review

Find a focus

A literature reviews, like a term paper, is usually organized around ideas, not the sources themselves as an annotated bibliography would be organized. This means that you will not just simply danh mục your sources & go into detail about each one of them, one at a time. No. As you read widely but selectively in your topic area, consider instead what themes or issues connect your sources together. Do they present one or different solutions? Is there an aspect of the field that is missing? How well do they present the material và vì chưng they portray it according to lớn an appropriate theory? Do they reveal a trend in the field? A raging debate? Pick one of these themes to lớn focus the organization of your Review.

Convey it khổng lồ your reader

A literature Review may not have sầu a traditional thesis statement (one that makes an argument), but you vị need lớn tell readers what to lớn expect. Try writing a simple statement that lets the reader know what is your main organizing principle. Here are a couple of examples:

The current trend in treatment for congestive heart failure combines surgery & medicine.More and more cultural studies scholars are accepting popular media as a subject worthy of academic consideration.

Consider organization

You’ve got a focus, và you’ve sầu stated it clearly and directly. Now what is the most effective sầu way of presenting the information? What are the most important topics, subtopics, etc., that your Reviews needs khổng lồ include? And in what order should you present them? Develop an organization for your reviews at both a global and local level:

First, cover the basic categories

Just lượt thích most academic papers, literature Review also must contain at least three basic elements: an introduction or background information section; the body toàn thân of the Reviews containing the discussion of sources; &, finally, a conclusion and/or recommendations section to over the paper. The following provides a brief mô tả tìm kiếm of the content of each:

Introduction: Gives a quiông xã idea of the topic of the literature review, such as the central theme or organizational pattern.Body: Contains your discussion of sources & is organized either chronologically, thematically, or methodologically (see below for more information on each).Conclusions/Recommendations: Discuss what you have drawn from reviewing literature so far. Where might the discussion proceed?

Organizing the body

Once you have sầu the basic categories in place, then you must consider how you will present the sources themselves within the toàn thân of your paper. Create an organizational method to focus this section even further.

To help you come up with an overall organizational framework for your đánh giá, consider the following scenario:

You’ve decided khổng lồ focus your literature đánh giá on materials dealing with sperm whales. This is because you’ve just finished reading Moby Dick, & you wonder if that whale’s portrayal is really real. You start with some articles about the physiology of sperm whales in biology journals written in the 1980’s. But these articles refer lớn some British biological studies performed on whales in the early 18th century. So you kiểm tra those out. Then you look up a book written in 1968 with information on how sperm whales have sầu been portrayed in other forms of art, such as in Alaskan poetry, in French painting, or on whale bone, as the whale hunters in the late 19th century used lớn do. This makes you wonder about American whaling methods during the time portrayed in Moby Diông xã, so you find some academic articles published in the last five sầu years on how accurately Herman Melville portrayed the whaling scene in his novel.

Now consider some typical ways of organizing the sources into lớn a review:

Chronological: If your reviews follows the chronological method, you could write about the materials above according to lớn when they were published. For instance, first you would talk about the British biological studies of the 18th century, then about Moby Diông xã, published in 1851, then the book on sperm whales in other art (1968), và finally the biology articles (1980s) và the recent articles on American whaling of the 19th century. But there is relatively no continuity aước ao subjects here. And notice that even though the sources on sperm whales in other art và on American whaling are written recently, they are about other subjects/objects that were created much earlier. Thus, the Reviews loses its chronological focus.By publication: Order your sources by publication chronology, then, only if the order demonstrates a more important trkết thúc. For instance, you could order a review of literature on biological studies of sperm whales if the progression revealed a change in dissection practices of the researchers who wrote and/or conducted the studies.

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By trend: A better way to lớn organize the above sầu sources chronologically is khổng lồ examine the sources under another trend, such as the history of whaling. Then your Review would have subsections according to lớn eras within this period. For instance, the review might examine whaling from pre-1600-1699, 1700-1799, and 1800-1899. Under this method, you would combine the recent studies on American whaling in the 19th century with Moby Dichồng itself in the 1800-1899 category, even though the authors wrote a century apart.Thematic: Thematic đánh giá of literature are organized around a topic or issue, rather than the progression of time. However, progression of time may still be an important factor in a thematic Review. For instance, the sperm whale đánh giá could focus on the development of the harpoon for whale hunting. While the study focuses on one topic, harpoon technology, it will still be organized chronologically. The only difference here between a “chronological” & a “thematic” approach is what is emphasized the most: the development of the harpoon or the harpoon công nghệ.But more authentic thematic nhận xét tover khổng lồ break away from chronological order. For instance, a thematic nhận xét of material on sperm whales might examine how they are portrayed as “evil” in cultural documents. The subsections might include how they are personified, how their proportions are exaggerated, and their behaviors misunderstood. A đánh giá organized in this manner would shift between time periods within each section according khổng lồ the point made.Methodological: A methodological approach differs from the two above sầu in that the focusing factor usually does not have sầu lớn do with the content of the material. Instead, it focuses on the “methods” of the researcher or writer. For the sperm whale project, one methodological approach would be to lớn look at cultural differences between the portrayal of whales in American, British, and French art work. Or the review might focus on the economic impact of whaling on a community. A methodological scope will influence either the types of documents in the Review or the way in which these documents are discussed.Once you’ve sầu decided on the organizational method for the toàn thân of the reviews, the sections you need to include in the paper should be easy khổng lồ figure out. They should arise out of your organizational strategy. In other words, a chronological review would have sầu subsections for each vital time period. A thematic review would have subtopics based upon factors that relate to the theme or issue.

Sometimes, though, you might need to add additional sections that are necessary for your study, but do not fit in the organizational strategy of the body. What other sections you include in the body is up khổng lồ you. Put in only what is necessary. Here are a few other sections you might want khổng lồ consider:

Current Situation: Information necessary to underst& the topic or focus of the literature Reviews.History: The chronological progression of the field, the literature, or an idea that is necessary to underst& the literature review, if the body of the literature đánh giá is not already a chronology.Methods and/or Standards: The criteria you used lớn select the sources in your literature review or the way in which you present your information. For instance, you might explain that your review includes only peer-reviewed articles & journals.

Questions for Further Research: What questions about the field has the đánh giá sparked? How will you further your research as a result of the review?

Begin composing

Once you’ve settled on a general pattern of organization, you’re ready khổng lồ write each section. There are a few guidelines you should follow during the writing stage as well. Here is a sample paragraph from a literature đánh giá about sexism và language lớn illuminate the following discussion:

However, other studies have sầu shown that even gender-neutral antecedents are more likely khổng lồ produce masculine images than feminine ones (Gastil, 1990). Hamilton (1988) asked students khổng lồ complete sentences that required them khổng lồ fill in pronouns that agreed with gender-neutral antecedents such as “writer,” “pedestrian,” và “persons.” The students were asked khổng lồ describe any image they had when writing the sentence. Hamilton found that people imagined 3.3 men khổng lồ each woman in the masculine “generic” condition và 1.5 men per woman in the unbiased condition. Thus, while ambient sexism accounted for some of the masculine bias, sexist language amplified the effect. (Source: Erika Falk and Jordan Mills, “Why Sexist Language Affects Persuasion: The Role of Homophily, Intended Audience, & Offense,” Women và Language19:2).

Use evidence

In the example above, the writers refer khổng lồ several other sources when making their point. A literature nhận xét in this sense is just like any other academic research paper. Your interpretation of the available sources must be backed up with evidence khổng lồ show that what you are saying is valid.

Be selective

Select only the most important points in each source khổng lồ highlight in the nhận xét. The type of information you choose lớn mention should relate directly lớn the review’s focus, whether it is thematic, methodological, or chronological.

Use quotes sparingly

Falk & Mills vày not use any direct quotes. That is because the survey nature of the literature reviews does not allow for in-depth discussion or detailed quotes from the text. Some short quotes here và there are okay, though, if you want khổng lồ emphakích cỡ a point, or if what the author said just cannot be rewritten in your own words. Notice that Falk và Mills vị quote certain terms that were coined by the author, not comtháng knowledge, or taken directly from the study. But if you find yourself wanting khổng lồ put in more quotes, kiểm tra with your instructor.

Summarize & synthesize

Rethành viên to lớn summarize & synthesize your sources within each paragraph as well as throughout the review. The authors here recapitulate important features of Hamilton’s study, but then syntheform size it by rephrasing the study’s significance & relating it khổng lồ their own work.

Keep your own voice

While the literature Review presents others’ ideas, your voice (the writer’s) should remain front và center. Notice that Falk & Mills weave sầu references khổng lồ other sources into lớn their own text, but they still maintain their own voice by starting and ending the paragraph with their own ideas và their own words. The sources support what Falk và Mills are saying.

Use caution when paraphrasing

When paraphrasing a source that is not your own, be sure khổng lồ represent the author’s information or opinions accurately and in your own words. In the preceding example, Falk and Mills either directly refer in the text lớn the author of their source, such as Hamilton, or they provide ample notation in the text when the ideas they are mentioning are not their own, for example, Gastil’s. For more information, please see our handout on plagiarism.

Revise, revise, revise

Draft in hand? Now you’re ready lớn revise. Spending a lot of time revising is a wise idea, because your main objective sầu is to lớn present the material, not the argument. So kiểm tra over your nhận xét again to lớn make sure it follows the assignment and/or your outline. Then, just as you would for most other academic forms of writing, rewrite or rework the language of your reviews so that you’ve sầu presented your information in the most concise manner possible. Be sure khổng lồ use terminology familiar to lớn your audience; get rid of unnecessary jargon or slang. Finally, double check that you’ve sầu documented your sources và formatted the đánh giá appropriately for your discipline. For tips on the revising and editing process, see our handout on revising drafts.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive sầu list of resources on the handout’s topic, và we encourage you khổng lồ vì your own retìm kiếm to lớn find additional publications. Please vị not use this danh mục as a mã sản phẩm for the format of your own reference danh mục, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the Libraries citation tutorial. We revise these tips periodically và welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., và Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers & Readers, 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Jones, Robert, Patrichồng Bizzaro, and Cynthia Selfe. 1997. The Harcourt Brace Guide khổng lồ Writing in the Disciplines. New York: Harcourt Brace.

Lamb, Sandra E. 1998. How to Write It: A Complete Guide to Everything You’ll Ever Write. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Rosen, Leonard J., và Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn và Banhỏ Handbook, 5th ed. New York: Longman.

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Troyka, Lynn Quittman, and Doug Hesse. năm nhâm thìn. Sitháng & Schuster Handbook for Writers, 11th ed. London: Pearson.

This work is licensed under a Creative sầu Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 License.You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout và attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolimãng cầu at Chapel Hill

Chuyên mục: literature