Guide: How to Write a Good Literature Review
In the age when one of the most valued qualities or properties is swiftness, it is important to be able to provide and consume extensive amounts of information within short time periods. Among other fields, this also refers to scientific and academic environments, where you must rather often enable your audience to understand the contents of a published work. This is when a literature review becomes handy; it is a sort of a meta-source overviewing the main ideas, fields, themes, etc. contained in the original work, article, and so on. You can write a literature review on any kind of source, be it a serious peer-reviewed monograph, or an entertaining website critical evaluation, connected to your current research in the field.
Here are some tips on writing literature reviews that will help you write one correctly.
- Keep in mind that a literature review has little in common with a summary; the review implies that you not just retell, but rather critically evaluate what is written in the original source. This implies at least basic knowledge in the field in which the original was written.
- The structure of the reviewed source usually defines the structure of the review as well. Exceptions can be made, for example, in the case when you want to make an emphasis on just few aspects of the source.
- The backbone of any literature review is analysis. Insufficient scrutiny, differences in methods, discrepancies in conclusions, and other similar problems should be your number one priority when reviewing a source; make sure that the author supports his/her claims made in the reviewed source with evidence, factual information, and other sufficient and credible data. All this does not mean, however, that you should not pay attention to the positive aspects of the work you are are reviewing. Make sure to highlight both virtues and flaws of the source in an unbiased and objective manner.
- A literature review should provide some background information on its subject as well, because it is often the context that enables better understanding.
- Make sure that a source you want to review is credible.
Now, here are the actual steps for writing a proper literature review
- Surprisingly, when writing a literature review you will need not only the source you are going to work with directly, but also other sources, both printed and web, that match with its topic, and which criticize, expand, or comment on it. You will need them to have something to compare the reviewed source with.
- Analyze the data you have collected during the preliminary research. Distinguish the major opinions existing on the subject, referred issues, common methodology, the main pro and contra arguments, and so on. This is what you will need to use in order to be able to analyze your source more or less objectively.
- Take notes and sort the materials out meticulously.
- Do the same with the source you are actually going to analyze. Now that you have got yourself acquainted with the general paradigm, you can not only better understand what the author writes about, but also see the differences (or similarities) between his/her opinion and the majority of his/her colleagues researching the same area.
- Introduce the main points made by the author of a reviewed source. Analyze them in the context of the paradigm to which they belong: do they strengthen or weaken it? what is similar or different between your particular source and the major part of works on the same topic? are the author’s arguments sufficient and persuasive? did he/she manage to produce new knowledge about the subject or at least look at it from a new perspective? These are among the main questions that your literature review should cover.
- Do not forget to actually support your claims with the examples taken from the author’s text; also, do not forget to at least briefly get your audience acquainted with the contents of the reviewed source.
- Restate your thoughts on the source in the form of a brief conclusion.
As you can see, writing a literature review is not as difficult as it might seem. The key here is to actually read the source, as well as several other sources written by different authors, referring to the same topic/field of research.
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Good luck writing.