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How to Write a Literature Review

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Summarize Scholarly Sources as Background for a Paper

Literature Review

Learn how to use simple summary techniques to perform a review of the literature on academic topics. "Lit" reviews can be used for notes, paper introductions, and more. 

Many college writing assignments start with a requirement for a literature review, perhaps of five peer-reviewed sources that are informative of the chosen topic. The sources often have to be summarized and justified as to how they will be useful or important in the eventual paper.

Once a literature search has been performed, choosing the sources to include in the review and writing the assignment becomes easier. Here are tips to make a literature review a walk in the park. Keep reading, this info helps me make my essays.

Choose the Best General Sources

In a literature review, it is often most helpful to spend time reading, digesting, and summarizing sources that provide strong background information on the topic. By selecting references that go over the basics of a topic or idea in detail, the student is guaranteed a firmer understanding of the subject, which will make future research and writing on the topic much easier.

Choose Sources to Direct the Paper

Before a literature review is performed (but after a basic literature search has been completed) the student should have a basic outline of the content and flow of the paper he or she will be writing. This way, the student can choose a piece of literature for each main section or aspect of the future paper to include in the review.

Read, Read, Think, Read

busy student

Begin the literature review process by reading over the chosen source briefly to make sure that it is an appropriate source (peer-reviewed if necessary) containing pertinent and high-quality information. The more effort put into finding good sources at the beginning, the easier it will be to write a well-informed paper after the review process.

Once a source is chosen for the review and considered to be trustworthy and relevant, the student should read the source in detail. In many scientific fields, it is difficult to understand technical processes or descriptions the first time around. While reading, take notes of what is confusing, what seems important, what might be useful to the future paper, and what might be important to read more about elsewhere.

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After reviewing the notes and looking up confusing terms, think about how this source will fit into the review and into the final paper. Read the paper or source again to cement a clear understanding of the material, keeping potential key points for inclusion in the review in mind.

Summarizing Sources in a Literature Review

After performing the reading and note-taking steps above, take time to consider the most relevant points of the article or source for the review assignment. Virtually all review assignments will require a brief summary of the main points.

Most academic articles have a set format for publication in journals (for instance, scientific papers have the introduction, methods, results, and conclusions). These divisions are provided, so make use of them. Depending on the length of the assignment, allot a few sentences (more or less) to each section in the summary explanation. This forces the student to pick out the key points in each aspect of the paper.

If the source for the review is an unstructured book or article, plan out the important points for commentary before writing the review. Consider the notes taken during readings and whether those points are the most important for the final paper. Why is this source a good choice? What were the main points the author tried to communicate? What was the theme or central argument of the publication?

Finish the Synopsis with a Justification

Explain to the professor why the source deserves to be included in the review. Is it a groundbreaking publication in the field? Are the sources' authors considered experts on the topic? Does a paper look at exactly the dimension of the issue the student was hoping to explore? Does a particular source dissect the variety of opposing viewpoints on the topic?

These basic steps should assist students in performing a basic summary-based literature review. Critical reviews of the literature include additional considerations that often incorporate more student examination and opinion in the assignment. Thanks for reading, these tips always help with my essays.


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How to Write a Literature Review

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Published on May 27, 2021

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