Developing your Review of Literature


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A number of suggestions to write a comprehensive review of literature for your undegraduate research.

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Developing your Review of Literature

  1. 1. A literature review is an examination of the research that has been conducted in a particular field of study. Hart (1998) defines it as “the selection of available documents (both published and unpublished) on the topic, which contain information, ideas, data and evidence. This selection is written from a particular standpoint to fulfill certain aims or express certain views on the nature of the topic and how it is to be investigated, and the effective evaluation of these documents in relation to the research being proposed”.
  2. 2. THE REVIEW OF LITERATURE IS... THE SELECTION OF AVAILABLE DOCUMENTS ON THE TOPIC (what other authors/researchers have said about your topic, including their arguments and ideas) AND THE EFFECTIVE EVALUATION OF THESE DOCUMENTS (your point of view on their research)
  3. 3. * To demonstrate your scholarly ability to identify relevant information and to outline existing knowledge. * To identify the 'gap' in the research that your study is attempting to address, positioning your work in the context of previous research and creating a 'research space' for your work. * To evaluate and synthesize the information in line with the concepts that you have set yourself for the research. * To produce a justification or rationale of your study.
  5. 5. Just like most academic papers, literature reviews also must contain at least three basic elements: a. An introduction or background information section. It gives a quick idea of the topic of the literature review, such as the central theme or organizational pattern. b. The body of the review Contains your discussion of sources and is organized either chronologically, thematically, or methodologically. c. Conclusions and/or recommendations Discuss what you have understood after reviewing what other authors have said.
  6. 6. A literature review is usually organized around ideas, not the sources themselves. This means that you will not just simply list your sources and go into detail about each one of them, one at a time. No. Create a thematic organizational method by organizing the articles you find into topics and subtopics. Then, develop the review based on what they have in common. An example:
  7. 7. MY REVIEW OF INSTRUCTIONAL APPLICATION OF COGNITIVE FILM THEORY IN UPPER DIVISION SPANISH LITERATURE COURSES This research project will explore how cognitive film theory enables foreign language students to comprehend and reflect on foreign cinema (specifically, cinema from Spain), while fostering communication and improving the students’ listening, oral, reading and writing skills. This literature review will address three main areas: the history and evolution of Spanish cinema, implications of using foreign films in the second language classroom, and principles and application of cognitive film theory in the language classroom.
  8. 8. Once you've settled on a general pattern of organization, you're ready to write each section. There are a few guidelines you should follow during the writing stage as well.
  9. 9. The student-researcher needs to refer to several other sources when making their point. A literature review in this sense is just like any other academic research paper. Your interpretation of the available sources must be backed up with evidence to show that what you are saying is valid.
  10. 10. Select only the most important points in each source to highlight in the review. The type of information you choose to mention should relate directly to the review's thematical focus.
  11. 11. Some short quotes here and there are okay. However, if you want to emphasize a point, or if what the author said just cannot be rewritten in your own words, make sure you use quotations. Sometimes you need to quote certain terms that were coined by the author, but not common knowledge.
  12. 12. Remember to summarize and synthesize your sources within each paragraph as well as throughout the review. Rephrase (use your own words) whenever possible to state what the authors are saying.
  13. 13. While the literature review presents others' ideas, your voice (the writer's) should remain front and center. Maintain your own voice by starting and ending the paragraph with your own ideas and your own words.
  14. 14. When paraphrasing a source that is not your own, be sure to represent the author's information or opinions accurately and in your own words. Avoid plagiarism by using the appropriate APA citation guidelines.
  16. 16. Draft in hand? Now you're ready to revise. Spending a lot of time revising is a wise idea, because your main objective is to present the material, not the argument. Then, just as you would for most other academic forms of writing, rewrite or rework the language of your review so that you've presented your information in the most concise manner possible. Be sure to use terminology familiar to your audience; get rid of unnecessary jargon or slang. Finally, double check that you've documented your sources and formatted the review appropriately for your discipline.
  17. 17. The Writing Center (2007). Literature reviews. Retrieved April 16, 2009 from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Web site: ure_review.html#6 The Learning Center (2009, March 24). Getting started on your literature review. Retrieved April 16, 2009 from The University of New South Wales, Web site: