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A short Guide for writing a Literature Review

When you first hear the words “literature review”, what came to mind on its definition might be “a review of a work of literature”. Instead, though, a literature review is actually a compiled summary and analysis of a number of literatures published about a particular subject.

In writing a literature review, the key is in several points of your work, namely the choosing of a topic, thesis statement, and subsequently the choosing of what works of literature to include, synthesizing the information, and putting it to order. The rest, which is writing your work into a fully presentable article, depends entirely on your spontaneous writing skills.

Upon choosing your topic, do not use a general single-word category such as “medicines”. Try to narrow it down to as much as possible, by finding sub-categories (such as “herbal medicines”) and specific issues on that category (such as “the usage of herbal medicines”). This will ultimately help you get a first picture of what books (or other literary works) to look for, and significantly reduce the time you need to work on the project.

Finding and specifying your topic will lead you to creating a thesis statement. Unlike a research report or term paper, a literature review’s thesis statement does not contain an opinion that you make yourself, but rather a conclusive perspective on the materials in the literary review.

The next phase is of course to look for materials. These make the core of your literary review, so make extra effort in this stage, whether to verify materials (books/articles) you have in hand or to look for more informative materials. Remember to note the relevance of any potential material, its logical structure of argument, and its general credibility. At this point hopefully you have already understood the importance of citing the material’s identity, such as author, year of print, etc.

When the time comes to analyze your gathered materials (they, especially their contents have to be analyzed in a literature review), do it objectively, and find the essence of the author’s argument and its supporting elements. Make comparisons between several materials by making a preset list of questions and subjecting each material to it. Find and once again analyze their strengths and weaknesses.

After those above are finished and taken note of, it’s time to organize the outlines of the review. Remember that the basic “introduction - content - conclusion” still applies. There are then several alternatives on the order you are presenting your materials. Some of them are in chronological order, in an order of significance, in classification by publication, etc. Ultimately, experiment with all the ways until you find one most useful for your thesis statement.

Finally, it is time to compose your literature review. Although this mostly depends on your writing skills and experience, there are several things you can keep in mind to help you. The first, is to remember to keep your “voice”, that is to continuously relate source materials to and provide your conclusions and arguments on specific datas. You might also want to try to minimize the appearance of quotations, and instead narrate a point of a material with your own words. Remember as well to keep each parts of the review coherent, and relevant to each other, as it helps readers relate from one part to another. Also keep in mind the importance of citations.

After you’re done in overall, remember to revise (as with any writing projects).