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How To Do A Great Literature Review For A Research Paper: Basic Tips


A literature review is an integral part of most research papers. This is because writing a literature review gives you a foundation of all the research in a subject area and then you add to it with your own research. The reader is able to find out the same thing, that is, what has gone on before and what you have added. That means that a literature review is helpful to both the reader and you, the researcher. Here are some tips to write a great literature review:

  1. Be clear
  2. Look at your assignment and how it describes the literature review part. If that is not clear, ask your supervisor. Do you have to only summarize or also critique the literature? How much detail do you have to go into? What types of sources are preferred? Is it just journal entries or books etc.?

  3. Review the reviews
  4. Before you embark on your own project, it is best to review how others have done it. You can look both in other subject areas and in your own although the concentration obviously has to be in your own area. You can look for samples in journals, the library or on the internet.

  5. Pick your supervisor’s brain
  6. Go meet your supervisor during his or her office hours. Approach the meeting like an interview. Plan ahead and ask questions about your subject area and which books they would recommend to read. What sort of sources would they use for a literature review like this? How would they structure it? You will get some helpful hints out of a meeting like this.

  7. Focus on an area within an area
  8. Most subjects and subject areas are very broad and a full literature review for them will be next to impossible. Instead focus on a narrow topic within your target area. This will have to be highly related to your area of research for the paper so that you can tell the story of how it has evolved and what you are doing with it.

  9. Have a thesis statement
  10. Before you start your paper, you need to have a clear thesis statement. This will not only align your thoughts on how to go about your research but also on how to go about your literature review. This way you can quote literature sources that are current and relevant to your research. Then, write away.

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