You are assigned to produce a literature review. You are taking a novel or a poem, looking for a cozy place to get the process started and ready to say that it is either good or bad. At this point, you think that your review is ready, don’t you?

Well, everything is just the other way round. Frist, it is necessary to say that if you need to make a literature review, it does not mean that you will deal with fiction stories only. You may be required to review some historical works, scientific projects, etc. Second, being obliged to create a review, does not necessarily mean that you have to show your attitude towards the evaluated piece of literature.

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What does a Literature Review Imply?

A review of literature provides an assessment of the material related to a specific area and a particular period of time.

It can be written in the form of a summary of some sources. However, in the majority of cases, it is a mix of both summary and synthesis. While a summary presents the essence of a specific source, the synthesis rearranges the information provided in that source. It may interpret the already known notions from a new perspective or combine both new and old views on the matter. Depending on the requirements, a review can make the assessment of the sources and state which of them highlights the most valuable information on the matter.

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Difference between a Review and a Research Paper

A research paper is focused on developing a new idea and it may include the literature review section. When working on a research paper, you refer to different sources of information with the purpose of gathering arguments to support your claims. As to the review, it is concentrated on summarizing and synthesizing the ideas of other authors without introducing any new information.

Why do Students Need to Write Reviews?

The reviews of literature serve as a helpful guide to a specific subject matter. If you lack time to research the topic, the review will help you realize its major aspects. As to the experts, reviews let them be aware of the latest updates in specific fields. Owing to reviews, scholars can easily determine the competency of the writer in a particular area. In addition, reviews serve as a solid basis for research papers since being aware of the reliable sources highlighting a particular topic is essential when working on such writing projects.

Who Creates Reviews?

Such papers are usually produced by those studying sciences and social sciences. Sometimes, reviews may be written in humanities. When talking about laboratory reports, a literature review is one of their structural elements. In some cases, a review can be composed as a separate work.

Thus, How to Start a Literature Review?

Get Clarifications

If there are no broad guidelines as to how your paper has to be composed, ask your professor for clarifications. Ask the following questions:

  • How many sources should be used?
  • What kinds of sources have to be used?
  • Should the sources be critiqued or summarized when discussing the topic?
  • Is it necessary to assess sources?
  • Is it required to provide subheadings, definitions or some background data?

Seek Examples

Find the reviews written in your field of study to see how they are structured and how the topics are highlighted. To find good samples, you may just enter the word “review” together with the related word combinations in the search engine. Note that reference pages as well as bibliographies of the used sources can be also useful for your research.

Make the Topic Specific

There are many books, articles, journals, etc. discussing different topics in different areas. You have to ensure that your subject is narrow enough. In this way, it will be easier for you to look for the sources to gather relevant material for your paper. Why browse numerous sources if you can limit the scope of your research and facilitate the investigation.

Ensure the Chosen Sources Are Up to Date

Some academic disciplines require students to refer to modern sources only. For instance, when it goes about sciences, medicine namely, the treatment for some illnesses is constantly changing meaning the use of old sources will not be of use. Nevertheless, when talking about humanities, social sciences or history, the use of the sources that are considered old may be very useful since it is essential to show how the matter under consideration has changed with time. To understand what information to provide in your review, look through already created reviews in your discipline. Such an approach will also help you find out what aspects of your field are interesting for readers.

Learn about Book Review in the article "Academic Book Review Template: Great Hints of Writing"

Check This Free Literature Review from BestWritingService Writers

Techniques for Producing a Review of Literature

Detect the Focus

A review of literature is usually built around some ideas. It follows that your task is to not only list the sources and explain what each of them is concentrated on but also show what points or aspects unite them. Do the reviewed sources offer the same or different solutions to the tackled issue? Are some facets of the topic left uncovered? Do the sources present the material clearly? Do the sources highlight the main flow of a particular area? You may pick any of the presented questions as a focus for your review.

Communicate the Key Idea to Readers

A review may not include a thesis statement in its traditional form. Still, you have to tell readers what your piece of writing is concentrated on. You may express the major statement of your work in one simple sentence. Take a look at the following examples:

“According to the latest research in medicine, some heart diseases require not only the use of medicine but also surgical procedures.”

“Different types of media are considered to have academic value.”

Mind the Structure

Now, when the focus of your review or its main idea is determined and presented clearly, what is the most efficient way of presenting the material to readers? What meaningful subtopics have to be highlighted by your review? Which order do they have to be presented in? By pondering over these questions, you will get the understanding of how to organize your review. Consider the tips given below:


Three Basic Structural Components

As well as the majority of academic papers, literature reviews should include an introductory section highlighting the basic data, body presenting the discussion of the sources, and a conclusion illustrating the final point of your review. Below, there is a brief description of each of the sections:

  • Introduction: Highlights the core topic of a review.
  • Body: Presents the discussion of the sources. It can be arranged in either methodological or chronological order.
  • Conclusion: Show what you have learnt from the analyzed literature. Can the discussion be continued?

Structure the Body

As soon as the main categories are defined, you should ponder over the method of presenting the sources in your work. To make it easier for you to arrange your review properly, take a look at the following passage:

You have made up your mind to review the literature covering such a topic as sperm whales. Your decision is influenced by the novel “The Whale” after reading which you want to find out whether the provided description of the mentioned sea animal is real. You begin examining the articles about the physiological peculiarities of sperm whales. Afterwards, you start searching for the sources showing how such whales are depicted in other forms of art such as paintings, poetry, etc. The material which you have looked through makes you interest in the whaling methods during the period of time portrayed in the said novel. As a result, you commence seeking modern scholarly articles about the way H. Melville depicted the whaling scene in his literary work.

Start Writing

Once the organizational mode is established, you may start producing your piece of writing. When creating your review, you need to follow specific instructions. Below, there is an example of a paragraph taken from an already composed review about sexism:

According to the research, it has been detected that even the gender-neutral antecedents are more likely to create masculine images rather than the feminine ones (Gastil, 1990). Students were asked to complete the sentences by filling in the gaps (Hamilton, 1988). They had to put the pronouns which had to agree with the gender-neutral antecedents such as “author,” “people,” and “pedestrian.” Then, the students were suppsoed to describe the images they had while completing the sentences. It has been found out that students imagined 3.3 men to every woman in the so-called masculine “generic” state and 1.5 men per woman in the impartial state. Hence, while ambient sexism could be explained by some masculine bias, the effect was heightened by sexism language.

Use Powerful Arguments

By analyzing the example provided above, it can be seen that writers use specific sources of information to support their viewpoint on the discussed matter. In this case, a literature review can be viewed as any other academic work. It means that your statements and the analysis of a specific source (or sources) have to be upheld by compelling evidence. Thus, you will show that your claims are credible.

Mind the Information You Are Going to Present

When analyzing sources, you should choose only the data which you consider essential for your review. Keep in mind that the material you decide to provide in your review has to be closely related to its core point.

Be Careful when Using Quotes

Some authors do not include direct quotations in the reviews since their nature does not presuppose the use of such. It means that reviews are not meant for an in-depth analysis and detailed discussions. Certainly, you may use a few short quotes in your text only to emphasize some points or if the author’s ideas cannot be rephrased. To know exactly how many quotes you may use in your review, consult with your professor.

Sum up and Synthesize Data

You should not forget to recap and synthesize the information from the sources you are using in each paragraph and throughout the text. In the example given above, you may notice that the authors of the review sum up significant points of the research conducted by Hamilton. Then, they synthesize that research by paraphrasing the main points showing its importance and relate it to their review.

Maintain Your Own Voice

Though a literature review highlights the ideas expressed by other author’s, your voice has to be the main or central. Let us come back to the example given above. Though the authors of the review mentioned other scholars in the text, they still ensure their own voice is dominant. They start and end paragraphs with their own ideas and the sources they cite just help them support their own claims.

Be Attentive when Paraphrasing

It is essential to convey the author’s message accurately when paraphrasing his/her ideas. In the example presented above, the authors of the review either directly state the highlighted ideas belong to a specific author such as Hamilton or provide a broad explanation that the presented ideas are not their own (here it goes about Gastil). To find out more about how to make proper citations not to be accused of plagiarism, browse the Net to find some helpful guides.

Make a Revision

If your review is ready, you may start revising it. Do not be in a hurry not to miss any flaws! Make sure that your review meets the imposed requirements and is written according to your outline. Now, as to the question “How long should a literature review be?” Well, it has to be concise. Therefore, if you see it is quite lengthy, rewrite some sentences to make it as succinct as possible. Check the terms you are using to ensure they are familiar to readers. Remove slang and jargon is such are present in your work. Check the format and the way the used sources are arranged in.

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