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How to Write a Literature Review

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So you’ve completed writing your first chapter and your research proposal. Congratulations! Now, you need to focus on writing a literature review which is a very important chapter in your thesis. So how do we write a literature review?

From my proofreading experience, I notice that some students find it challenging to write their literature reviews. They don’t tell me that they are having problems writing the literature review, but it is reflected in their writing. These are the things you need to keep in mind when doing a literature review.

WHAT IS A LITERATURE REVIEW?

A literature review is a compilation of the sources, or literature that gives a background to what you want to study. However, it isn’t just a summary of the works you’ve read but it includes an analysis of the major works related to your research.

The aim of a literature review is to critically analyze parts of the published body of knowledge related to your research. You can do so by doing a summary, classification, comparison of previous studies, and theoretical analysis.

A LITERATURE REVIEW IS NOT JUST A SYNOPSIS / REPORT

Some students make the mistake of writing a report or a synopsis of the literature. You can write a synopsis of the previous works for your own note-taking, but that isn’t a literature review.

When conducting a literature review, you would need to:

  • Be organized: make sure your literature is related to the research questions
  • Identify the background or landscape of the study
  • Identify gaps in the research
  • State how your work will contribute/address the gap within the field of research
  • You can come up with questions that need further research

WRITING THE INTRODUCTION

When writing the introduction, define the research problem or area of concern which will give an appropriate context for the reader. You can do so by:

  • Discussing the overall trends of the issue
  • Conflicts in theory, methodology, evidence, conclusion
  • Identifying gaps in the research

WRITING THE BODY

So much to read and write you don’t know where to start writing your literature review? You should:

  • Group the arguments according to themes or
  • Follow a chronology
  • Organize according to different authors’ perspectives

You would also need to link each paragraph or sub-sections to make your points coherent and justify to the reader why the points you have chosen are important, relevant or how they address your research goals.

ANOTHER TIP: Study a good thesis/dissertation that is similar to what you want to study and look at how their literature reviews is written. This is not copying because you are studying how it is written!

THE CONCLUSION

Summarize the important works and relate it to your thesis

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