I suppose writing a literature review is a personal Everest for the majority of students. While studying at a college, they deal with tons of big academic texts or assignments and the literature review part is not their favorite one. Whether it is just a paragraph at the beginning, a couple of pages, or a subheading in the dissertation, there is always a piece of work which is devoted to the analysis of sources. There is no hiding from that “literature review” monster, it formulates the academic culture of any researcher.
We do not know what Google offered on your “how to write a literature review UK” or “write my essay UK” requests, but we do know how to write a well-structured literature review in just 20 minutes. Set the timer.
Guide on How to Write a Literature Review
Literature review, as you have probably guessed, is not an essay or a research paper, it is just a part of the above-mentioned kinds of academic work. It does not prove, illustrate, cooperate or develop your main points. That is what the body of your paper for. What does it do then? The word “literature” in this phrase means that you are going to write about those major works that have been published over years about your narrow topic. And “narrow topic” here are the main words. You are not going to be reviewing every published thing on a broad theme like “Steroid use by athletes.” Choose a narrower topic like “Steroid use by high school athletes” or “Steroid use by baseball players.” That is a first thing you need to know – the literature is the published peer-reviewed sources on your narrow topic.
The review is simply a way of looking at something and taking a snapshot of it. This snapshot should capture the major concepts, points, outcomes in the source. You are supposed to check the works of other authors on this and related topic, analyze how the topic refers to the research carried before by others. It is not going to be a detailed write-up of that one source. You, as a researcher, have to show the relationships between those snapshots. You need to extract the major elements.
Review of related literature (RRL) provides an understanding of the background of the field, identifying which studies are important and which are not. They range from the selective to the comprehensive ones and exist as parts of large works or stand on their own. If a course assignment is an example of a selective stand-alone work, the literature review in a dissertation or thesis is a comprehensive one. The length of your literature review for research paper depends on the requirements. It can be just a couple of sentence or a couple of pages. But be sure our advice and tips on writing literature review will be helpful for all kinds of your papers.
Literature Review Techniques
Have you ever had this experience when you have run into an old friend after a number of years? What is the first thing you do? You ask each other “Hey, what have you been doing all these years? Fill me in, update me.” You are supposed to do the same thing in a literature review. You bring the readers along the timeline of the past letting them know the key elements of all the events. But how to write a literature review? How to organize it best? There are some common organizational patterns that will probably be of use to you.
You can divide things in the literature review into decades. For example, in the 1940s they thought autism was caused by cold mothering and bad parenting, in the 1960s autism was perceived as a psychological illness of unknown origin, and then, in the 1990s and 2000s, we know autism is caused by a genetic susceptibility triggered by an environmental toxin.
Let us imagine you are writing about nanotechnologies. Your literature review introduction should describe the beginning of such a phenomenon as nanotechnology. Then, you are supposed to list the researchers that gave the first breakthrough in this field. Then, came the next set of studies which brought nanotechnology to a whole other level.
Let us say you were writing about the modern-day slave trade in a research paper. You can show the research studies and reports of the modern-day slave trade in the Near East, Europe, Asia, and Euro-Asia. In other words, you are taking a geographical approach to everything that has been studied and said about this narrow topic.
Pre-writing Phase: Sources in Literature Review
Once you have chosen one of the techniques for your literature review (if it is an academic paper, there should be strict instructions on which technique to use), it is time to get to the sources of the paper. Nowadays, academic journals are the key source of any scientific information. The 21st century simplifies the search of the sources with the help of existing electronic libraries and the ability to search with keywords, last names of authors, titles of publishers, years of publication, etc. Here is the checklist of types of sources you need to analyze in the literature review in order to hand in a full-fledged academic paper.
Types of Sources
1. Books – scientific monographs, course books, reference books, brochures.
2. Periodicals – academic journals, sets of scientific articles, reports, foreign press.
3. Official documents – normative acts, manuals, constitutions.
4. Dissertations, analytical reviews.
How to Work with All the Sources for Literature Review?
It is one of the hardest parts for students. How to systematize the discovered ideas? How to review all the works? First of all, we highly recommend you to review the other’s works only from the point of view of your problem, but not all possible directions which are at least somehow connected to your topic. Critically analyze the essential works which have the relation to what you research on. Otherwise, you will be like one of those collectors who collects everything.
The simplest way to work with resources is to make notes and add your comments to them (once again, from the perspective of your study). While making a conspectus, do not forget to link your notes to the original source and indicate the page numbers. Believe us, an accuracy is a key feature here. You do not want to take a quote out of its context and deliver a completely different message. Pay attention to the secondary quoting in your literature review and the risk of modifications.
Annotation is a half-page or one-page long text which expresses the key ideas of the work in the exact sequence they appear in the text. The annotations can be expanded with quotes but just retelling the main points may be enough as well.
Paraphrasing is retelling the same idea in your own words. It is different from the annotation just because paraphrasing does not necessarily compress the information. All you need to do is to express the sense of the full work or its part. Sometimes, the source you are using or phrases in it are too difficult to understand for a wide audience. That is what the paraphrasing is for in literature review – you adapt the text to make it clearer for yourself and your target audience.
Literature Review Introduction and a Whole Literature Review Structure
So, without further ado, here is what your literature review structure should look like.
1. Preamble (literature review introduction). It is a very beginning of your review in which you have to include the definition of your topic, question or field of interest, and the depiction of the technique of the review (the criteria of the analysis). The next step is to determine “the relationship” or the general tendencies which have been included into publications on your topic, as well as conflicts that exist within the scientific problem, or blank pages that are yet to be filled. All of that will lead you to the formulation of the key problem for review.
2. The main body of the literature review. In this part, you have to group the sources of different type based on certain features. Pay attention that in preamble you just specified which of the techniques you are going to use. Now you need to summarize and provide information in this particular (chronological, geographical, etc.) order. Add the introductory phrases and create the linking structures at the beginning and the end of paragraphs to organize the logic of your literature review. There are hundreds of organizing phrases you can use – “therefore,” “nevertheless,” “despite.”
3. The ending part. Now, your main tasks are to remind the audience of the overall importance of the topic, bring the reader back to ground zero, the topic at hand. Once you have covered all the information and analyzed all the sources, summarize the significance of the used sources and give the readers your own evaluation by answering the following questions “How well the issue is covered?”, “Are there any blank pages left?”, “Does this topic have a perspective for future studies?” In this section, you can use outside sources to back up your opinion. The point of the ending part of your literature review is to show the links of the ideas covered in the sources with a wide field of investigation you are interested in.
Simply put, it should look like this: give a brief summary, give an evaluation (let a bit of your inner critic out) and wrap it up by leading to your main topic. So, actually, it is not so hard to climb the Everest, is not it?