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Writing a literature review: General Guidelines

26 Feb 2019

A literature review is a complex assignment, whose goal is to provide an overview of relevant sources of information considering the chosen topic. It can be a separate task, but mostly it is a part of a larger scholarly work. Generally, it deals with various books, theories, articles, and other types of publications that are relevant to the subject of the study.

It is more than just a summary of previous work or a catalogue of the sources you’ve read. The goal is to complete and connect a logical overview with an evaluation of each source and a description between them. You need to provide a critical insight into the state of current knowledge on the topic based on the works you’ve studied. Taking into consideration the complexity of this assignment, here are general literature review guidelines that will help you succeed.

Writing a literature review: General Guidelines

When writing a literature review, there are several key points to address, such as format, citation style, structure, and academic requirements. However, it is not only about technical details, so here are 15 steps that summarise the guidelines for writing an excellent literature review:

  1. Choose the topic and narrow it down. It should be clear and scientifically relevant, sometimes students tend to choose broad subjects. The secret is to make it narrow, and therefore you can dive in more precisely on one aspect of it. Define the subject of your study and the general scope of the literature review.

  2. Divide your research into several specific aspects to address so you don’t forget to review them. These sections can be viewed in connection to each other, or you can choose one as a general focus and narrow down your topic even more.

  3. Before you start working on your assignment, it is a good idea to review completed examples so you have a better understanding of what is to be done. You can find examples online – however, it is important to look for a relevant platform, for example, literature review writing service. Remember, your goal is not only to provide information on the scientific state of a particular issue but also determine the gap in current knowledge that is going to be addressed in future study.

  4. Search for sources. Start this process with relevant sources regarding a specific subject, and then proceed with your research. The best way is to conduct several searches using different ways, such as Google Scholar and library search. There are tons of online libraries, however, the right one can be the key to success.

  5. When doing research, start with the basics and include sources that define specific terms you use and the first scientists to address this issue.

  6. Narrow down the number of sources. The literature review format doesn’t include all sources of information you may find, as there might be a lot. Narrow the number to the specific aspect you are dealing with. Pick relevant ones – well-proved and modern.

  7. Find connections between sources. Another mistake students may make is to just name and summarize different theories. However, it is not enough. Find how these theories correlate with each other, whether they complement one another, or are contrasting. They need to share a view on a specific issue that can be either contrasting or the same. Create a detailed insight into the previous findings on the problem.

  8. Categorize selected sources regarding their connection to your idea, whether they support it, or otherwise don’t support it. Both should be included so the study is objective and deals with counter arguments too.

  9. Draft the structure of future work. Remember to put an introduction and conclusion. If the amount of writing is large, it is better to use headlines to divide the logical parts of the literature review. APA formatting style recommends using headlines for different parts as it breaks down your text making it more readable.

  10. When drafting the structure, divide the sources not by authors or period, but rather by their scientific approach. You’ve previously defined subtopics of your research subject and can use them as themes to connect different sources.

  11. Do not use direct quotations. All references should be paraphrased and organically included in the text. When referencing the source, do not just paraphrase it, but also explain the meaning behind it and dwell on how it is relevant for your study.

  12. Write the main body first, and do the introduction and conclusion afterward. These parts are crucial for understanding your literature review, when writing them, have a deep and knowledgeable insight on what you are going to address. That’s why it might be a great idea to start with the main body and only then complete those sections.

  13. At the beginning of the assignment, mention the relevance of your review, why it is important to research and what knowledge gaps can be resolved with it.

  14. It is vital to specify your point of view, idea or thesis at the beginning of the assignment. It is not just a summary of the literature, it is a basis for study, and it has to deal with the specific opinion you have. It might be challenging, as it should be clear yet very specific. You may ask for assistance British essay writing service or look for examples online.

  15. Use transitions to make your assignment more logically connected and easy to follow. As soon as you’ve done the writing, check it several times for grammar mistakes, logical issues, and the general readability.

Thanks to these guidelines, you know how to do a literature review that is scientifically relevant and well-grounded. Always pay attention to the format and editing of your assignment and don’t forget to check the grammar. Remember, that the narrower your subject, the deeper insight is going to be.

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