writing literature reviews

writing literature reviews

Mastering the Art of Writing Literature Reviews

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1. Introduction to Literature Reviews

In postgraduate studies, students who start writing literature reviews quickly learn about how unwieldy vast bibliographies can be. It is a daunting task to select the ideas and authors they should cite carefully. Especially for novices, though it is common to try to provide a comprehensive and extensive literature citing about a particular field, this isn’t necessary, and it is seldom possible to include everything that will be found. Finding an entry angle that adds value to the discussion is one of the more advanced skills that should be considered. Starting an essay in this way or presenting an argument can save a student time by making more mature decisions. Experienced writers can help novices include just the most pertinent, relevant, and credible sources in their essays.

The aim of an academic essay that discusses literature is to explain and explore a specific topic or concept. It is important to make it clear that literature reviews are not only about summarizing the important works, but they should also have a purpose. The reason for creating a conceptual essay is to expose the writer to a wider audience and make others’ work a point of reference. Through a discussion that is cogently structured and consistent, an essay can reveal the knowledge in a discipline or reach a different audience. However, the challenge is to determine which literature forms the subject to make it consistent and relevant.

2. Key Components of a Literature Review

B. Body of the Review The body is a significant section of the literature review. It is in this context that issues of preparation, presentation, and discussion of the sources, as well as the supporting evidence, are to be found. Typically, the body is divided into sections or chapters that present the evidence that supports the review. It is here that a particular section or chapter would devote itself to discussing different works on the same issue separately and relying on the arguments each makes. Authors could adopt an approach based on theme, period, methodological concerns, and analysis questions or a combination of these. They could also create a comprehensive analysis that combines these methods of organizing literature. It is also at the review stage that the reviewers should avoid primary reporting instead of evaluating the existing scholarship.

A. Introduction The introduction to a literature review is important because of what it communicates to the reader. The introduction is the success factor that determines whether the reader will continue perusing the review or whether they will switch their attention to another document. As such, the role of the introduction is to provide a foundation for subsequent sections of the review. It achieves this by doing four things: providing a definition of the field, an overview of relevant texts, an indication of how the review is structured, and acknowledging the main findings of the review.

3. Strategies for Conducting a Comprehensive Literature Search

Keep in mind that you need to identify the most reputable and widely used academic databases to search. To help you decide where to search, begin by doing lots of searches in databases at times before you think you might expand your efforts to identify additional databases that might also be helpful. Do not forget about the most widely used professional and topical databases that contain both practitioner-oriented articles and academic research articles, and the vast array of relevant government reports and documents. These reports and documents will be available at websites for universities, research organizations, government organizations, and specialized libraries in various fields. For the factors that uniquely define distinctive phenomena you are studying or taking them into account or controlling for them, remember to consider combining the usual search strategies with some unique search strategies.

Defining keywords from your research questions is an effective strategy for identifying articles related to your study. When defining your list of potential keywords, you can expand your list by consulting others, the results of your initial searches through internet search engines and various databases, and the lists of references you find in printed and online articles. Furthermore, you should create lists of appropriate descriptors, keywords, and search terms from your research questions and use them with only the most relevant of the following criteria in conducting your literature reviews if you are certain some of the terms will not get you to the most relevant articles. This approach will save you time and effort and help you avoid becoming overwhelmed by the vast quantity of journal articles you could read.

4. Critical Analysis and Synthesis of Literature

The function of synthesis is the re-organization of knowledge into a new organization of knowledge. This term, therefore, can be very fruitfully interpreted in relation to writing. Good literature reviews contain summaries and abstracts of information, but their critical comments and judicious use also create a new entity, the part of the literature that is synthesized. This term, therefore, can be interpreted with Clare Boothe Luce’s comment in mind: “I am a good editor.” Obviously, Luce didn’t say “I am a good abstractor” or “summarizer.” She obviously wished to emphasize this synthesis, the crucial act of deciding what to put into her published work out of all the text at hand. She loved putting things together, making a newspaper. Writing frequently demands one or more of the arts of knowledge re-organization, of re-conceptualizing.

To critically analyze is to determine and defend a strong opinion. It is the best process to decide what makes sense in relation to your research topic. It is not only judging the quality and credibility of the sources, but also having a working strategy for setting forth all the parts, leaving out nothing, and carefully coordinating all the parts of the paper. The analysis should set the stage for the synthesizing process that usually follows in good literature reviews. This process should identify key concepts and definitions in texts, but also lead to a highly inventive integration of research findings and theories of contributors. The insights that result from linking the reviewed literature with previous work become the basis for arguments that push knowledge in a forward direction. Each part of a paper is like those of a watch or a car, not precisely mechanical, but it is very much like assembling and synchronizing parts of complex systems in order to achieve a shared purpose.

5. Writing and Structuring an Effective Literature Review

Define your topic within a restricted field. Locate and collect documents to review. Use a variety of sources, such as theoretical works, research articles, and other types of dissertations as a foundation to develop well-formed research questions and a research design approach. Develop a framework to ensure that you have reviewed all that you intended in a given field. Some works provide online access to the databases and sources that contain citations to help you locate primary research-related information and ideas. Consequently, it is essential for students to understand several objectives and addressing research questions that represent the choices of what scholars are working on as they develop valid literature reviews. A literature review could clearly outline the provider benefits of your research results and conclusions. It also demonstrates to the instructor that you have a firm grasp of where the research has been and where it might be headed.

At its core, a literature review is a survey of the scholarly works related to a particular issue, to synthesize existing knowledge and produce an overview of the state of the research. The structure of a literature review is similar to other academic written works. To begin, review the materials that you will use in your literature review. Develop a running list of ideas and works written or categorized as empirical, concept/theoretical, or methodological/theoretical. The next step is to devise a plan before you begin writing. Move from a broad topic or problem area to a more specific field of application and scope of the review each work you are writing about. Define or identify the general topic, issue, or area of concern, providing step-by-step scholars’ ideas to create a well-refined literature review.


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