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Writing a Literature Review
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A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research ( scholarship ) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably.
Where, when, and why would I write a lit review?
There are a number of different situations where you might write a literature review, each with slightly different expectations; different disciplines, too, have field-specific expectations for what a literature review is and does. For instance, in the humanities, authors might include more overt argumentation and interpretation of source material in their literature reviews, whereas in the sciences, authors are more likely to report study designs and results in their literature reviews; these differences reflect these disciplines’ purposes and conventions in scholarship. You should always look at examples from your own discipline and talk to professors or mentors in your field to be sure you understand your discipline’s conventions, for literature reviews as well as for any other genre.
A literature review can be a part of a research paper or scholarly article, usually falling after the introduction and before the research methods sections. In these cases, the lit review just needs to cover scholarship that is important to the issue you are writing about; sometimes it will also cover key sources that informed your research methodology.
Lit reviews can also be standalone pieces, either as assignments in a class or as publications. In a class, a lit review may be assigned to help students familiarize themselves with a topic and with scholarship in their field, get an idea of the other researchers working on the topic they’re interested in, find gaps in existing research in order to propose new projects, and/or develop a theoretical framework and methodology for later research. As a publication, a lit review usually is meant to help make other scholars’ lives easier by collecting and summarizing, synthesizing, and analyzing existing research on a topic. This can be especially helpful for students or scholars getting into a new research area, or for directing an entire community of scholars toward questions that have not yet been answered.
What are the parts of a lit review?
Most lit reviews use a basic introduction-body-conclusion structure; if your lit review is part of a larger paper, the introduction and conclusion pieces may be just a few sentences while you focus most of your attention on the body. If your lit review is a standalone piece, the introduction and conclusion take up more space and give you a place to discuss your goals, research methods, and conclusions separately from where you discuss the literature itself.
- An introductory paragraph that explains what your working topic and thesis is
- A forecast of key topics or texts that will appear in the review
- Potentially, a description of how you found sources and how you analyzed them for inclusion and discussion in the review (more often found in published, standalone literature reviews than in lit review sections in an article or research paper)
- Summarize and synthesize: Give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
- Analyze and interpret: Don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
- Critically Evaluate: Mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
- Write in well-structured paragraphs: Use transition words and topic sentence to draw connections, comparisons, and contrasts.
- Summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance
- Connect it back to your primary research question
How should I organize my lit review?
Lit reviews can take many different organizational patterns depending on what you are trying to accomplish with the review. Here are some examples:
- Chronological : The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time, which helps familiarize the audience with the topic (for instance if you are introducing something that is not commonly known in your field). If you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze the patterns, turning points, and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred (as mentioned previously, this may not be appropriate in your discipline — check with a teacher or mentor if you’re unsure).
- Thematic : If you have found some recurring central themes that you will continue working with throughout your piece, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic. For example, if you are reviewing literature about women and religion, key themes can include the role of women in churches and the religious attitude towards women.
- Qualitative versus quantitative research
- Empirical versus theoretical scholarship
- Divide the research by sociological, historical, or cultural sources
- Theoretical : In many humanities articles, the literature review is the foundation for the theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. You can argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach or combine various theorical concepts to create a framework for your research.
What are some strategies or tips I can use while writing my lit review?
Any lit review is only as good as the research it discusses; make sure your sources are well-chosen and your research is thorough. Don’t be afraid to do more research if you discover a new thread as you’re writing. More info on the research process is available in our "Conducting Research" resources .
As you’re doing your research, create an annotated bibliography ( see our page on the this type of document ). Much of the information used in an annotated bibliography can be used also in a literature review, so you’ll be not only partially drafting your lit review as you research, but also developing your sense of the larger conversation going on among scholars, professionals, and any other stakeholders in your topic.
Usually you will need to synthesize research rather than just summarizing it. This means drawing connections between sources to create a picture of the scholarly conversation on a topic over time. Many student writers struggle to synthesize because they feel they don’t have anything to add to the scholars they are citing; here are some strategies to help you:
- It often helps to remember that the point of these kinds of syntheses is to show your readers how you understand your research, to help them read the rest of your paper.
- Writing teachers often say synthesis is like hosting a dinner party: imagine all your sources are together in a room, discussing your topic. What are they saying to each other?
- Look at the in-text citations in each paragraph. Are you citing just one source for each paragraph? This usually indicates summary only. When you have multiple sources cited in a paragraph, you are more likely to be synthesizing them (not always, but often
- Read more about synthesis here.
The most interesting literature reviews are often written as arguments (again, as mentioned at the beginning of the page, this is discipline-specific and doesn’t work for all situations). Often, the literature review is where you can establish your research as filling a particular gap or as relevant in a particular way. You have some chance to do this in your introduction in an article, but the literature review section gives a more extended opportunity to establish the conversation in the way you would like your readers to see it. You can choose the intellectual lineage you would like to be part of and whose definitions matter most to your thinking (mostly humanities-specific, but this goes for sciences as well). In addressing these points, you argue for your place in the conversation, which tends to make the lit review more compelling than a simple reporting of other sources.
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Writing Effective Thesis Statements
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A good thesis statement can be the difference between making an argument about something, and simply re-stating what someone else has already said. In your thesis statement, you want to make a claim that you will continue to develop throughout the paper. It should represent your own ideas–perhaps in response to something someone else has said–but ultimately, it is your argument. As such, a good thesis statement should have 3 main traits. A good thesis:
- Can be developed with evidence throughout your paper. In other words, you should be able to say it in 1-2 sentences, but that shouldn’t be all that there is to say on the topic.
- Is argumentative, not in a negative sense, but in that it can be supported and may have counter-arguments. Test this by asking “Could I argue the reverse of this?”
- Should explain what, why, and how. What are you arguing? Why are you arguing that? And how will you show it? Think of the “what” as your basic position, the “why” as your reasoning, and the “how” as your evidence (theories, sources, etc.)
In all, the thesis is the backbone of your paper. In the rest of your paper, something in each paragraph should directly relate back to the paper. If you get lost in the writing process, you’ll want to be able to come back to your thesis and say, “this is what I’m arguing.” And remember, thesis statements can evolve with the paper. Once you’ve got your draft written, read through and make sure that what you’re saying in your paper matches up with what your thesis statement says you’re going to be saying.
H ere are a few helpful links to get you started:
The Purdue OWL (Purdue University) is a great source for writing, and this page goes into detail on the different types of thesis statements.
Here’s another great source from the University of North Carolina with some tips and examples of strong thesis statements.
It can be useful to play around with and see examples, but DO NOT use it to create your actual thesis, as this may be considered plagiarism!
Best of luck with your writing endeavors!
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The templates below have been built to ensure a consistent look among most theses and dissertations submitted to the Graduate School. These templates should be used as a guide in formatting your thesis or dissertation with the understanding that your department may require modifications of the template to fit your discipline’s style. Please contact your department’s Format Advisor to discuss any necessary changes.
The Thesis & Dissertation Office recommends using the PurdueThesis.cls file.
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Please download the following template to begin your thesis/dissertation. Formatting within the template is already set up for your convenience.
You will need to select the appropriate answer for all dropdown boxes on page 1. Ex. Thesis/Dissertation, Choose Degree, Choose Department, Choose Campus Location, Choose Graduation Term.
You will need to manually input your committee information on page 2. We ask that you only list your committee member's primary department. The name after "Approved by:" should match the name listed on your Form 9 as "Thesis Form Head".
Follow instructions within the template to complete the rest of your thesis/dissertation. Please be careful when making changes so that you do not override/change the template formatting.
Please contact us if your department is not listed, or with other questions.
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Purdue Online Composition Laboratory Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts
Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements
Always to this Purdue PILFERER
This page are brought to you by the OWL at Rice College. For printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.
Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Script Lab & That OWL at In and Curry University. All rights reserved. This materials may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, updated, or redistributing without permission. Employ of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms also conditions to fair exercise. Many papers you write require developing a thesis statement. In this section you’ll learn what a thesis report is and how to write one. Retain in mind that not all papers require thesis statements. Wenn in doubted, please consult you instructor for assistance. What is a dissertation statement? ONE thesis statement . . . Makes…
This resource provides tips for creating a thesis statement the examples of various types of thesis explanations.
Get for Handwriting Your Thesis Statement
1. Determine as kind of paper you are writing:
- Somebody analytical paper breaks down one issue or an idea into him component portions, evaluates the subject or idea, and presents this collapse and evaluation to and audience.
- An expository (explanatory) article explains object to the audience.
- An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and warrant this claim with specific testimony. Who claim can be an opinion, a policy proposal, einer evaluation, a cause-and-effect description, or an interpreter. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the your is truthful based on the evidence provided.
If you are writing a text that does not decline under these three categories (e.g., a narrative), adenine thesis statement somewhere in an first-time part could still be helpful to your reader. AMPERE strong thesis statement takes some sort of stand. Reminds that your thesis needs to show your finding with ampere subject. With example, if you are writing a ...
2. Yours thesis statement should be specific—it have cover available what you willingness diskuss in your journal and should be supported with unique documentation.
3. The your statement usually appear at the end of the first paragraph of an newspaper.
4. Your issue may change when your write, so you may need to revise your thesis announcement in reflect exactly what i have discussed in and paper.
Thesis Statement Examples
Example of an analytical thesis statement:
The paper that following should:
- Explain the analysis of the seminary admission process
- Explain the challenge facing entrances counselors
Example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:
Who glass that follows should:
- Explain how students expense their zeitpunkt studying, participating class, and socializing with peers
Sample of an argumentative thesis report:
The paper that follows must:
- Present can argument and invite evidence to support the claim that students should pursue community projects back entering community
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Graduate Writing Center
Executive summaries and abstracts - graduate writing center.
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Executive Summaries and Abstracts
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Executive summaries and abstracts both capture the essence of a project in a shorter form, but with differing levels of detail: an abstract is a highly condensed overview of the document, while an executive summary is a standalone version of the thesis in miniature.
See our handout on " What Goes in a Thesis Abstract? An Executive Summary? " for an overview of standard content and length—then, for more information and examples, read on!
For a more detailed explanation of abstracts, check out our infographics, tailored to your discipline:
- Defense management
- Social sciences
An abstract is a brief encapsulation of a document. Abstracts are quite limited in length (often about 200 words) and thus must be very concise, clear statements that convey a few key ideas:
- The topic and significance of the research
- The research question driving the inquiry
- The methods used to answer the question
- The findings and implications of the research
Understanding how an abstract is structured can also help you as a researcher. When conducting research , get in the habit of reading abstracts carefully to determine which documents closely fit your research needs.
Not all documents require an abstract, and most of your class papers won't. However, all NPS theses must have an abstract, and abstracts are often required for conference papers and articles submitted for publication .
Executive summaries are longer than abstracts, often running 2–5 pages. They summarize a larger document's purpose, methods, results, conclusions, and recommendations such that someone who reads only the summary can glean a solid understanding of the research as a whole. Unlike abstracts, executive summaries can include citations and references .
Not all theses require an executive summary, so check with your advisor or department for guidance. The links below contain further information on the differences between abstracts and executive summaries.
In order to make your research easier to find by other researchers, it is a good idea to think about what searchable keywords are associated with your project. Make sure to include them in your abstract and executive summary!
Executive Summaries and Abstracts Links
- " What Goes in a Thesis Abstract? An Executive Summary? , " GWC and TPO
- " Abstracts ," University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Writing Center
- " How to Write an Abstract ," Phil Koopman, Carnegie Mellon University
- " Executive Summaries ," Colorado State University
- Layering Reports: The Executive Summary 1 " (6:35), Zachery Koppleman, Purdue OWL
- Layering Reports: The Executive Summary A Closer Look Part 1 " (5:53), Zachery Koppleman, Purdue OWL
- Chapter from a book: " Technical Reports, Executive Summaries, and Abstracts , " Robert Shenk, The Naval Institute Guide to Naval Writing
Writing Topics A–Z
This index makes findings topics easy and links to the most relevant page for each item. Please email us at [email protected] if we're missing something!