Before you start writing an essay or a research paper, it is essential that you acquaint yourself with the field ofstudy. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to write a literature review. The aim of a literature review is to summarize and synthesize published information on a specific field. A well-written literature review analyzes intellectual advances in the field and identifies the major gaps in the existing literature.Writing a concise literature review takes considerable effort, but there are several guidelines which make the process less strenuous.
A literature review can be written either as a stand-alone paper or asa section of a larger paper; the former serves as an overview of a specific topic while the latter is a steppingstone for your future research. If you are writing a stand-alone review, you need to choose a topic that is both relevant and interesting. However, if the purpose of your review is to lay a strong foundation for your research, you should narrow down the areas you want to focus on.
You should be thoroughly acquainted with the field of study before you begin analyzing the literature. There might be several hundreds of sources pertinent to a specific area, so you need to decide on what sources you will use as a reference. The rule of the thumb here is to include only those sources which are relevant to the field of study and the topic you have chosen.
During the process of writing a review, you will be required to read several volumes of texts. To ensure that no important points escape your attention, note down all major points as you read the sources. Mention their relevance to the field of study in your notes, and also elucidate how these points will be utilized in your review. By the time you finish reading the sources, you should have a rough outline of your review ready.
An important point to keep in mind is that you shouldn't organize the review around your sources; instead, it should be organized around ideas.The best way to do this is to identify a thread -a theme or an issue that connects all your sources - and then organize your review around it. This gives focus as well as direction to your review, and you will not be at a loss when you analyze your sources.
You need to exercise a great deal of caution when paraphrasing sections from books or articles. You should paraphrase them using your own words instead of copying from the text, but without losing the crux of arguments. The opinions and arguments of authors should be represented with great accuracy and it is better to avoid quoting from your sources excessively.
Coherence and clarity of thought are very important qualities of a review. Choose how you want to organize your review (chronological, thematic, methodological, etc.) prior to commencing writing. Ensure that the different sections of the review are related to each other and keep the readers interested.
Several reviewers make the error of only referring to sources published recently. They may identify issues that have already been addressed in research papers published previously as research gaps. Ensure that you are well acquainted with all major advances and debates in the field of interest, and do not disregard earlier studies during your research.
There are multiple ways of looking at an issue or a topic, so you are likely to come across sources that vary widely in their arguments. Though it may seem tempting to include sources that are similar in arguments, it is in your best interests to make room for sources with counterarguments. However, you should take special care to integrate them into the body of your review without creating a chaos.
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