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Literature Review How To:
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Literature Review How To

A literature review is a comparative study of existing research papers and dissertations published within a given academic field. Literature reviews can be assigned by university professors as stand-alone assignments, or as essential components of a dissertation. Here are some literature review how to tips to consider when planning a literature review.

Check the Guidelines: Many universities and departments have literature review how to guidelines for students to follow. The student should check with his or her professor or faculty and follow the suggested format for writing literature reviews.

Focus: It is useful to make the topic as specific and focused as possible. Many literature review how to guides recommend phrasing the topic as a hypothesis, or educated guess to be explored by a review of the literature.

Research: Once the student has narrowed the topic, the search for relevant literature can begin. The student's university librarian can assist in the search, and provide further literature review how to information. Teaching students who need to do literature reviews how to conduct them is one of the reference librarian’s primary roles. Indices are available listing published papers and dissertations in the student's field. These listings will contain abstracts, or short summaries, of each paper or dissertation.

Compile: Once the student has conducted a search and located abstracts of relevant literature, he or she will obtain copies of those papers which bear most directly on the topic at hand. The student then reads each paper in detail, keeping those that speak most directly to the student's topic, and returning those of less relevance.

Outline: Most literature review how to guides recommend outlining the review prior to writing it. An effective way to structure the outline is to group each paper according to its bearing on the student's hypothesis. Those which support it are grouped in one category; those which discount it are grouped in another. Any papers which offer a different perspective on the topic are grouped in a third category. Within each category, the student outlines the specific literature to discuss and any important points he or she wishes to make.

Write: After the process above has been completed, writing the literature review is simply a matter of translating the outlined material into a clear, concise, and balanced discussion. The more detailed the outline, the easier the writing process will be.