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Writing Literature Review:
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Writing Literature Review

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 useful tips on preparing and writing literature reviews.

Check the Guidelines: Many universities and departments have writing literature review 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 the Topic: It is useful to make the topic as specific and focused as possible. When writing literature review topics, it is often helpful to state them as hypotheses, or educated guesses to be tested by 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. 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: Writing literature review outlines is the best way to organize the discussions the student will highlight in the literature review. 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 literature review papers 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.