Literature Review

Literature Review Writing Guide

Literature Review Writing Guide

Literature review writing is an essential component of any research project or paper, but they are especially crucial during graduate school. In this article, we will cover the meaning of literature, how to organize and synthesize data, and the various parts of a literature review.

What Is Literature Review?

A literature review is a discussion or review of the prevailing published work on a specific topic. It tries to summarize and analyze the information and material in light of the research question(s), thesis, and central theme (s). In other words, a literature review summarizes and evaluates the ideas of others on your chosen topic, rather than simply supporting backing up an argument or making a list of summary of the results of research. This allows your readers to understand what your topic s is talking about, how these sources compare to one another, and where research gaps exist. It gives you a broad overview of the current knowledge, enabling you to spot appropriate concepts, methods, and areas for further research.

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What is a literature review’s purpose?

A literature review will almost certainly be required when writing a thesis, dissertation, or research paper to contextualize your research within current knowledge. The literature review provides you with the opportunity to:

  • Illustrate your understanding of the topic and its academic context.
  • Create a theoretical framework and research methods for your study.
  • Place your work in the context of other scholars and researchers.
  • Demonstrate how your research fills a void or contributes to a discourse.
  • Examine the current state of research and show that you understand the scholarly debates surrounding your topic.

If you want to apply to graduate school or pursue a career in research, writing a literature review is a crucial skill. Follow this guide to learn more.

What is the average length of a literature review?

Students often wonder, “How long should a literature review be?” when faced with the task of writing one. Your professor may decide on the size of the body of your paper in some cases. Make sure you read the instructions carefully to know exactly what is expected of you.

If you haven’t been given any specific instructions, it’s best to keep your literature review to about 15-30% of your overall paper. To give you an idea, in a 15-page paper, the literature review would be about 2-3 pages long. If you’re writing a literature review as an independent assignment, the length should be specified in the instructions.

Formats for Literature Reviews: APA, MLA, and Chicago

The referencing preferred by your instructor will dictate the essay format you use for your literature review. To establish a desired literature review format, ask for clarification from your professor on other elements as well:

  • What number of sources should you look at, and what types of sources should you look at (published materials, journal articles, or websites)?
  • What citation format should you use for your sources?
  • What should the length of the review be?
  • Should you write a summary, synthesis, or individual critique in your review?
  • Should you use subheadings or provide background information for your sources in your review?

·         The APA style

In the APA style, follow the following guidelines:

Page margins should be 1 inch. Use double-spacing throughout the entire text unless otherwise instructed. Ensure the font you choose is readable. Times New Roman in 12-point size is the preferred font for APA papers. At the top of every page, include a header (in capital letters). The page header should be a condensed version of your essay title that is no more than 50 characters long, including spaces and punctuation. Every page should have a page number in the upper right corner. Remember to include a title page when creating your APA literature review outline. This page should include the title of the paper, the author’s name, and the affiliation of the institution. Your title must be typed in upper and lowercase letters, with the uppercase letters centered.

Your title should be typed in upper and lowercase letters and centered in the upper part of the page; it should be no more than 12 words long and free of acronyms and unnecessary words.

·         The MLA Style

  • Use the following guidelines for MLA-style text:

In the MLA format, the following are the guidelines you should follow:

  • Use 1-inch page margins.
  • Use double spacing in the whole paper.
  • All paragraphs should be ½ inches indented.
  • The ideal font for MLA format is Times New Roman and font size of 12.
  • On the first page of your paper or on the title page, be sure to include a header (note that MLA style does not necessarily require you to include a title page, but you are allowed to decide to include one).
  • In this format, the header should include your full name; the instructor’s name; the class name, course code, and title, and the due date of the assignment.
  • Ensure your paper has a running head in the top right corner of each page. The running head should be placed Place at one inch from the right margin of the page and half an inch from the top margin. The running head should only include your last name and the page number separated by a space in the running head. Avoid putting the abbreviation p. before page numbers.

·         Chicago Style

Finally, if your literature review is in Chicago style, here are the key rules to follow:

  • Make sure the page margins are less than one inch.
  • Write your paper in full sentences, double spaced, except when writing to figure captions, table titles, block quotes, notes, and entries within the bibliography or References.
  • Avoid spaces between paragraphs.
  • Make sure your paper is written in a clear and readable font. The most preferable fonts for Chicago style are Times New Roman and Courier, set to a font size of not less than 10 and preferably 12 points.
  • On the cover (title) page include your full name, class information, and the date. The content on the cover page should be centered and placed at 1/3 below the top of the page.
  • Place page numbers in the upper right corner of each page, including the cover page.

 

Tips for Writing a Good Literature Review

After you’ve decided on a research area/topic and crafted a research question, you’ll need to look over the literature on that subject. A literature review is a critical overview of all published works on a specific subject. Conducting a thorough literature review is an important step in the research and publication process. A thorough literature review has numerous advantages.

Keeping up with the literature is perhaps the single most important skill that remains critical throughout a researcher’s career.   Your findings will either be old hat or too far out in the left field to be referenced right away if you don’t know where the current gaps are.

Another significant advantage of conducting a thorough literature review is that it can save you time. A literature review is an essential component of any scientific manuscript submitted to a journal for publication. A thorough literature review will demonstrate to the journal editor and referees that you have done your research and are knowledgeable about current research in your field.

There is no doubt that a thorough literature review is essential for a successful research paper. However, you may discover while reviewing the literature in your research area that there aren’t many journal articles, implying that not much research has been published. However, this may not be the case. Every year, approximately 2.5 million new journal articles are added to the global research output. As a result, it’s unlikely that you’re considering a research topic on which no one else in your field has worked or written.  This could be a common and frustrating experience for researchers who are focusing on highly specialized or specific aspects of a problem in their field, i.e., when little or no information is available.

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