Most college students will be asked at some point during the course of their academic career to construct a literature review - a compilation of articles, books, journals, research and information regarding a specific topic that is being researched. Typically, once the resources are collected, the student will write a summary of the information being reviewed. Students will be expected to find peer-reviewed, evidence-based professional articles on the topic and examine them in more detail later when they will be used during the writing of their academic paper or homework assignment.
The student will be required to formally critique, analyze, organize and summarize research literature found on the topic of interest in order to complete an in-depth literature review. The summary of the literature will describe the veracity and validity of the articles or information found. The analytical synthesis of the literature review will evaluate each resource with regard to its significance to the chosen topic or field of study. For example, a literature review conducted on a specific healthcare issue will highlight all relevant information that contains legitimate content on that issue.
The format for the literature review may vary, but most colleges and universities will require that correct APA or MLA citations be used for every article cited. This will include organizing a summary of the article, an analysis of the article and how it relates to the topic being researched, the type of resource it is (primary or secondary resource, book, journal etc.), and a determination of whether the article has any fundamental flaws. The literature review is researched and completed over many days or even months, and is a fundamental tool that college and university students must use to begin research on any given academic topic.
Literature review writing stages will include:
• Evaluating a body of literature related to the research topic
• Analyzing the literature to find common themes or classifications
• Review of the field or industry
• Review of work by individuals or groups
• Providing background for research topic
• Filling in gaps in knowledge on research topic
• Formulating a powerful research question
• Establishing the validity of the research question and project
• Coordinating and synthesizing information on the topic
• Grouping together main ideas for a review of the literature
• Developing and identifying main arguments presented in the literature
• Analyzing categories such as methods, theories, key works, results, conclusions and flaws • Narrow the topic and modify the topic parameters if necessary
• Finding the most current research information possible (no more than 5 years back)
The writing center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has an excellent tutorial for college students called Literature Reviews which covers everything a student would need to know in order to prepare a proper literature review. Another great resource would be the tutorial put out by the University of California Santa Cruz called Write a Literature Review.
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