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Professional Tips on Literature Review Writing

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How to Write Literature Review

Why Do I Need Literature Review?

“What is a literature review?” is the first question you have to clarify before starting to write your project. In a literature review assignment, a student is supposed to synthesize and present the contribution of different researchers to the chosen field or topic. As a rule, it is quite a long piece of writing comprising about 3000-10000 words. Because of its nature, this assignment requires a lot of time and effort. A student has to conduct an extensive search of related sources, read them all very carefully, and develop a well-structured piece of writing to demonstrate different points of view. Such a literature review is one of the integral parts of a dissertation or thesis. Finally, this assignment helps students enhance their understanding of a specific academic subject.

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Literature Review Format

As a rule, a literature review has a standard three-element structure of an introduction, body, and conclusion. You should understand that a literature review and annotated bibliography are not synonymous terms, and you should not mix them up. While the first focuses on the topic, the second evaluates and describes sources.

Literature Review Outline

The first step towards the successful completion of such an assignment is creating a good literature review outline. Each outline should contain the following elements:

  • Introduction. Your literature review should begin with a strong and catching introductory paragraph. In this part, you are supposed to present the chosen topic and provide the context. You can also describe the sequence of this chapter/paper and explain what you want to achieve with its help.

  • Main Body. The main body is the heart of the literature review. You should critically analyze the selected sources to draw and explain the relationship between the chosen topic and a wider subject area. Here, you will use an inductive approach to develop a complex perspective of the subject matter using pieces found in the works of different researchers. The ultimate goal is to find the connection. Sources should be organized either by theme or chronologically or in any other order that better fits your vision.

  • Conclusion. The final part of a good literature review should provide a holistic perspective on the chosen topic. Here, you should explain whether your results are congruent with other studies or not. In addition, describe any difficulties or limitations you faced in your research. You should objectively highlight gaps and offer areas to be researched by future studies.

How to Write a Literature Review

In this section, you will find out how to write a literature review to get high grades.

  1. Determining the purpose. First, you have to understand why you need this literature review. What do you want to address in this piece of writing? What literature will you need to achieve your goal? Carefully study the instructions provided by your professor and general standards of academic writing.

  2. Searching for the literature. Second, do an extensive search to find reliable sources that will help you achieve the defined goal.

  3. Sorting out the sources. Third, you have to determine the inclusion and exclusion criteria for the sources to be used in your study. It would help if you considered journal articles, books, conference proceedings, reports, web resources, and government documents. In the end, you are going to have a list of authoritative, up-to-date, and relevant sources.

  4. Selecting a few. If you choose a broad or popular topic, you will probably have a long list of sources. It is impossible to discuss them all. You have to select just the right number of the most relevant literature entries to allow your literature review to provide a holistic image of the topic. If you have doubts, ask your professor to advise you on the needed number that can vary from a few sources for High School papers to 50-60 for a dissertation.

  5. Referencing and citing. In this assignment, proper referencing and citing are very crucial. Develop a system that will allow you to operate available data effectively. Use stickers or different text colors to organize your sources.

  6. Reading the literature. This stage will take you the most time. You will have to read all selected sources very carefully. Taking notes while reading will help you a lot. Build a concept map or create a matrix to group arguments and thus develop the skeleton of your review.

  7. Analyzing the literature. A good literature review does not describe the sources but analyzes arguments. Apply your critical thinking skills here to come up with a well-structured and logical piece of writing.

How to Start Writing a Literature Review

The literature review is a crucial academic assignment that allows a student.

  • Prove familiarity with the subject area and topic;

  • Create a theoretical framework for research;

  • Define your place in the research world;

  • Address the gap to add to the knowledge pool.

Long story short, to create a good thesis literature review, you will have to find relevant sources and analyze them critically. You will have to pass five stages:

  1. Searching;

  2. Evaluating;

  3. Identifying (gaps, arguments, themes);

  4. Structuring;

  5. Writing.

The ultimate goal is to develop a clear understanding of the chosen topic based on available knowledge. To achieve this goal, you will have to choose, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize the sources.

How Long Should a Literature Review Be

The length of the literature review depends on the subject area and assignment you have to prepare. For university projects, it will be around 50 pages.

If your piece is shorter, check whether you can a) include more sources or b) develop the discussion and analysis.

How to Do a Literature Search

The literature search is the first step that should receive your due attention. If you have relevant sources, you have the basis; if not, you are doomed to fail. You can use these useful tips to make a good start.

  • Create a list of keywords and key phrases. These terms will help you do an effective search.

  • Use different databases.

  • Visit a college/university library.

  • Check newspapers. Even though they will not give you information for in-depth analysis, they will help you understand the current trends in the chosen area.


Why Write a Literature Review

If you decide to write a literature review on your own, you need to understand what you are supposed to do and what not to do in this assignment.

  1. Determine a knowledge gap.

  2. Do not reinvent the wheel. You are not supposed to duplicate someone’s research.

  3. Demonstrate your understanding of the subject matter and the extent of conducted research.

  4. Determine other researchers studying the same topic or field. If you manage to contact these people, you will have a chance to share valuable tips and get an immense source of support and knowledge.

  5. Show your ability to structure thoughts and create an academic paper.

  6. Avoid including works from unreliable sources.

  7. Give a context and define the place of your project in the field.

  8. Include an opposing view even if you disagree with it.

  9. Provide a perspective for your work

  10. Prove you can conduct a holistic study taking into account each element.

  11. Pick up arguments and ideas that fit your study the most.

  12. Please choose the most appropriate research tools and use them effectively.

Special Paragraphs

A research paper that lacks a literature review chapter is not deemed authentic. This is because contributions and opinions from other scholars are a vital basis for your research project. A well-written literature review does the following:

  • Supports the writer’s findings. By documenting the opinions and ideas of other scholars, readers can be confident that the facts you present are reliable and meaningful.

  • This shows you can evaluate and interpret existing research material. Most students are keen to research to add a new perspective and new information to existing knowledge. When studying literature, your aim should be to identify and fill gaps in existing research.

  • Highlights the strong and weak points in the work of previous researchers. In evaluating the work of previous researchers, you are likely to identify areas you can exploit. Additionally, you should understand the research methods they used and determine how suitable and/or accurate their results are.

How a Literature Review for a Nursing Paper Should Be Written

A literature review is an overview of previous research work on some topic that the writer is interested in studying. It is a critical evaluation and comparison of published work on a given topic. It allows the writer to synthesize existing material, give it context, and assess its relevance.

A review of literature helps to pinpoint how a particular research question can be approached by revealing various trends and patterns. It creates the foundation for the research that the current writer is doing while adding to existing material and justifying why the new research is important. This chapter is a short section that serves as an introduction to the research paper. The extensiveness of the literature review will depend on the nature of the thesis, dissertation, or review article.

The Sections in a Literature Review

Every literature review has the following main parts:

  1. An introductory section: This sets out the general nature of the literature for the chosen topic.

  2. A methodology section: This is a description of the research method(s) used, the exact sources, and the subject-related terms to allow other students to study and perhaps reproduce this work.

  3. A findings section: Summarizes any important findings in the relevant field.

  4. A discussion section: Here, the writer discusses the progress of their work from broader to narrower studies.

How to Write the Literature Review for a Nursing Paper

A literature review should be written in bibliographic format. The body should be briefly cited, with full bibliography citations placed at the end. A literature review must be well-organized according to this format.

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The starting point is the introduction paragraph. This should coherently define the paper’s topic, its scope (even omitted material), and the style the writer will use for organizing their review. The most critical trends and debates about the literature should be concisely outlined. This section sets out the writer’s perspective or viewpoint concerning their topic. This opening section can highlight apparent conflicts in methodologies and conclusions and draw attention to research gaps.

The next task is organizing the main topic and the subtopics in the paper’s body. The best method for organizing topics and subtopics is the use of groupings. Organization can be done according to, for example, research type, subject, methodology, chronology, or genre. The writer can discuss the benefits of the categories within their chosen groupings and then analyze and compare why each is important.

The body should be arranged into paragraphs that correspond to the themes, fields, or periods in the literature. The writer should devote a couple of paragraphs to the remaining gaps in the available literature and suggest areas for further research. They can also explain why sources are relevant, where appropriate.

The next task in this chapter is the conclusion section, where the writer summarizes the main themes and ideas from the literature they have studied. New ideas or materials should not be introduced in the concluding section. An effective conclusion sums up the main findings and clearly states how the literature review supports or disagrees (if appropriate) with the research. It also gives insight and shows how the topic fits into the nursing profession and related research.

The final part of the literature review is correct referencing in the required format. This is very important because the chapter will be incomplete without a reference list or bibliography. Sources should be listed in a separate section, and this should include full citations for every item in the chapter. The most common formatting styles for this type of paper are APA, MLA, or Chicago. The very best literature reviews evaluate recent sources (under ten years old except in the case of historical analysis) and the quality of these. Literature must be reviewed from several different types of publications, e.g., medical journals, books, databases, and government documentation. Additional sources can be found in references to books and articles.

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