Student literature review

***This page is undergoing revision (October 2021)***

In a literature review, the writer presents and discusses a number of research articles on a particular topic. If you have been asked to produce a literature review as a student assignment, you may have been assigned articles to review, or you might be expected to find articles that are suitable to include in the review yourself. It is therefore important that you know what your teacher expects you to do as part of the assignment.

Literature reviews are often organized thematically or chronologically. In thematically organized reviews, writers focus on issues that are dealt with in all of the texts or similarities and differences concerning the kind of research presented in the texts. In reviews with a more chronological approach, the focus will often be on differences and, for instance, what development you identify between the texts.

Questions you may want to ask when planning your literature review include:

  • What are the articles about?
  • What similarities/differences between the contents/arguments/results have you identified in the texts?
  • What kinds of research do the texts present, e.g.
    • theoretical or applied research
    • quantitative or qualitative research

Structure of the literature review

A literature review resembles the three-part essay in structure in that it usually has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion:

  • In the introduction, you introduce the topic and state your focus
  • In the body of the literature review, you highlight issues that you have identified in all the articles included in your review, and you present the main points made in each article. You will usually be expected to compare the articles you have read and bring forth strengths and potential weaknesses in them.
  • In the conclusion, you sum up your findings.

 

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