How to Write a Good Literature Review
It is likely that sometime in the course of a student's graduate study, and sometimes even in her undergraduate study, she will be required to undertake an extensive research project and present the results of that research in what is known as a literature review. A literature review is an overview of scholarly research on a single topic. It may be one part of a larger text, such as a dissertation or journal article, or it may be a single text in itself. Because a literary report is a document that many learners are unfamiliar with, many learners are unsure of how to write a literary report and become intimidated by the literature review process. This need not be the case, as a literary report is a document that can be easily composed once the student has learned how to approach its organization.
The first step to learning how to write a literary report is to have a clear idea of what a literary report is. Many students who are confused about how to write a literary report assume that a literary report is the equivalent of a college report. This is not the case. A research paper presents scholarly studies to make a point or argument; a literary report objectively presents an overview of research on a particular topic in order to suggest the scope and depth of scholarly opinion on that topic. In other words, a literary report does not present the opinions of the writer, and will not present an argument at all.
The most difficult decision to make when considering how to write composition reviews is how best to organize the material. The best way to ensure a good literature review is to compose a thorough outline before writing. Literature reviews should be organized by the subcategories of the topic they address. Therefore, the best way to approach a literary report is to make a list of all the studies that need to be included and then divide that list into topic subcategories. For instance, if the literature review were on compositional styles in the late Baroque period, the research the writer would present would likely include several different articles about varying types of late Baroque composition. The list should be broken down into subcategories of articles that address roughly the same style. For instance, in this list there would be a subcategory for chamber music compositions, vocal works, orchestral works, concerti, keyboard music, etc. The literature review should be organized in such a way that all of the articles in one subcategory are discussed before moving on to a different subcategory. Furthermore, it should be organized so that studies that build on each other are placed next to each other in the text. This will make the literature review more readable and understandable.
Once the writer has determined the overall organization of the literature review, the next step is to follow the outline by presenting a summary of each study. Each study in a literary report should have its own paragraph or set of paragraphs that clearly outlines (1) the authors of the research, (2) the year the research was published, (3) what the study sought to determine, (4) the way the study was executed, and (5) the study's results or findings. All of this information should be discussed in an academic and objective fashion.
The literature review should conclude by describing the general ideas presented by the body of literature discussed in the study and pointing to any conclusions the research as a whole makes about the topic at hand. It should then suggest areas of research in the particular topic that have yet to be investigated.
If students have further questions about how to write composition reviews, it may be helpful to read literature reviews written by both students and professionals. These can be found in academic journals and databases, and may also be available from a student's professor. Examining existing literature review models will assist any student wishing to know how to write composition reviews that are accomplished and effective.
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