How to Nail Your Literature Review in College

It’s not a secret that when it comes to written assignments college students often start to make excuses to put off the realization of their academic endeavors and procrastinate on writing. Most learners are too overwhelmed with college routine and the amount of chores they need to deal with on the daily basis that they dread the possibility of spending five or six hours crafting a written assignment. The same goes for writing a literature review, quite a specific type of academic paper that requires particular skills, conducting much research, and investing a good deal of time into evaluating relevant scholarly sources. At first, creating an in-depth review may appear to be an excruciatingly difficult and mind-numbing undertaking. But over time, you’ll develop the required skills and the writing process will become less stressful. Below are some simple tips to follow to start crafting strong literature review in college.

What’s a Literature Review?

A literature review is not a standalone academic paper. It normally serves as a prelude to a research paper, dissertation, or another academic project that requires extensive research and analyzing multiple scholarly sources pertinent to the research topic. This type of academic paper provides the overview of the most relevant and significant publications regarding the topic under investigation. It summarizes the current knowledge and perspective on the research issue and offers a critical evaluation of available sources.

Drafting a Literature Review

  • Defining Your Objectives 

As with any academic paper, you need to define your goals prior to getting down to writing a literature review. This involves taking a stand on the matter discussed, crafting an arguable thesis statement, and clearly stating your project objectives. Make sure that the entire literature review is tied to your position.

  • Conducting Research 

Once you decide on your position and define your paper’s purpose, proceed to gather the most relevant sources related to your research question and position. Make sure that each and every publication you pick for your literature review is scholarly and up-to-date. It’s also a good idea to identify the most influential and relevant scholars in your topic’s academic field first and then familiarize yourself with their most prominent publication pertinent to your topic.

  • Grounding Your Review in Relevance 

Once you’re done selecting sources for your literature review, proceed to summarize each publication carefully and thoroughly. Make sure to give context for each source’s significance and contribution to the topic explored. Anchor your publication’s main points to your position, project objectives, and hypothesis. Show your audience each source’s scientific weight and relevance to the discussion.

  • Making It Coherent and Logical 

The common mistake students make when working on their literature reviews is compiling it the way they would compile their annotated bibliography. It’s important to keep in mind that though a part of a bigger research project, the literature review represents a full-fledged academic paper and should be written properly. To write it in a coherent and logical way, think of it as a development of an argument. Start by evaluating the earliest ideas on your research question and discuss the way they gained momentum and evolved over time in the reviewed scholarly literature.

  • Including Bibliography 

Just because you’re mentioning the publications’ and their authors’ names in text doesn’t excuse you from compiling a works cited or reference page at the end of your paper. Provide a comprehensive citation of each entry according to your citation style’s rules.

  • Proofreading 

Put the completed draft of your literature review aside for some time. Get back to it next day or in two hours (depending on the urgency of your assignment) and read through it with a fresh eye. Edit your text for grammar, styles, punctuation, and spelling errors. Also check for coherence, style, and logical fallacies.

Isabelle Forster is an editor, journalist, and a freelance writer at PapersOwl. She also works as an online tutor and education advisor. In her free time Isabelle likes learning languages, writing poems, and playing the piano. She draws inspiration from reading, communicating with interesting people, and helping her students.

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