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Aug 18, 2013 by Dr Sally
This blog series will help you write one of the essential and yet, for many, the most difficult piece of the academic writing project. With each entry of this blog series, you will better understand what a literature review is, what it does, and how to go about doing it.
In scholarly writing, the new ideas you present need to rest on your assessment of the previous and current literature on your topic. At its most basic, a literature review provides your readers with an overview of the ideas, theories, and significant literature currently published on your topic.
Your task in writing the literature review is not simply to summarize the prior research but to critically review the research related to your topic then present your own perspective on the research in your field as a means for establishing your credibility as a scholar.
The Purdue University Writing Center explains that in your literature review you need to
Your review of the literature positions you within the academic conversation in your field. To this end, you should understand certain rules for presenting your ideas so that your audience will find them credible.
As in all scholarly writing, the literature review must be well structured, and your ideas must flow logically from one point to the next. Most important, you need to establish your credibility with your reader:
In writing your review of literature, you need to consider your audience. Have your readers read the same books as you? Are they well-versed in your topic, or are they new to the material? Do you need to walk your readers through the basic theories and definitions so that they can assess the merits of the problem you propose to investigate?
Think of the literature review as the place where you take your readers by the hand and guide them through all the essential details they need to know to understand the rest of the paper without your help. At the end of the review, think of yourself as letting go of your readers’ hands, and saying, “You now know enough to take it from here. I’ll meet you at the other end.”
Remember, your ideas need to be at the center of your writing, but your work has to be embedded in what has come before to demonstrate your idea’s relevance and importance to the subject. The literature review connects your ideas to the other ideas in your field.
In the next blog, you will learn how to organize your literature review and how to review the essential, current, and relevant literature written on your topic.
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