Crafting a Literature Review in Research Writing

Crafting a Literature Review in Research Writing



this is a lesson on crafting a literature review a quick guide to the generic form and content of literature reviews hi my name is Chad and in this lesson I will teach you how to arrange and compose your survey of scholarly sources first what is a literature review a literature review is a brief survey of scholarly sources that summarizes and categorizes various perspectives on a topic or issue about which the scholars disagree literature in the term literature review does not mean primary sources but rather secondary sources or the Critical literature including commentaries scholarly articles and scholarly books a literature review is a generic feature of research writing which means that a literature review is an expected and necessary element of research writing so in order to write a research paper or project well you must learn how to properly craft a literature review in your introduction here is a sample literature review illustrating how researchers commonly survey and summarize the scholarly conversation of secondary sources critics tend to regard the readers reception of Satan from two primary perspectives the sympathetic like Samuel T Coleridge identifies Satan as a tragic hero intended to evoke pity in the reader whereas the stoic like CS Lewis and Stanley fish recognize Satan as a Miltonic Archfiend unworthy of the readers pity note how in this one sentence the writer has made the literature review concrete by naming the perspectives and key representatives of those perspectives also notice the power of the conjunction whereas which single-handedly signals a contrasting position emphasizing the relationship between perspectives and lastly note how clearly the author distinguishes and summarizes the positions in relatively short clauses this literature review effectively introduces readers to the scholarly secondary sources on a topic and sets them up to better understand the argument that might follow now that you have seen a sample let's break down the form so we can know what content to include in a literature review first name the various perspectives and key representatives of those perspectives classify the varying perspectives either according to accepted labels in the field post structuralism Liberty dualism etc or according to your own classification system thinking in terms of a spectrum of perspectives may be helpful so you can plot positions along the range of perspectives in the debate to ground each perspective identify at least one representative scholar to associate with each view making your summary more concrete as a way of resonating in the field and extending charity to other perspectives use or at least mention the classifications representatives commonly use for themselves second summarize the positions focus on fairly and concisely summarizing other viewpoints keeping your summaries brief because you will elaborate on the various opposing viewpoints in greater detail within the counter-argument section supply the readers with enough information to understand the contrast between perspectives and the unique claim of your thesis good research writers sometimes quote representative scholars when scholars best summarize their own position third indicate relationships between perspectives when summarizing and naming perspectives arrange the perspectives logically seeking to show whether perspectives extend or critique or nuance other perspectives strong contrasting words like whereas however are although can function as helpful signal words also narrating the relationship explicitly can sometimes be beneficial post structuralism emerged as a reaction against structuralism contending that ambiguity and indefiniteness make literature reviews ineffective the goal is to clarify the scholarly conversation if you are unable to clearly distinguish the varying perspectives for the reader then your haziness will only weaken your thesis and confuse your readers for shorter research essays and projects such as most undergraduate research essays a literature review may only be a sentence or two long in your introduction just like the sample we previously looked at after posing a research question about the topic or issue research writers simply identified the major perspectives about that topic or issue or identify how the debate has developed over time research writers can often help their readers quickly orient themselves within the scholarly conversation by naming key figures and summarizing perspectives in a clause or two for longer research essays and projects such as graduate and postgraduate research projects a literature review may consist of one or more paragraphs that summarize the scholarly conversation on the topic or issue these paragraphs help to orient readers to the specialized nature of the debate for highly specialized or narrow research topics an extended literature review may be included prior to the research question to help make sense not only of that question but also the specific debate and the writers thesis this is an example of the longer form of a literature review these two paragraphs are only an excerpt from a longer literature review but in these two paragraphs we see the elements of a good literature review at work the author's group perspectives under names or categories they identify key representatives they emphasize the relationships between perspectives and they summarize positions in so doing they effectively introduce the scholarly conversation to the readers and set them up to better understand the argument that follows be sure to note a literature review usually appears in the introduction immediately preceding the research problem or thesis and can range anywhere from a few sentences to several pages depending on the length and scope of the research project also a literature review rarely includes every related secondary source instead the writer uses discretion to identify the significant influential and insightful secondary sources on the topic or issue with a goal of representing the spectrum of what scholars have previously argued about that topic or issue it is important to remember that the literature review is not a place to simply dump your research as a parade of all your work the goal is to carefully select and logically arrange material to make sense of your arguments and situate your thesis as a rule writers prepare readers by describing the prior research that their research will extend modify or correct a literature review is not the same as the counter-argument section of your research project even though the literature review often provides the categories or framework for the more expanded counter-argument section what is brief and summative in the literature review is detailed and evaluative in the counter-argument section with these principles in mind consider some common patterns that a literature review can follow first it is a scholarly commonplace for theologians like van Hooser to claim viewpoint a or like von Balthasar to believe viewpoint B or even like right to think viewpoint C nevertheless these views all assume elaborate external systems of metaphor rather than primarily using the metaphors of the biblical texts a better solution is your thesis statement because advance organizer second some like feschi think viewpoint a and others like Eagleton believe viewpoint B and still others like Jamison claim viewpoint C however a careful study of the evidence shows your thesis statement based on three reasons your advance organizer regardless of which pattern you adopt remember the basic moves in a literature review include naming perspectives and key representatives summarizing the positions and indicating relationships between perspectives these three moves follow the generic pattern illustrated on the screen become familiar with this pattern and learn to adapt or lengthen it as needed for your research projects if you keep these moves in mind as you research and write you will soon become comfortable and adept at crafting literature reviews I hope you have found this quick lesson helpful as you seek to craft a literature review for more information check your writing manuals visit local writing centers or consult online writing helps or check out more videos at our youtube channel and visit southeastern s Writing Center website where you'll find dozens of helpful links and handouts offering writing assistance for a variety of situations and audiences thank you

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