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Literature Reviews

Overview of literature review process and how to structure the review.

Pro Tips: Preparing to Write Literature Review

There are many books and internet resources about literature reviews though most are long on how to search and gather the literature. How to literally organize the information is another matter.

Some pro tips:

  • Use a content management system/organizer such as Zotero.
    • Be thoughtful in naming the folders, sub-folders, and sub, sub-folders.  Doing so really helps your thinking and concepts within your research topic.
    • Be disciplined to add keywords under the tabs as this will help you search for ALL the items on your concepts/topics.
    • Use the notes tab to add reminders, write bibliography/annotated biliography
  • Your literature review easily flows from your statement of purpose (SoP).  Therefore, does your SoP say clearly and exactly the intent of your research?  Your research assumption and argument is obvious?
  • From Galvan and Galvan, 7th ed. Writing Literature Reviews (sometimes when you search Google/Google Scholar, a PDF of the book will be available): chapters 9 - 11 are particularly helpful
    • Begin with a topic outline that traces your argument. pg99: "First establish the line of argumentation you will follow (the thesis), whether it is an assertion, a contention, or a proposition.
    • Next, develop a traceable narrative that demonstrates that the line of argumentation is worthwhile and justified. 
      • This means that you should have formed judgments about the topic based on the analysis and synthesis of the literature you are reviewing."
  • This topic outline is your roadmap
    • Keep filling it in; flushing it out more deeply with your citations


Milner Library Guide: Literature Review

Other Resources