Writing the Literature Review

Bricks

Why bricks for the literature review?  Well, because a good literature review establishes a good foundation and sets up the reader for your study.  It should not read like a jumbled mess, but as a linear path, with each addition serving a purpose.

How should you get started?  Before writing a word of your proposal, you likely did some reading on the topic, took some notes, and began building your knowledge base in this area. Google Scholar is a good starting point for any project.  Type in your topic.

Google scholar with box

Once you find a relevant article, use the Google Scholar tools.  Here, clicking on “Cited by 25” would bring you to this screen:

Cited by

leading you to more articles, and so forth.

Once you have gathered relevant literature for your thesis proposal, it’s time to put it together. If you are writing your thesis in a media-related discipline, you likely have existing studies (or secondary literature) that addresses content and studies that examine media effects.  My advice is to organize the literature in these broad areas with subcategories within.  I recommend putting the content section first so you’ve laid out what the representations are before moving to how they might affect people.

Begin with a topic sentence and then use your words to weave your literature together.  What I mean here is that you don’t just want a grocery list of quotes.  You are steering this ship.

Tips for Writing the Literature Review

  • Begin every paragraph with a topic sentence beforejumping to the next citation.
  • Be mindful of chronology in the literature.  If a study is 30 years old, you need to recognize its age.
  • Let your words move along the thesis, telling us how secondary literature sets up your study. You are steering the ship.  It should not look like this:
    “Johnson found that “BIG QUOTE.” Anderson also said “BIG QUOTE,” which was illustrated by Newton “BIG QUOTE.”  We should know why each of these authors are worthy of inclusion in your literature review (Hint: it’s not to fill space).
  • Don’t write so many details about a study that we forget your purpose and your study.
  • Don’t cite anything you haven’t read. Use Interlibrary Loanand other resources to access the full article and book.
  • Always cite the original source.  Seek it out, read it, then cite it.
  • Be selective of what you include in your literature review.  Every citation should serve a purpose.

Conclude your literature review by establishing the gap in literature and how your study addresses that gap. Remember, this section sets up the foundation for your primary study!

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