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Writing Your Paper

Literature Review 

A literature review is "an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available or a set of summaries." 

Taylor, D. (n.d.). The literature review: A few tips on conducting it [LibGuide]. Retrieved September 23, 2020, from How to prepare an annotated bibliography: The annotated bibliography [LibGuide]. Retrieved September 23, 2020, 

Goals of a Literature Review 

What are the goals of a literature review?

  • To develop a theory or evaluate an existing theory

  • To summarize the historical or existing state of a research topic

  • To identify a problem in a field of research 

When do you need to write a literature review?

  • When writing a prospectus or a thesis/dissertation

  • When writing a research paper

  • When writing a grant proposal

In all these cases, you need to dedicate part of these works to explore what has already been written about your research topic and to point out how your own research will shed new light on the existing scholarship.


Baumeister, R.F. & Leary, M.R. (1997). Writing narrative literature review," Review of General Psychology, 1(3), 311-320.

Literature Review Tips 

Synthesize your findings. Your findings are your evaluation of the literature reviewed: what you consider the strengths and weakness of the studies reviewed; the comparison you did between studies; research trends and gaps in the research that you found while researching your topic, etc...

Across the articles that you read, pay attention to what are the:

  • Common/contested findings

  • Important trends

  • Influential theories

Identifying these elements as you are reading and writing notes about your sources will help you later when you start writing.

  • Do not over quote. If you only quote from every single author you found, then you are not showing any original thinking or analysis. Use quotes judiciously. Use quotes to highlight a particular passage or thought that exemplifies the research, theory, or topic you are researching.

  • Instead, use paraphrasing. Restate the main ideas of a paragraph or section to highlight, in your own words, the important points made by the author.

  • Summarize findings, important sections, a whole article or book: This is different from paraphrasing since you are not re-stating the author's words but summarizing the main point of what you are reading in a concise matter for your readers.

Note: In all cases, do not forget to give credit to these sources since they are not your original ideas but someone else. Check the specific citation style you are using for the appropriate in-text citation format)

Extra Resources

The majority of these sites focus on literature reviews in the social sciences unless otherwise noted. 

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