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Full Version: Guidelines for Writing a Literature Review
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What is a literature review?
A literature review is a select analysis of existing research which is relevant to your topic, showing how it relates to your investigation. It explains and justifies how your investigation may help answer some of the questions or gaps in this area of research.

Objectives of a Literature Review:
Students should try to accomplish the following four important objectives in preparing a literature review:
• The review should provide a thorough overview of previous research on the topic.
• The review should contain references to important previous studies related to the research question that are found in high quality sources such as scholarly books and journals.
• The review should be succinct and well-organized.
• The review should follow generally established stylistic guidelines. This conveys to readers that the author is familiar with scholarly publication style, and that can add legitimacy to the author’s work.

The Process of Writing a Literature Review
1. Conduct the literature search
Find out what has been written on your subject. The number of references depends on what the literature review is for, and what stage you are at in your studies.
Generally speaking, a reasonable number of references in a literature review would be:
• Undergraduate review: 5-20 titles depending on level
• Masters thesis: 40+ titles
• Doctoral thesis: 50+ titles

Focus on academically authoritative texts like:
• Academic books
• Journals
• Research reports
• Government publications
• Conference proceedings
• Dissertations

2. Read the literature
Take notes as you read the literature. You are reading to find out how each piece of writing approaches the subject of your research, what it has to say about it and how it relates to your own research.
Method of taking notes:
A literature review should be organized according to each subtopic discussed about the larger topic. One option for taking notes that seems particularly helpful in organizing literature reviews is the synthesis matrix.
A synthesis matrix is a chart that allows a researcher to sort and categorize the different arguments presented on an issue. Across the top of the chart are the spaces to record sources and along the side of the chart are the spaces to record the main points of argument on the topic at hand. As you examine your first source, you will work vertically in the column belonging to that source, recording as much information as possible about each significant idea presented in the work. Follow a similar pattern for your following sources. As you find information that relates to your already identified main points, put it in the pertaining row. In your new sources, you will also probably find new main ideas that you need to add to your list at the left.
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