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SWK 450: Applied Research: Steps in Writing a Literature Review

This subject guide will assist you in finding books, journal articles, and websites, as well as assist you in developing your research skills using the recommended resources.

1. Find a focus

A literature review is organized around ideas, not the sources themselves. As you read widely but selectively in your topic area, consider what themes or issues connect your sources together. Do they present one or different solutions? Is there an aspect of the field that is missing? How well do they present the material and do they portray it according to an appropriate theory? Do they reveal a trend in the field? Pick one of these themes to focus the organization of your review.

2. Construct a working thesis statement

Use the focus you’ve found to construct a thesis statement. Your thesis statement will not necessarily argue for a position or an opinion; rather it will argue for a particular perspective on the material.

3. Consider organization

What is the most effective way of presenting the information? What are the most important topics, subtopics, etc., that your review needs to include? In what order should you present them? Develop an organization for your review:

  • Cover the basic categories :an introduction or background information section; the body of the review containing the discussion of sources; and, finally, a conclusion and/or recommendations section to end the paper.
    • Introduction: Gives a quick idea of the topic of the literature review, such as the central theme or organizational pattern. 
    • Body: Contains your discussion of sources and is organized chronologically, thematically, or methodologically (see below for more information on each). 
    • Conclusions/Recommendations: Discuss what you have drawn from reviewing literature so far. Where might the discussion proceed?
  • Consider how you will present the sources within the body of your paper. Create an organizational method to focus this section even further.

4. Begin Composition

  • Use evidence Your research must be backed up with evidence
  • Be selective Select only the most important points in each source to highlight in the review. 
  • Use quotes sparingly
  • Summarize and synthesize Remember to summarize and synthesize your sources within each paragraph as well as throughout the review.
  • Keep your own voice
  • Use caution when paraphrasing Be sure to represent the author’s information or opinions accurately and in your own words.

5. Revise

REVISE, REVISE, REVISE!!!

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