Basics of Writing a Research Paper Literature Review

Writing a research paper literature review is a complicated task, and it requires a lot of… well, research. To put it very simply, there are a lot of strict DOs and DONT’s when it comes to writing a research paper literature review. However, what I’ve found is that most people who are expected to write it, don’t really have a strong idea of what those rules are, or what a literature review is even. If you fit into that category, this article is for you.

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What’s a Research Paper Literature Review?

A literature review can either be an introduction to a research paper, or it can be an entire paper. This is usually where you set out the scope of the research, and it should demonstrate to the supervisor why you’ve taken on a particular subject for research.


What a Research Paper Literature Review is NOT

  • It’s not a bibliography or list of sources. It’s an evaluation of their contribution.
  • It’s not a series of quotes and paraphrased chunks of text. It needs original evaluation and input.
  • It should not involve any self-indulgent explanations on why the subject is important. The importance should come through the research itself.

Tips to keep in mind while writing a Research Paper Literature Review

  • Start with an overview of the research subject or theory that you’re studying.
  • Make sure all your ideas flow naturally from one point to the next. There should be a logical connection stringing all your sentences and paragraphs together.
  • Make sure that all the references you use are cited correctly, and they should be both relevant to your research and current.
    Present the various points of view on the subject in a neutral unbiased manner.
  • Divide external works and references into categories and pick a stance either for or against those notions.
  • Your research paper must be positioned in context to the related works that have come before it. There should be an evident connective tissue between your research, and works that have come before it.
  • You need to form a clear conclusion about the works that have most significantly influenced your paper.
  • Through citations you can choose to either lend importance to a particular author, or to a particular message. In either case, they should only be included in your research paper if they add to or support your own postulations.

Which Author to Cite in your Literature Review?

     When you’re considering whether to include an author’s work in your  literature  review, you need to ponder the following questions:

  • Does the author have the right credentials to be writing on a particular subject?
  • Are their opinions unbiased, or at least justified?
  •  Do their theories have credibility in the literary canon?
  •  Do their findings illuminate your own research in any way?

This is by no means an exhaustive resource from which to learn how to write an effective research paper literature review. In this article, I’m only giving you the bare bones, a jumping off point from which you can educate yourself on the nuances of writing a good research paper. However, I hope this article has made the process of writing a literature review seem a little less daunting.

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