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Mastering synthetic writing is key to a successful literature review. Use these resources to learn how to analyze the articles you want to use for your literature review, keep track of common themes using an article analysis matrix, and how to convert the notes in the analysis matrix into a piece of synthetic writing.
Think of working on your literature review as a multi-step process:
Identify a topic.
Find research articles on that topic.
Read and analyze each article. (Use the Individual Article Analysis Worksheet)
Compare all of the themes addressed in the articles. (Use the Article Analysis Matrix)
Use your notes from the article analysis matrix to decide how to organize your literature review (make an outline).
Write your literature review by discussing one theme at a time--how is this theme covered in the literature?
Your literature review will also need an introduction and a conclusion. Some students like to start with the introduction, while others find it is easier to write the introduction after they have written the body of their literature review.
Don't forget to include References at the end of your paper (and to cite them properly within the text)!
After completing the Individual Article Analysis Worksheet for each of your articles, use this Article Analysis Matrix to compile all of the information you have gathered. Use the Example Article Analysis Matrix below as a guide to get started.
To give you some examples of writing a literature review and an article analysis matrix to keep track of the themes of your articles, I have created a partial literature review and corresponding analysis matrix to demonstrate. My topic is the special education early intervention program called First Step to Success (FSS).
A literature review is not the same as a research paper. The point of a literature review is to synthesize the research of others without making a new argument or scholarly contribution. A literature review is also not an annotated bibliography. You should not write about each study you are reviewing in turn, but instead write synthetically to highlight the current state of the literature.
Key Points to Consider:
The purpose of a literature review is to report the current state of the topic. Literature reviewed should be relatively recent, unless you are delving into the history of the topic.
Discuss different themes within your literature review rather than individual articles. It will help if you pull information from 2-3 articles for each theme you discuss.
All works cited should be both in the text of the literature review and the bibliography
Avoid passive voice (ex: It was found that...); Use active voice ("Smith (2013) reported that...")
Report what the literature says, not what you think
Writing Your Literature Review
The sites below offer a range of considerations and steps for writing the literature review.