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HCS340 - Gender and Communication

The Process of Writing a Literature Review

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:

  1. Identify a topic.
  2. Find research articles on that topic.
  3. Read and analyze each article.
  4. Compare all of the themes addressed in the articles, as well as methodology/findings/limitations.
  5. Use your notes from the article analysis matrix to decide how to organize your literature review.
  6. Write your literature review by discussing one theme at a time--how is this theme covered in the literature?
  7. 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.
  8. Don't forget to include References at the end of your paper (and to cite them properly within the text)!

Looking at Models


Examine the model literature review below (pgs 378-380).

  • Look for major ideas.
  • Determine how (and why) the author organized the literature review - thematically, chronologically, or methodologically.
  • Consider what rhetorical devices the author used to walk the reader through this section of their paper.

Ask the following questions as you read. Reflect on why the author made specific decisions in their writing.

Did the literature review...?

- big picture stuff -

  • engage with specialists in one discipline, or generalists in more than one discipline?
  • contain headings throughout to identify different themes/concepts?

- writing conventions -

  • flow in an engaging manner?
  • contain topic and transition sentences in each paragraph?
  • use appropriate citations?
  • put key words or concepts in italics/bold, making them easy to identify?

- analysis/evaluation -

  • describe the relationship of each work to the others under consideration, noting contradictory studies?
  • include major debates among scholars?
  • provide a new interpretation of the topic, or new solution to a problem?
  • trace the intellectual progression of the field, or reveal a new trend in the field?
  • highlight an aspect of the field that is missing?
  • discuss seminal works (influential studies that changed the direction of the field)?
  • explain how the existing literature intersects with their project, and/or how their project complements the existing literature?