Review step 4 "Write your Literature Review" for an explanation of how to write synthetically. Examine the "Literature review paragraph example" to learn how to deconstruct the elements of a literature review. Hover over each highlighted section for an explanation.
Examine the model literature review below.
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?
As you write, consider these ways of expressing your ideas:
Compare and contrast views of different authors.
Criticize previous work.
Highlight gaps in existing research.
Identify problems, conflicts, debates, gaps.
Question previous results.
From: Writing the successful thesis and dissertation, p. 111 by Irene L. Clark
Article Analysis Matrix
Create a matrix by listing the articles you want to analyze in the top row of the matrix, and the major concepts in the far left column. You will then review each article to see what's covered in that article. Describe how the concepts are discussed in each article. When you are done, you will be able to easily see which articles share commonalities, and where there are gaps in the research regarding coverage of certain concepts.
Article Analysis Matrix Example: The impact of sugar intake on heath
Food and drink
Soda consumption (control: none vs. 3 drinks/day)
Carb counting (control: did not count carbs vs. limiting to 300g/day)
Complex vs. Simple carbs (control: eat any carbs in any amount vs. eating only complex carbs 280g/day)
Carb counting (3 groups consuming various grams of carbs/day)
Male and female subjects age 18-22
Male and female subjects age 18-50
Female subjects age 25-45
Male and female subjects age 45-50
Duration of study
Subjects who consumed no soda lost more body fat (%) than those who drank soda 3x's/day
Subjects who limited carbs had lower blood pressure, reported better sleep and more energy
Subjects who ate only complex carbs had more stable blood sugar levels (recorded on a weekly basis)
Subjects who ate fewer carbs reported better sleep; Male participants in the lowest carb group had the lowest blood pressure (recorded on a weekly basis)
Short study; college age participants likely have few health problems to begin with; didn't measure many health factors
Does not take into account different types of carbs (ex: fiber); self reporting may not accurately reflect reality
What does this example matrix tell you? What ideas are well covered in the literature? Which are lacking? What do the different articles have in common?
It may be beneficial to add additional columns (for more articles) or additional rows. The more work you do on the front end, thoroughly analyzing various aspects of each article, the easier it will be to pull it all together in your paper.