Writing a Literature Review

As an undergraduate, one of the challenges you will face is your final year project especially the chapter two which is called Review of Literature or Literature Review; it is therefore necessary that you learn how it is written. The term literature review is not merely a summary of all articles you have reviewed in the course of your project but rather the critical analysis of the relationships between your reviews of other works in relation to your specific topic of interest. Before you begin writing your literature review, you would of course have a thesis and have done your preliminary pages and introduction.

The first thing you would do is to collate list of works that you would be reviewing. For example if you working on the theme of Racism in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, you would research on all novels, books and essays on racism that has ever been written; this will guide you through critical works of literature that has been written aforetime. The next would be to skim through the articles, make notes, abstracts and introductions from each of the work you are reviewing. Also, create topics and sub-topics and define terms that your readers might want to know. After this you will outline your review in a tabular form; making sure your ideas are linked to one another. For example:

2.1. Racism as at 19th century

2.2. Evolution of Racist Behaviour

2.3. Racism in Contemporary times

Of course, this is just an example but I am sure it has given you insights into what I am trying to explain. Writing a review can cause a bit of panic but (Galvan, 2006: 81-90) have created a simple and understandable ways to do it:

  1. Identify the broad problem area, but avoid global statements
  2. Early in the review, indicate why the topic being reviewed is important
  3. Distinguish between research finding and other sources of information
  4. Indicate why certain studies are important
  5. If you are commenting on the timeliness of a topic, be specific in describing the time frame
  6. If citing a classic or landmark study, identify it as such
  7. If a landmark study was replicated, mention that and indicate the results of the replication
  8. Discuss other literature reviews on your topic
  9. Refer the reader to other reviews on issues that you will not be discussing in details
  10. Justify comments such as, “no studies were found.”
  11. Avoid long lists of nonspecific references
  12. If the results of previous studies are inconsistent or widely varying, cite them separately
  13. Cite all relevant references in the review section of thesis, dissertation, or journal article
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 Developing a coherent essay (Galvan, 2006: 91-96)

  1. If your review is long, provide an overview near the beginning of the review
  2. Near the beginning of a review, state explicitly what will and will not be covered
  3. Specify your point of view early in the review: this serves as the thesis statement of the review.
  4. Aim for a clear and cohesive essay that integrates the key details of the literature and communicates your point of view (a literature is not a series of annotated articles).
  5. Use subheadings, especially in long reviews
  6. Use transitions to help trace your argument
  7. If your topic teaches across disciplines, consider reviewing studies from each discipline separately
  8. Write a conclusion for the end of the review: Provide closure so that the path of the argument ends with a conclusion of some kind. How you end the review, however, will depend on your reason for writing it. If the review was written to stand alone, as is the case of a term paper or a review article for publication, the conclusion needs to make clear how the material in the body of the review has supported the assertion or proposition presented in the introduction. On the other hand, a review in a thesis, dissertation, or journal article presenting original research usually leads to the research questions that will be addressed.



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