Are you preparing a literature review, but aren’t sure where to start? It’s good to have an outline, no matter what kind of text you’re writing – be it research paper, book analysis, or literature review. Below, we’ll discuss the important elements that make up a literature review, and provide you with a basic literature review outline to help you get organized. Check out this guide for expert advice on how to write the perfect literature review.
What is a Literature Review?
Unlike a book review, which is a consumer-facing analysis of a particular novel’s readability and worth, a literature review is an academic survey of a specific field’s body of work. If you’ve been assigned a literature review as part of a college course, or for something else, it’s important to understand this significant difference. It’s also important to understand the difference between research papers and literature reviews. While research papers contribute new ideas to an academic field, using a specific body of work as a basis for their claims, literature reviews just organize old and trending ideas and arguments from collections for purposes of accessibility. They can act as a syllabus for certain fields, with the writer as tour guide, pointing out the important texts that best define its chosen subject. Literature reviews are often written in the humanities and sciences, to aggregate lab research or academic theory.
Literature Review Elements
What parts make up a literature review? Below, we’ll discuss the different elements that you should include in your paper, and after that, how you should best organize it to suit your needs. Theme Even though literature reviews are like surveys or overviews of a field’s body of work, they still need to have a central theme. Perhaps you want to emphasize a startling new trend in your chosen subject, or just select the unifying theme from your collection of texts and discuss how and where this theme emerges from the field. Maybe there’s been a particular point of debate in your field that you want to focus on. As an example, let’s say you want to discuss the way independent game developers are beginning to address women’s issues in their work, particularly by including more female characters in their games, or dropping arguably problematic tropes. Your chosen field is game development and digital media, and the theme you wish to address is the recent introduction of feminist discourse to this field. Thesis Statement Even though literature reviews don’t present any new insights to the field, you still need to have a thesis statement that presents to the reader, clearly, what theme, trend, or debate you’ve chosen to address in your paper. In following with the theme we’ve selected, your thesis statement could read something like:
- “In the past five years, feminist discourse has begun to play a more important role in game development and the community at large, with an increase in the amount of playable female characters, and events to address issues related to women’s mistreatment in the industry.”
Your thesis should not make any assertions, or provide any subjective insight about the material that might add a personal angle to it. Instead, it’s just meant to indicate what trend you’re going to be addressing from your chosen field, based on the body of work you’ve researched. Thesis statements aren’t always easy to write. If you need some tips on how to write top-notch thesis statements for your papers, check out this course on quality paragraph and essay writing. Sources You can’t write a literature review without a body of work to examine. Researching your field should be your top priority. Outlining your paper should only come after you’ve collected enough vital sources, done significant amounts of research, recognized a noteworthy trend, and put together a list of relevant citations.
Literature Review Outline
Once you know what you’re writing about, have an effective thesis statement, and a solid collection of work to reference, it’s time to begin outlining your literature review. I – INTRODUCTION
- a. Summary of topic. Give a brief overview of your chosen field, and introduce the topic you’ve decided to discuss within that field. In staying with our example, you could talk about the game industry’s general lack of female characters, and the way male audiences are favored over female ones.
- b. Thesis statement. Here, you will offer up your thesis statement, wrapping up your summary of the topic and identifying the trend you’re going to examine. Just as our sample thesis statement did previously, you would use this area to identify a possible changing point for the game industry, and how certain independent game developers are working to change the status quo.
II – FIRST THEME Here, you’ll provide an overview of your first theme, discuss the way it emerges in your chosen field, and discuss relevant texts as reference. Let’s say here you choose to discuss the acknowledgement of female characters in video games over the last few years.
- a. Sub-theme. You need to break your theme up into parts, to make it easily comprehensible. That is, after all, the point of this. Here, you’ll discuss a facet of your theme, and talk about how that one part helps make up the whole. In sticking with our example, we could talk about ways game developers have chosen to simply add female playable characters in addition to males, and cite the appropriate texts that have examined this trend.
- b. Sub-theme. Continue citing facets of your primary theme. Here, perhaps you could talk about the ways games have chosen to create female characters with practical designs, keeping them equal to their male counterparts. You could cite relevant developer logs, journals, essays, and lectures about this topic.
- c. Sub-theme. Have as many body paragraphs as you need to discuss your point.
III – SECOND THEME Have as many main body paragraphs as you need to cover all aspects of your theme. Continue the example from above. IV – CONCLUSION You want your conclusion to be a couple paragraphs long, in which you wrap up your discussion, and also point out some of the strengths and weaknesses of the literature and texts you’ve chosen to examine.