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A literature review is different from a research paper. The purpose of an academic research paper is to express and document an original idea. A literature review can be part of the process of writing a research paper or it can also be a stand-a-lone project, however the goal is not to illustrate an original thesis.
In a research paper, the literature is the starting point; a building block and evidence of a new insight.
The goal of the literature review is only to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of others. It is not the forum for your original idea.
There are a number of differing descriptions of the purpose of a literature review. Primarily it is a tool for
❖ researching the history of scholarly publication on a topic
❖ becoming aware of the scholarly debate within a topic
❖ a summary or restatement of conclusions from research which has been published
❖ synthesis or recombining, comparing and contrasting, the ideas of others.
❖ evaluate sources
❖ search for gaps
A literature review provides a comprehensive overview of a topic, supporting the fundamental purpose of a research paper, which is to present a new point of view or insight on a topic. The literature review supports the new insight. It does not present or argue for it.
• Choose a topic
• Find research
• Organize sources/notetaking
• Evaluate Sources: be methodical. Have a step by step process in place for each source as you read it. This might include a folder for research on an author, categories for the main topics of articles, time periods, or other aspects.
• Connect it all together- the review is not meant only as a restatement of earlier research but the basis for a new conclusion about the topic. Think of this phase as a narrative.
There are various ways of organizing the literature review process- if one of these seems closer to your purpose, try it out.