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Literature Reviews

Literature Reviews are typically found in research articles, grant and research proposals, theses, and dissertations. In a literature review the author selects relevant past research and synthesizes it into a coherent discussion. In your review you will not only present the sources but also weave them together in a way that you present a coherent picture of the research available on a subject or in a field.

Literature reviews can be stand-alone projects or be a section in a bigger project, like the introduction in a journal article or a chapter in a dissertation. They exist in order to show mastery of a subject and also to point out how your research may fit within the field. With this in mind, in the literature review you should think of the literature review in narrative terms: you weave the sources together, illustrating the scholarly conversation which has taken place in the field.

When academics talk about "reviewing" the "literature" what they mean is that a writer searches for sources (oftentimes scholarly), reads them, provides an overview of the field, describes or summarizes the sources, and, lastly, evaluates them. Your review should identify major themes, recurring concepts, and/or critical gaps. It can be organized in different ways, too. The organization depends on your literature review's guiding idea: you could focus on the major works, recurring themes, or order of publication, among others. Also, keep in mind that depending on the topic, you may need a broad overview or you may need a narrow focus (by ethnic group, by class, by gender, by time period, etc).

When you are going to work on a literature review you need to:

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Revised: 07/2012

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Meet the writer: Rute Muniz. KU undergrad, majoring in social work with a minor in public policy. First-year student from Brazil. Long-term goal: work to end child trafficking, both by helping single individuals and by making a difference on a global scale in terms of policy. Office Assistant at the KU Writing Center. “Writing is one of my basic needs. Not that I will physically die if I don’t write, but I will lose my glow, part of my personality. I write everywhere, anytime I feel inspired: at my classes, in the hallways, at my room, in my mind. I write to express how I feel, what I want to feel, and what I need to feel. I write to release forgiveness. I write to question, to argue, but also to think over things. I write to define who I am and distort what I once defined. Even if it is a paper for a class, I am always trying to make sense of it in my life. I write for many or for a few, for the called sane and the called crazy, because I have a little bit of both of them in me.” Want to hear more from Rute? Follow her on Twitter @callherute and Instagram @rutecmuniz. #writersofku #thisiswhatawriterlookslike (Photo credit: Katie Elliott)
"Writing is one of my basic needs. I write to define who I am."--Rute Muniz, KU 1st-year #thisiswhatawriterlookslike http://t.co/TzNBqvbMmZ


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