Writing the Literature Review (Part One): Step-by-Step Tutorial for Graduate Students

writing the literature review effective

Writing Center tutorial here at the

University of Maryland University

College hello everyone my name is David

Taylor and it's a real pleasure to be

with you today to talk about this thing

right here the literature review you

know I thought a good way to begin today

would be to talk about not what the

literature review is first but to maybe

first talk about what the literature

review is not and one thing that the

literature review is not is that it is

not an essay it is not a research paper

the literature review is part of your

essay the literature review is part of

your research paper or maybe it's a

standalone product if you're in a

master's degree or doctoral degree

program and you have to do that first

but regardless of whether it's part of

your research essay or standalone

product one thing the literature review

does not do it does not state prove

illustrate cooperate or develop your

main points that's in the body of your

essay the literature review does not do

that it does not provide the body or

development section of your essay or

your paper well what the heck does it do


well the literature review is divided

into the following key terms first is

this whole idea of what the heck is the

literature the literature is simply

those major works that have been

published about your narrow topic now

remember I said narrow topic there

because you're not going to be reviewing

every published thing on a broad topic

like steroid use by athletes you're

going to have a more narrow topic like

steroid use by high school athletes or

steroid used by baseball players and so

you're going to be reviewing the major

works just on that narrow topic so

that's the first thing that you need to

know the literature is the published

peer-reviewed sources on a narrow topic

the second thing the literature review

is is that that narrow topic and all

those sources published on it are going

to be reviewed and what the heck is a

review well a review is simply a way of

looking at something and taking a

snapshot of it that's what a review is

and what is that snapshot going to

capture that snapshot is going to

capture the major concepts the major

points the major outcomes the major

whatever in that source it's not going

to be a detailed write-up of that one

source it's going to be a snapshot of it

and then once you get all those

snapshots done you're going to show the

relationships between those snapshots

and in talking about those relationships

you're probably going to be putting them

in some kind of timeline situation maybe

not but the key is that you're going to

be extracting just the major elements

and then the relationships among those

major elements may be on a timeline type

situation now the next thing to know

about the literature review is why the

heck are you doing all this stuff well I

think there are three reasons probably

while you're doing all this stuff in

school and the first one is of course to

improve your own understanding as an

undergraduate researcher coming into

these topics are into this discipline on

the undergraduate level one of the first

things that you have to do is to build

your understanding build your background

build your expertise in a particular

discipline and subjects in that

discipline then and of course in this

paper once you have built your expertise

or your knowledge in this particular

subject you're going to be demonstrating

that knowledge demonstrating that

expertise to your professor because this

is a college assignment but you know

what the real purpose of a literature

review is it's a reader service it's

something you're doing as a favor for

your readers and what are you doing you

are bringing them

up-to-date have you ever had this

experience where you've run into an old

friend after a number of years what's

the first thing you and that old friend

do you ask each other

hey what do you been doing all these

years fill me in update me you're doing

the same thing in a literature review

you're filling them in you're updating

them you and by bringing them up to date

then you can start at the present again

you see what I'm saying

you've kind of bring them along that

timeline of the past letting them know

the key element remember the major

concepts the key elements in your life

and once you're there boom then you can

start and that's the dividing line

between the literature review and the

rest of your paper or the development

you go all their ideas the past scholars

the past researchers boom and then come

your ideas your present life so to speak