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Writing a Literature Review: Step 5: Writing the Review

This guide is designed to help students writing a literature review for a Master's level project or paper. It can also be adapted to use with a large research project at other levels.

The Research Process

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Help with writing

The Graduate Writing Center is available to help you with writing projects.  Use this link for more information, or to make an appointment.


Writing Suggestions

Here are some general suggestions for organizing your paper.

  • Abstract
    • Include a statement about the context of your topic
    • Include your thesis statement
    • Include a descriptive statement about the types of litererature covered in the review
    • Provide a summary of your findings
    • What conclusions can be drawn from your findings
  • Introduction
    • Identify the general topic or issue
    • Describe overall trends in what has been published about the topic
    • Establish your reason(point of view) for reviewing this literature
    • Explain any criteria you have used in comparing literature and the overall organization of the review
    • If necessary, state why certain literature is not included (scope note)
  • Body
    • Group items by common factors (theme, school of thought, etc.)
    • Decide on an overall organization for your review.  It might be chronological, by method used, or by theme, for example
    • Summarize individual articles or items with as much or as little detail as the item merits, based on its comparative significance in the literature.  The more space you give something is a sign of its significance.
    • Start each paragraph with a strong sentence, and provide summary statements periodically in the paper to help readers understand your analysis
  • Conclusion
    • Summarize the major contributions from the significant studies in your review
    • Evaluate the current "state of the art" for the topic you reviewed, pointing out any gaps or flaws you found, inconsistencies in theory, and issues that need additional study
    • Wrap it up by showing how this review is related to a larger area of study, discipline, or profession.
  • Bibliography
    • Be sure you cite your sources correctly. 
    • See additional information under the "Citing Sources" tab.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism is one activity that is considered a violation of the Academic Integrity Policy at St. Thomas. When a student has been immersed in a subject for months, it is sometimes easy to inadvertently fail to give credit to another writer for their ideas.  These sites will offer ideas and methods to avoid plagiarism.

Contact me for assistance

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Conrad Woxland
Charles J. Keffer Library | MOH 206F
Subjects: Education, Psychology