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Certain elements usually appear in literature reviews, and the student who has to write a review may make good headway in the project by figuring out how to incorporate these elements. They are an introduction, a summary of the chosen text, an analysis of the text, and a conclusion.

The introduction in literature review pieces usually begins with an idea or quote that grabs the reader's attention. Then, it connects that catchy opening sentence with the rest of the review by using some type of transitional phrase, such as, "In his astonishing work Moby Dick, Herman Melville accomplishes that very thing." The review writer may then include a very brief biographical sentence or two about the author of the text and his or her credentials, if it is relevant to the literature.

In literature reviews, the summary usually does not take up much space. One may write an adequate summary for a literature review by mentioning only the ideas that appear in the work's table of contents; this method will keep the student from including nonessential details that demand too much of the length of the review. If the work under review does not have a table of contents, one should summarize the text's content by including only the main idea of each section of the text.

The analysis is by far the most important section in literature reviews, because it tells the review reader what the text does well and what it does poorly so that the reader may know what to expect from it. An analysis should strive to present a balanced opinion about the text, neither exclusively praising it nor exclusively criticizing it unless it specifically and unequivocally merits such a review. The review writer may critique the text's methodology, its information, its style or presentation, its contribution to the field, and many other aspects of the text.

Finally, the conclusion in literature review pieces should recap why the review reader should or should not read that work of literature. Like the introduction, it should be catchy and memorable.


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