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Review of the Literature


A student who is writing a review of the literature pertinent to his or her thesis should attempt to analyze the material in a way that will be helpful both to the thesis and consequently to the whole field. Because reviews of the literature on a certain subject try to convince others whether or not that literature is worth reading, the student should provide enough information on the literature to give readers an accurate idea of the work's contents, but the review should emphasize an analysis of its strengths and weaknesses.

First, in writing a review of the literature, the student should craft an introduction that catches the reader's attention. Such an introduction may be a compelling quote or an interesting statistic that the literature offers, or it may be a straightforward paragraph that mentions the author of the work, his or her credentials, the title of the book, and its purpose.

Second, the review writer should briefly summarize the contents of the work. In this section, he or she should generally avoid mentioning details; instead, the review should offer a sentence or two on each major point that the work makes. The student who has difficulty determining the major points of the work may follow the work's table of contents as a guide, because the titles of the chapters will show the points that the author believed to be most important.

Third, students should spend a large portion of their reviews of the literature in analysis. In order to write a good analysis, one should identify several strengths and several weaknesses of the work and should argue them authoritatively, citing evidence from the text as well as third-party evidence, if necessary.

Finally, students should write a short conclusion that reprises the points they made in their reviews. Because the conclusion represents the writer's last chance to persuade the reader of his or her perspective, students should craft their conclusions carefully, recapitulating their arguments in as concisely and compellingly as possible.


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