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Writing Literature Review


Writing literature reviews can be a highly productive, integral component of one's thesis project, if one chooses a necessary or interesting book to review and thinks about it critically. Because writing literature reviews is a different skill from other forms of academic writing, students may benefit from remembering the following principles.

When students are writing literature review components of their thesis projects, their first task is to read the work of literature thoroughly. The student should decide in advance whether or not to schedule time to read the work more than once; ideally, he or she should read the work at least twice, but time does not always permit. Therefore, if the schedule only allows for a single reading of the work of literature, the student should read carefully, taking notes and writing down any questions that may arise regarding the material. If, however, the student has time to read the book two or more times, he or she should read it quickly one time and then carefully the second or third time. These multiple readings of the same work will help the student realize where the true areas of strength and weakness lie in the text, because in the second or third reading, he or she will be able to retrofit the conclusion of the work onto questionable areas of the argument in order to verify whether the argument is viable.

The second task in writing literature review papers is to express one's thoughts on paper. Because academic literature reviews follow a specific format, the student who has thought critically about the work of literature should have a fairly uncomplicated experience writing. In writing literature reviews, one should include a brief summary of the work, an exposition of the strengths and weaknesses of the text, and a conclusion that states one's opinion of the text in a concise, convincing way. One should write one's opinion on the text in a rational, evidence-based, authoritative way, and one should not offer judgments on the text without specifying why they are valid.


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