Summarize major contributions of significant studies and articles to the body of knowledge under review, maintaining the focus established in the introduction.
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Academic Writing: Writing a Literature Review
A literature review summarizes, interprets, and critically evaluates existing “literature” (or
published material) in order to establish current knowledge of a subject. The purpose for doing
so relates to ongoing research to develop that knowledge: the literature review may resolve a
controversy, establish the need for additional research, and/or define a topic of inquiry.
The purpose of a literature review
The purpose of your literature review is to establish current knowledge on an aspect that relates
to legal and ethical issues within the practices of professional nursing. The literature review is a
What format should I use?
A literature review is as aspect of formal academic writing so include:
? Define or identify the general topic, issue, or area of concern, thus providing an
appropriate context for reviewing the literature.
? Point out overall trends in what has been published about the topic; or conflicts in theory,
methodology, evidence, and conclusions; or gaps in research and scholarship; or a single
problem or new perspective of immediate interest.
? Establish the writer’s reason (point of view) for reviewing the literature; explain the
criteria to be used in analyzing and comparing literature and the organization of the
review (sequence); and, when necessary, state why certain literature is or is not included
? Group research studies and other types of literature (reviews, theoretical articles, case
studies, etc.) according to common denominators such as qualitative versus quantitative
approaches, conclusions of authors, specific purpose or objective, chronology, etc.
? Summarize individual studies or articles with as much or as little detail as each merits
according to its comparative importance in the literature, remembering that space (length)
? Provide the reader with strong “umbrella” sentences at beginnings of paragraphs,
“signposts” throughout, and brief “so what” summary sentences at intermediate points in
the review to aid in understanding comparisons and analyses.
? Summarize major contributions of significant studies and articles to the body of
knowledge under review, maintaining the focus established in the introduction.
? Evaluate the current “state of the art” for the body of knowledge reviewed, pointing out
major methodological flaws or gaps in research, inconsistencies in theory and findings,
and areas or issues pertinent to future study.
? Conclude by providing some insight into the relationship between the central topic of the
literature review and a larger area of study such as a discipline, a scientific endeavor, or a
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