A literature review gives your readers an idea about your scholarly understanding of the previous work in your research domain. It requires you to justify your work and demonstrate the importance of your research work with respect to the current state of knowledge. It is a great opportunity for you to examine the previous work and fill any gaps in it which may help you to make it a foundation for your own research.
The role of a literature review and its importance in your thesis can also be seen from here:
Writing a literature review requires gathering loads of information by reading many articles, books, and papers related to your PhD topic. And once you are done with the initial stage, you have to organize the important data collected and discuss it according to your learning. Now, all of this seems quite tedious.
You may have seen many people ranting when they have to write a literature review, and it is totally fine. But, does it help in writing a review? Obviously, no. You have to make this process interesting for yourself to remain focused.
Here are some secrets which can help you to enjoy writing an amazing literature review.
1. Make a Well-Structured Outline:
A literature review is an exhaustive research on the topic under investigation so that you can become an expert on that topic. Therefore, it is important for you to make a well-structured outline before you start writing otherwise you won’t understand where to end as you’ll be having a lot of information. For example, a literature review must include an introduction and conclusion section, you should avoid direct quotations and use paraphrasing instead. Your literature review should be organized according to the theme and should be divided into various headings to shift from one topic to another. You can use comparative terms to agree or disagree with the author and provide your own opinion.
Check out this literature review template to have a more clear understanding of creating a well-structured outline for your literature review: Literature Review Template|Thompson Rivers University
2. Use Synthesis Matrix:
When you are gathering information from a lot of resources, and you have to ultimately gather them in one place then using a synthesis matrix could be very helpful for this purpose. A synthesis matrix is an outline that permits a researcher to sort and arrange the various contentions introduced on an issue. Across the highest point of the chart are the spaces to record sources, and at the edge of the chart are the spaces to record the primary concerns of contention on the current theme.
You can outline your whole literature review and keep a check and balance of which things you have covered and what is left. It simplifies your work greatly and helps in writing a literature review in a very organized manner.
3. Change Your Perspective:
Another important thing that you must do before you start writing a literature review is to change your writing perspective. You don’t have to take it as a burden that Why am I even doing this? Yes, we know it is quite a dull task, but why not enjoy it if you have to do it after all?
Write it for yourself. Question yourself from time to time. Like what information would you like to extract from it while you are reading this review? Would it sound interesting to your self? Would you remain focused while reading this writing style? Will you love this review as a third person? Will this be an interesting thing to read?
When you become your critique you have high chances of improvement. You start writing a review such that you would like to read it yourself, and gradually you can write one interesting literature review for your thesis.
4. Read and Write Simultaneously:
A common mistake that many people make while writing a literature review is that they do all the readings and information gathering first and leave the writing at last. What happens is that they utilize all their energy and focus in the reading phase and when it's time to start the actual writing they feel exhausted and over-worked. Moreover, when they see a blank page in front of them after reading piles of paperwork they get demotivated and feel anxious that how they will manage to write such a long review.
How to avoid this anxiety?
One simple way is to start writing parallel to reading. When you are reading an article or paper, make notes of it or short bullet points. It will help you to keep a track of both what you have read and what you need to add to your literature review. And when you finally start compiling the review you will have your guideline instead of a blank paper which makes it quite easy for you to jot it all down on a paper.
5. Make a Proper Timeline and Stick To It:
Making a proper timeline to write a literature review is crucial. You don’t want to get stuck in it and end up completing your review in a year instead of weeks. To avoid this, take a day or two off, search through the internet or other resources that what helping material you would require reading, and then make a proper timeline of completing them and making notes simultaneously.
It will help you a lot to stay on track.
Here is a sample timeline you could follow: Research Sample Timeline
6. Go Easy On Yourself:
Yes, you heard it. Don’t be so harsh on yourself. Keep days off in your schedule and relax fully on those days. You don’t have to keep reading and writing 24/7, all days a week. Our mind needs to be relaxed on and off to remain functional. If you over-burden yourself you will eventually end up doing absolutely nothing because of over-work.
If you get stuck somewhere, seek help from your supervisor, friends or other resources, Don’t let your shyness or shame keep you away from achieving your target. We are all humans, and we do need help at some point in our lives so don’t discourage yourself to do so.
7. Interpret Your Understanding Comprehensively:
When writing a review you need to portray what you have truly learned from the already published work of other scholars. What many people do is they start cramming information to write a review and end up writing only a summary of that data, They don’t learn and understand anything from it. They just take it as a formality that has to be fulfilled. That is wrong.
You need to have clear concepts and must be able to demonstrate to others what you learned from the previous work and how your work would contribute towards it. This is the true essence of writing a literature review, and it will benefit you the most for your research process.
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