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Guidelines for writing Literature Essay

When writing a review of literature, your job is to present what is known about a specific topic and to synthesize all the unconnected threads of the individual studies into an integrated “State of the Science” type of review. In your essay you will outline the overall picture of your topic area it is currently understood by scientists in that field. Your paper should clearly outline any problems that are currently being addressed, and explain the basis of any conflicts that exist between experts in the field. If there are important conflicts as a reviewer you are in a position to suggest which side of the conflict has the weight of evidence supporting it and why. For conflicts which, in your opinion, do not yet have a clear resolution, you are also in a position to makes suggestions as to the types of experiments need to be done to resolve those arguments.

Your review essay should have the following sections:

  • Title: As for a research paper, this should be short and inform your reader of the major ideas that will be discussed.
  • Abstract: Again this should be written last and should summarize the major points made within the body of your paper.
  • Introduction: Your introduction should be short and concise (ca. 1page). The purpose of the introduction is to introduce your reader to the ideas that you will be addressing in the body of your paper.In your introduction you should be trying to bring readers from different backgrounds up to speed with the “thesis” or objective of your paper and explain to them why it is that this issue is important. It is not a review of the field… that is what the body of the paper is for! It is generally written after the body of the paper is completed (so that you know where you’ve “gone” intellectually in the paper and thus can effectively communicate to your reader what to expect).
  • Body: In this portion of your paper you will outline the background for your idea and begin to synthesize ideas from the papers you’ve read in order to build a coherent “thesis”. Before you write this section, figure out what your perspective is going to be (what are you trying to show?). Having done this, try to present your ideas in such a way that they build your discussion logically towards your goal. Outlines will be a big help to you at this stage. Frequently using headings (e.g. History of the idea, Specific conflicts etc.) can help you to systematically address each important point that you wish to make, as well as helping your reader to follow your arguments. Once you’ve developed your headings you can then go back and place topic sentences for each paragraphs of information you wish to convey under the appropriate heading. Each paragraph should have clear, well thought out points, and should contain only the information needed to make or support that point. Fill in each paragraph with more details until you have a coherent argument building towards your final, concluding statement.
  • Conclusion: Like the introduction, the conclusion section is not usually separated from the body of the paper, although it can be if it is really long. In this section you should restate the objective(s) of your paper and point out how you have satisfied these goals. It should also reiterate what the major conclusions (ideas) of your study are.
  • Literature Cited. APA format of Citation will be followed.

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