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Literature Reviews

General information on how to organize and write a literature review.

Summary vs. Synthesis

Your literature review should not simply be a summary of the articles, books, and other scholarly writings you find on your topic. It should synthesize the various ideas from your sources with your own observations to create a map of the scholarly conversation taking place about your research topics along with gaps or areas for further research.

A Summary:

  • Reports ideas of others
  • Highlights important points of one source
  • Neither supports nor refutes an argument
  • Does not contain your opinion
  • Constructs a narrative from source material with no critical analysis (often arranged in historical order by date of publication)

A Synthesis:

  • Highlights important points AND your observations of the related texts
  • Usually has a specific focus
  • Thesis is defined and supported by various sources
  • Compares and contrasts information from multiple sources; cites multiple sources at once
  • Makes connections between sources (support arguments, refutes arguments, similar and opposing concepts, similar and opposing methodologies, etc.)

Guides on Writing Literature Reviews