Literature Review

Before we go too far, keep in mind that we are only developing a draft here. You and your Facilitator will be reviewing and developing this Literature Review over and over again – adding more and more elements until you are ready to turn in your final draft. According to my calculations, that means you have eight more weeks to develop this, since your final draft is not due until the end of your next course. So, do not get too stressed out. Yes, we have a lot of work to do, but you will have time to develop your skills.

Keep in mind that the purpose of your Literature Review is to merge the research you are doing and illustrate it in a unique way. This means it is more than just summarizing what you are reading, but helping your reader understand what is out there about the subject and help them interpret all that information.

To do that, you will need to choose a way to present your discoveries. While there is no specific requirement about how your information should be organized or structured, students commonly choose one of two ways: Chronological or Thematic. We have provided a brief description and example below to help you decide which approach might be best for you.



This approach allows you to develop your literature review in the same way the topic has been developed through the literature. By choosing this layout you are simply illustrating how the topic has developed over time, presenting different research and describing how the topic has evolved. While some view this as an easier approach, it does make it more difficult to synthesize information or address a specific approach, since you are obligated to follow the progression of the topic.

This approach allows the writer to synthesize information into discrete (distinct) concepts, perspectives, or structures. By choosing this layout you have the opportunity to develop specific topics and illustrate how information on your topic can be treated together. This approach has many advantages, however it does require the writer to integrate research and make assertions by integrating research.

Example Chronological Outline

  • 1. Corporal Punishment Historical References and Perspectives
  • 2. Corporal Punishment: Founding of the American Colonies – 1900
  • 3. Corporal Punishment: The Emergence of an American Perspective (1900-1960’s)
  • 4. Corporal Punishment: The Modern Debate

Example Thematic Outline

  • 1. Definitions of Corporal Punishment
  • 2. The Arguments for Corporal Punishment
  • 3. The Arguments Against Corporal Punishment
  • 4. What the Research Says: Benefits of Corporal Punishment
  • 5. What the Research Says: Harms of Corporal Punishment
  • 6. What the Research Does Not Say

Okay – Did you chose an approach? Don’t worry, you can always switch, but time is an issue for us. So, the best advice we can give is just choose and approach and go with it. We can deal with revisions later, but we need to get started.

Okay – Ready? – Here we go!

While a graduate or professional literature review may cite more than 100 sources, let’s not get too crazy! While this is not a specific requirement, a good undergraduate literature review will reference approximately 20 sources. This is enough to provide a basic foundation through which to show your expertise. However, as you become more familiar with your topic and begin to see the sources others have cited, you may want to expand your review of the literature.

On the other hand, using limited sources means that you will need to be very picky about what sources you choose to include. You will want to be sure that the studies you are referencing clearly speak to your topic and provide good evidence to support your conclusions.

Using your approach (Chronological or Thematic) begin your review. It might help to use the following outline to help guide your review:

  • – Describe the study or source
  • – Compare studies, highlighting how they agree or disagree
  • – Evaluate the studies. Who was included? What was the size of the sample? Were their ethical issues? Does the study address your research question?
  • – What are the implications of this study?

In the Resource Section there are some example papers you can reference. The Literature Reviews typically begin a few pages in. Your facilitator might also be able to provide further explanation or provide further resources.

By the end of this week, you will need to submit a draft of your Literature Review. At minimum, you should submit a working outline that clearly indicates the sections of the literature review, even if the writing related to some of these sections is undeveloped (meaning some of it should be developed). Your Facilitator should be able to determine that you have a firm grasp on the subject at large.


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