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A review is a required part of grant and research proposals and often a chapter in theses and dissertations.Generally, the purpose of a review is to analyze critically a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles.The ability to review, and to report on relevant literature is a key academic skill.
The following collection of annotated sample literature reviews written and co-written by colleagues associated with UW-Madison showcases how these reviews can do different kind of work for different purposes.
Use these successful examples as a starting point for understanding how other writers have approached the challenging and important task of situating their idea in the context of established research.
In the conclusion, you should: 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.
In the introduction, you should: 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.
Your interpretation may be self-evident to you, but it may not be to everyone else.
You need to critique your own interpretation of material, and to present your rationale, so that your reader can follow your thinking.
This Study Guide explains why literature reviews are needed, and how they can be conducted and reported.
Related Study Guides are: Referencing and bibliographies, Avoiding plagiarism, Writing a dissertation, What is critical reading? The focus of the Study Guide is the literature review within a dissertation or a thesis, but many of the ideas are transferable to other kinds of writing, such as an extended essay, or a report.