Skip to main content
Humanities Libertexts

1.5: Review of the Literature

  • Page ID
    7128
  • [ "article:topic" ]

    Overview

    The literature review is the section where you offer summaries of relevant research about your claim or thesis. It is the information upon which your idea rests.

    Primary/secondary sources

    Often your instructor will use the terms “primary” and “secondary” to categorize broadly the kinds of sources he or she expects. Generally, a “primary” source is the original source of information or a report of original discovery. A “secondary” source is one that interprets, analyzes, or otherwise “talks about” the information from a primary source.

    Your instructor will advise you on how many of which to use, but – in general – the more primary sources you can use the better.

    Where to begin

    A good way to find good sources is to do a general search for your claim or subject. Once you find a general source that gives you good information about your subject, look at the sources cited by that source and save them. Use those as a general guide to sources about your subject.

    You may also save several general searches with citation or reference lists and look for authors/texts that are referred to on more than one list. These are going to be good sources.

    Articles from academic journals

    Use the university web page and locate the link to the library. Follow instructions there to locate abstracts and full-text articles about your claim. Once you locate sources that you can use, copy and paste the article and the documentation information into a blank document so you may access quotes, title, author, and citation information without having to type them (copy and paste).

    Note

    BE SURE YOU USE QUOTATION MARKS AROUND ANY QUOTES YOU COPY AND PASTE INTO YOUR PROJECT, AND PROVIDE IN-TEXT CITATION FOR ANY INFORMATION YOU PARAPHRASE OR SUMMARIZE.

    Most Common Question: “How many sources do I need?”

    Your instructor will usually tell you how many sources she expects.

    Otherwise, the best rule of thumb for how many sources to use in your Review of the Literature is to use your sources as a guide. In other words, count the number of sources that your sources cite in their reference sections and average them. If most of your sources cite 10 to 20 sources, then you should look for 12 to 15 sources. If 10 is the fewest number listed, then you should have at least 10.

    If your sources average fewer than 5, then you should use at least 5.

    Write a Summary for each source you find. Below is how to summarize each source.

    Draft Checklist

    checklist

    1. Draft Checklist

    ___Type of selection, title, author, summary phrase.

    ___A statement of what the point to the selection is or seems to be

    ___At least one quote from selection supporting the point

    ___An evaluation statement (assign a value to the selection or to the point of the selection)

    Summarize each source (or article) in the Literature Review section of your project. All four questions should apply to each source you find. A Review of the Literature is comprised of a Summary for each of your sources. 

    Prompts

    Write each Summary by answering the questions below. Think about each one carefully. Then type an answer to the question in a new, blank document. Each answer is a sentence or sentences in the Summary draft, so indent the first answer and place each of the rest of the answers, one after another, in paragraph form.

    checklist

    2. Prompts from Draft Checklist

    1. In the selection (what is the title?), the author (who is the author?) seems to be saying, suggesting, doing, or calling for what (in the whole reading)?
    2. What seems to be the point or main idea of the selection?
    3. What is one phrase, passage, or sentence quoted from the selection that best sums up this point?
    4. In the selection as a whole, you (the student) believe what to be valuable about the point?

    *Phrases in bold are academic phrases you may use in your draft

    If you need help answering these questions, you may use the template below. The template is taken directly from the questions above.

    Template

    3. Template from Prompts

    Summary 1

    In the [insert the kind of writing or the word “selection”] [insert the title of the selection], [insert the author’s name] seems to be [saying, suggesting, etc.] that [insert a sentence-length summary of the whole selection]. The point that [insert author’s last name] seems to be making in this [insert type of selection] is [insert what you think the message or point is here]. This point is best summed up when he says, [insert, using quotation marks, one word, phrase, or statement from selection that sums up point]. The point that [insert author’s last name] makes [insert what you observe to be true or what you value about the selection in general].

    *Phrases in bold are academic phrases you may use in your draft

    Sample Draft

    The draft below is generated from the checklist, prompts, and template above.

    4. Draft from Template

    Summary 1

    In the article “Stimulant use and information processing in ADD children,” J. Smith (1999) seems to be arguing that children must process small bits of information while dealing with language symbols. The point that Smith seems to be making in this article is that teachers teach writing as a “holistic” activity, even though it is better for ADD kids, especially ones who are taking medication, to learn in smaller bits of information. Smith best sums up this point by saying, “The data suggests that short, linear activities lead to more effective processing for ADD children, especially adolescents” (p. 4). This point is important because reinforces the idea that many factors go into how a person processes or thinks about an activity and that a person is much more likely to learn when a teacher knows something about how that person processes information.

    *Phrases in bold are academic phrases you may use in your draft

    Note

    Use only first initials with authors at all times to avoid identifying the gender of the author

    Tutorial

    How to answer the prompts

    Prompt 1

    In the selection (what is the title?), the author (who is the author?) seems to be saying, suggesting, doing, or calling for what (in the whole reading)?

    Opening Statement (1 sentence, indented)

    The answer to this question forms the opening statement to your summary. Use the pattern below to get started.

    A template for an Opening Statement to your Summary:

    In the [insert the kind of writing or the word “selection”] [insert the title of the selection], [insert the author’s name] seems to be [saying, arguing, suggesting, etc.] that [insert a sentence-length summary].

    Example Opening Statement:

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):

    In the article “Stimulant use and information processing in ADD children,” J. Smith (1999) seems to be arguing that children must process small bits of information while dealing with language symbols.

    Note

    Each time you summarize or paraphrase an author’s ideas, cite the author’s last name and the publication date of the article in parentheses.

    Prompt 2

    What seems to be the point or main idea of the selection?

    Summarizing the Point (1 sentence)

    Put into your own words the “message,” “main idea,” or “point” that the author seems to be making.

    A template for Summarizing the Point:

    The point that [insert author’s last name] seems to be making in this [insert type of selection] is [insert what you think the message or point is here].

    Example Statement for Summarizing the Point:

    Example \(\PageIndex{2}\):

    The point that Smith seems to be making in this article is that teachers teach writing as a “holistic” activity, even though it is better for ADD kids, especially ones who are taking medication, to learn in smaller bits of information (Smith, 1999).

    Prompt 3

    What is one phrase, passage, or sentence from the selection that best sums up this point?

    Quoting a Passage (1 sentence, with phrase, passage, or sentence quoted)

    Example answer:

    Example \(\PageIndex{3}\):

    Smith best sums up this point when he says, “The data suggests that short, linear activities lead to more effective processing for ADD children, especially adolescents” (p. 4).

    Please note: the quote is part of my sentence – it does not stand alone. Always incorporate your quotes into a sentence.

    Prompt 4

    How can I summarize the point?

    Summary Statement (1 or more sentences)

    This is a statement that summarizes what you observe generally to be true about the point as you understand it.

    A template for a Summary Statement:

    The point that [insert author’s last name] makes [insert what you observe to be true about the point in general].

    Example Summary Statement

    Example \(\PageIndex{4}\):

    The point that Smith makes reinforces the idea that many factors go into how a person processes or thinks about an activity and that a person is much more likely to learn when a teacher knows something about how that person processes information.

    • Was this article helpful?