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.
It could be from five sources at first year undergraduate level to more than fifty for a thesis. Keep a note of the publication title, date, authors’ names, page numbers and publishers. Each body paragraph should deal with a different theme that is relevant to your topic.
You will need to synthesise several of your reviewed readings into each paragraph, so that there is a clear connection between the various sources.
Summarize individual studies or articles with as much or as little detail as each merits according to its comparative importance in the literature, remembering that space (length) denotes significance.
Provide the reader with strong “umbrella” sentences at beginnings of paragraphs, “signposts” throughout, and brief “so what” summary sentences at intermediate points in the review to aid in understanding comparisons and analyses.
Sonja Foss and William Walters* describe an efficient and effective way of writing a literature review.
Their system provides an excellent guide for getting through the massive amounts of literature for any purpose: in a dissertation, an M. thesis, or an article or book in any field of study.
To learn more about literature reviews, take a look at our workshop on Writing Literature Reviews of Published Research.
An important strategy for learning how to compose literature reviews in your field or within a specific genre is to locate and analyze representative examples.