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Honors Program Research Guide: The Literature Review

Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review

Marco Puatasso, in Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review, sets out some practical guidelines for the lit review. These are the rules (see the entire article for the expansions on them): 

  1. Define a topic and audience
  2. Search and re-search the literature
  3. Take notes while reading
  4. Choose the type of review you wish to write
  5. Keep the review focused, but make it of broad interest
  6. Be critical and consistent
  7. Find a logical structure
  8. Make use of feedback
  9. Include your own relevant research, but be objective
  10. Be up-to-date, but do not forget older studies

I would add an 11th rule: Do not forget what the literature review is not -- it is not a place to argue your position or present evidence for your conclusion.

Pautasso, M. (2013, July). Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review. PLoS Computational Biology. pp. 1-4. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003149.

WHat is a Literature Review?

A literature review is, simply, an objective overview of the relevant research on a particular topic. It provides context for your research, anchoring it within the discipline. It is not meant to be an exhaustive overview, but it should cover the significant research in your field of study.

It is important to keep track of what you read for your research. A citation manager such as Mendeley can help you organize your research.

An in-depth treatment of writing the lit review is Get LIt: the Literature Review from Texas A & M's University Writing Center.

Library Resources

Here are some resources to help you write your literature review: