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African-American Studies

Literature Reviews

Many assignments require you to write a literature review, a qualitative synthesis and analysis of writings on your chosen topic up to this point. While writing literature reviews can be challenging, the process also helps you hone and distinguish your topic. 

Here is a very simplified guide to writing a literature review:

  1. Use a tool to organize your research. We recommend RefWorks from our main page.
  2. Establish your topic or research inquiry (see Choosing a Topic).
  3. Search our databases on your topic, saving and pinning articles in RefWorks as you find them. During your search, you will discover whether your topic is too broad or too narrow. If possible, limit search results on your topic to 50-100 articles.  If necessary, go back and forth between step 1 and step 2 until you find your footing.
  4. Unpin articles unrelated to your newly-honed topic. Find those that are related and save, browse, or read them.
  5. Identify a theme as a way to summarize and analyze the resources you've found. Do they tell a chronological story? Are there subtopics they all address or partially address? Do they have similar or different methodologies? Are there gaps in the literature? 
  6. Create an outline based on the theme you have discovered. Read and save articles according to your outline.
  7. Write your literature review.
  8. Remember to cite all your sources, both within the text and at the end of your paper. 
  9. Optional: In the conclusion of your literature review, identify what has not been discussed in the literature yet. This is a set-up for your own topic. 

 

Other Resources for Literature Reviews