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Creating your Literature Review Outline

Once you have selected a topic for your literature review, it is advisable to come up with an outline for the paper. An outline allows you to plan out your writing. It provides guidance for articulation of each idea supporting your thesis. It is, however, important to note that an outline is simply a guide. It needn’t dictate the paper structure. Before you create your paper outline, it is important to have a general idea of the type of structure most favorable for your paper. For example, you may find that chronological arrangement of references favors your argument. In such a case you would favor a chronological outline. For other types of literature reviews, you may find that juxtaposing contrasting citations will substitute your central argument. In this case, a compare/contrast outline will be favorable.

After selecting an outline for the paper, you can now formulate a detailed paper structure. A literature review follows the format outlined below.

Section 1: Introduction

The introduction defines the topic, its scope and relevance to the subject. When writing your introduction, you need to capture the reader’s attention by being clear and concise. The main argument is stated in the form of a thesis. A good formal statement is presented in the form of a single arguable statement. The statement captures your main argument, thereby highlighting the basis of your literature review.

Section 2: Body

The body constitutes the bulk of you literature review. In this section, you discuss the subject in the context of existing research. You also appraise sources and compare knowledge resources. This analysis should be thorough and systematic.

Depending on the type of review you are undertaking, you can present literature chronologically or thematically. In the chronological approach, the evolution of knowledge is highlighted showing how research has developed over time. Using thematic approach, similar knowledge is discussed, appraised and contrasted with contrasting schools of thought. Using both approaches, it is important to maintain a cohesive flow of ideas though logical connections and transitions. Do not forget to analyses the methodology of each study discussed, as well as its ramifications for research findings.

When presenting your ideas, it is advisable to start with a general concept before narrowing your argument by including detailed arguments. This approach is useful for readers who may not have in-depth understanding of your topic. Use paragraphs to group similar themes. Include as many paragraphs as necessary to highlight the different arguments in favor of your thesis.

Section 3: Conclusion

Your conclusion wraps up your discussion by pointing out the key strengths of your argument and the weaknesses of divergent opinion. It summarizes the insight derived from the literature review, highlighting how it supports the thesis. The conclusion should be short, ideally a couple of paragraphs. This allows you to sum up your argument comprehensively but precisely.

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