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How to Write a Compelling Literature Review Section and Cite Like a Master


When I review research proposals by students, I usually see they summarize literatures they have reviewed in this format.

In a study conducted in Nairobi shows that prevalence of hypertension was 19%.

Another study conducted in Tanzania showed that the prevalence was 30%. In a simila study conducted in Burkina Faso (where the was a young new president), the prevalence was 70%.

This is inappropriate.

Even if I also once used this format when I was a student. However, I had very good metor and supervisor, these faults ended in the first draft. 

Are you this type of student, struggling to write your literature review summary or falling in this kind of trap of mere listing?

A literature review is an essential part of any research paper, providing an overview and critical analysis of the existing scholarly works related to the topic.

It not only demonstrates your understanding of the subject but also helps to situate your research within the broader academic context.

In this article, we will explore the best practices for writing a compelling literature review section and mastering the art of citation.

1. Scope of Literature Review

One common pitfall that junior researchers often fall into is having a broad scope for their literature review.

It is crucial to define the specific boundaries of your review to ensure a focused and coherent analysis.

For example, if your research topic is “the low proportion of uncontrolled hypertension,” you should narrow down your review to studies that specifically address this issue.

Properly written example: “In a study by Smith et al. (2019), the authors investigated the factors contributing to the low proportion of uncontrolled hypertension among middle-aged adults in urban areas.

Their findings revealed that socioeconomic status and access to healthcare facilities play a significant role in the management of hypertension.”

2. Relevant Literature Review

Another common mistake is inadequate literature search and selection. To write a comprehensive literature review, you need to identify and include relevant studies from reputable sources.

Utilize databases, such as PubMed or Google Scholar, to search for articles that align with your research topic. Be sure to consider recent publications to ensure the inclusion of up-to-date information.

Properly written example: “A systematic search of PubMed was conducted using keywords such as ‘uncontrolled hypertension,’ ‘prevalence,’ and ‘risk factors.’

The search yielded a total of 50 articles published between 2015 and 2020. After screening the titles and abstracts, 25 articles were deemed relevant to the research topic.”

3. Analyze and Synthesize the Literature

One common pitfall is simply summarizing each article without providing a critical analysis or synthesis.

A literature review should go beyond a mere list of studies and instead analyze the findings, identify patterns, and draw connections between different sources. This will help you develop a coherent argument and contribute to the existing body of knowledge.

Properly written example: “The literature suggests that the low proportion of uncontrolled hypertension can be attributed to various factors, including inadequate patient adherence to medication regimens, lack of awareness about lifestyle modifications, and suboptimal healthcare provider-patient communication.

These findings highlight the need for targeted interventions to improve hypertension management.”

4. Organize the Review

Structure and organization are crucial for a literature review to be easily navigable and reader-friendly.

Consider organizing your review thematically, chronologically, or by methodology, depending on what best suits your research question. Use headings and subheadings to guide the reader through the different sections of your review.

Properly written example: “The literature review is organized into three main sections: the prevalence of uncontrolled hypertension, risk factors contributing to poor hypertension management, and interventions to improve hypertension control.

5. Citation of the Literature

Citing your sources accurately is essential to maintain academic integrity and give credit to the original authors.

Follow the citation style specified by your institution or journal guidelines, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago style. Ensure that you include in-text citations for all the sources referenced in your literature review and provide a complete bibliography or references at the end of your paper.

Properly written example: According to Johnson (2018), the prevalence of uncontrolled hypertension has been steadily increasing in recent years.

Similarly, a study by Brown and colleagues (2020) found that socioeconomic disparities contribute to the low proportion of hypertension control among marginalized populations.

Write a Compelling Summary of a Literature Review

Writing a compelling literature review section requires careful planning, critical analysis, and effective citation.

By defining the scope, conducting a thorough literature search, analyzing and synthesizing the findings, organizing the review, and mastering the art of citation, you can craft a literature review that enhances the credibility and impact of your research.

Remember, a well-written literature review not only demonstrates your expertise in the field but also provides a solid foundation for your own research and contributes to the advancement of knowledge in your chosen area of study.

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