Helpful Hints for Writing a Literature Review
1. Take A LOT of notes while doing research. If you put each note on a separate note card, when writing your paper all you have to do is put the note cards in a logical order.
2. It is ALWAYS obvious to your teacher when you are copying directly out of a published resource. Take the time to paraphrase the info and write it in your own style. See example below:
Copying Directly: Outdoor shooting ranges are thought to use more than 80,000tons of lead shot and bullets each year. About 4,400 tons of lead fishing sinkers are sold each year in the US. Some states have limited the use of lead shot in heavily hunted areas to minimize the effects of lead in the environment.
Citing a source: Outdoor shooting ranges use more than 80,000 tons of lead shot and bullets each year. Researchers have also found that over four-thousand tons of lead fishing sinkers are sold each year in the United States (Morris, 134). According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, in order to reduce the effects of lead in the environment, some states have limited the use of lead shot in areas that are popular with hunters (dnr.state.mn.us).
3. While a research paper/literature review is intended to be very fact-filled, don’t forget to use transition statements to tie together the facts within a paragraph. Transitions also need to be used between paragraphs. See example below:
No Transition: Greywateraction.org says that gray water is recycled from sinks, dishwashers, bathtubs, showers, and washing machines. Gray water is not taken from garbage disposals, toilets, or diaper pails.
Transition: Greywteraction.org states that gray water is clean, recycled water. It can be taken from many areas in a house including sinks, dishwashers, bathtubs, showers, and washing machines. To ensure safety while using gray water though, it is not recycled from garbage disposals, toilets, or diaper pails.
4. Paraphrasing makes concise wording possible and avoids using direct quotes that don’t add quality to the paper. See example below:
Direct quote: “Most exciting of all, on several occasions they picked small leafy twigs and prepared them for use by stripping off all the leaves. This was the first recorded example of a wild animal not merely using and object as a tool, but actually modifying an object and thus showing the crude beginnings of tool making” (Jackson, 214).
Paraphrase: Jane Goodall was excited when she realized that the chimpanzees were using grass stems as tools to get termites from their mounds. This was the first time that the “crude beginnings of tool making” were shown in wild animals (Jackson, 214).
THE LITERATURE REVIEW
A literature review is a fancy sounding name for a background information paper. The review should contain information and facts that help the reader (probably your teacher) become familiar with your topic or subject area. It should also contain specific information about experiments that scientists have done which relate to your topic area. It should be 2-5 typed pages. The literature review is ABSOLUTELY NOT a paper about your specific experiment. Focus instead on the broader subject area of your topic. Also, do not expect to find scientists who have completed and published the exact experiment you have in mind.
Take lots and lots of notes as you look through books, periodicals (that’s a fancy name for magazines), journals, dvds... on your area of interest. Putting each note or thought on a separate note card is recommended. That way when you actually start to write the paper you just need to arrange the cards in a logical order.
Introductory Information: This is a paragraph or two explaining what your topic is and even stating the question that you hope to answer through your experiment. You may even want to include some implications that your research may have…what could we do with the information you learn in your project?
Background Information: This should be the bulk of the paper. This section gives the reader any information needed in order to understand your project and experiment as a whole. For example if your project is on lead contamination in water supplies then you need to explain why we should be concerned about lead contamination, how water supplies are cleaned, how water supplies could become contaminated with lead, what lead is and its uses…
Related Research: This section is where you inform the reader of research experiments that are related to your topic. DO NOT try to find researchers who have completed your exact experiment. Look for researchers who have experimented in your topic area. DO NOT tell the reader what you plan to do in your experiment -- that is what the research plan is for.
Conclusion: This section should bring the reader back to ideas written in the introduction and tie together all the parts of the paper. At this time you may include a sentence or two on what your experiment is and the question you hope to answer.
Bibliography: This is a complete list of ALL sources you used to write your lit review. A good number to aim for is six to eight varied sources. A more detailed explanation of the bibliography and method of citation is found on another page.