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Writing: Literature Review Basics

Writing an Introduction

The job of an introduction is to preview what you are going to say so the audience knows what is coming.  A good introduction starts out generally and works towards a specific statement of what you intend to discuss in your writing. 

The introduction explains the focus and establishes the importance of the subject. It discusses what kind of work has been done on the topic and identifies any controversies within the field or any recent research which has raised questions about earlier assumptions. It may provide background or history, and it indicates why the topic is important, interesting, problematic, or relevant in some way.  It concludes with a purpose or thesis statement. In a stand-alone literature review, this statement will sum up and evaluate the state of the art in this field of research; in a review that is an introduction or preparatory to a larger work, such as the Culminating Project, it will suggest how the review findings will lead to the research the writer proposes to undertake.

 

In a literature review, an introduction may contain the following:

  1. A concise definition of a topic under consideration (this may be a descriptive or argumentative thesis, or proposal), as well as the scope of the related literature being investigated. (Example: If the topic under consideration is ‘women’s wartime diaries’, the scope of the review may be limited to published or unpublished works, works in English, works from a particular location, time period, or conflict, etc.)  
  2. The introduction should also note what topics are being included and what are intentional exclusions. (Example: “This review will not explore the diaries of adolescent girls.”)
  3. A final sentence should signal the list of key topics that will be used to discuss the selected sources.

 


 

Example

Example:

Many theories have been proposed to explain what motivates human behavior. Although the literature covers a wide variety of such theories, this review will focus on five major themes which emerge repeatedly throughout the literature reviewed. These themes are incorporation of the self-concept into traditional theories of motivation, the influence of rewards on motivation, the increasing importance of internal forces of motivation, autonomy and self-control as sources of motivation, and narcissism as an essential component of motivation. Although the literature presents these themes in a variety of contexts, this paper will primarily focus on their application to self-motivation.

 

Let's break that apart.

Many theories have been proposed to explain what motivates human behavior. Although the literature covers a wide variety of such theories, this review will focus on five major themes which emerge repeatedly throughout the literature reviewed. Topic sentence -- identifies five major themes as the scope of the review.
These themes are incorporation of the self-concept into traditional theories of motivation, the influence of rewards on motivation, the increasing importance of internal forces of motivation, autonomy and self-control as sources of motivation, and narcissism as an essential component of motivation. Lists the five major themes so the reader knows what to expect
 Although the literature presents these themes in a variety of contexts, this paper will primarily focus on their application to self-motivation. Concludes with the specific focus of the review.