Writing a literature Review

Purpose:  Beyond simply reporting the findings of others, the literature review requires you to make connections between sources through comparison and contrast of results and ideas.

Skills:  The purpose of this assignment is to help you practice the following skills that are essential to your success in college and in your professional life beyond school.  In this assignment you will:

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  • Access and collect information from peer reviewed academic sources of psychological research (psychology is everything and strives to be unbiased)
  • Critically analyze findings to develop informed views (critical thinking)
  • Compose a well organized, clear, concise report to expand your knowledge on a topic in the field of psychology (communication skills)


√ This paper will be 1/3 of your semester papers (1/3 of 20% of your grade overall).

√ Due in Canvas no later than Friday 12/4 at 11:59pm – NO LATE PAPERS WILL BE ACCEPTED – NO EXCEPTIONS.

√ Must contain at least 2 peer reviewed journal articles and be in APA style (including typed, 12 point font, running heads, page numbers, and double spaced).

√ Must include a Title/cover page, References page and in-text citations (using APA formatting) for anything that is quoted, summarized, or paraphrased.  Keep in mind that anything that is not an original idea or paraphrases 7+ words must use quotations.  It is better to over-cite than to under-cite, to avoid plagiarism.

√ 3-4 pages (not including Title Page or References).

Literature Review Sections:

    1. Title page
    2. Introduction section, including thesis
    3. Body of Paper, including summary, analysis and synthesis
    4. Conclusion, including relation to an intended study or future directions
    5. References page

Resources:  The following tools have been provided in our Canvas module:

  • Finding sources for your psychology papers (includes a library contact for help)
  • Plagiarism
  • APA paper example of style formatting
  • Grading Rubric

Task – Writing a Literature Review:

  1. Include a thesis statement that reflects your assessment of the sources and how they contribute to the chosen topic.
  1. Choose which articles you will cover and assess the material
  • Do not try to include every article you encountered. Choose the ones that address your research question most directly and that are most current (unless you need to include a landmark study).
  • Take careful notes including:
    • A brief summary of each article
    • Definitions of key terms (note if they differ)
    • Emphases, strengths, weaknesses
    • Research methods used
  1. Critically analyze the material, rather than just summarizing it.
  • Look for holes, unanswered questions and weaknesses in methods or scope.
  • Relate the information in one article to that of the others. Do they confirm or contradict each other? Can you identify any trends or patterns over time?
  • Identify any gaps in the literature. Speculate about the reasons for that and indicate what needs to be studied in the future.
  1. Plan how you will organize your analysis into an essay.
  • Decide what argument you will make about the available information and how it fits in with your research topic/question.
  • Create a topic outline that traces that argument with appropriate explanation from your notes and evidence from the research.
  1. Write the essay:
  2. Indicate why the subject is important.
  3. State explicitly what will and will not be covered.
  4. Clearly state your argument about these articles (not the topic) in a thesis statement.
  5. Integrate key details from the literature that support your point of view.
  6. Discuss how each individual article contributes to the knowledge on this subject.
  7. Describe any limitations of the studies or gaps in the research.
  8. Include your evaluations and conclusions.
  9. Use transitions to guide the reader through your argument and make connections between the articles clear.
  10. Format the essay using APA style.
  • Use subheadings, especially in long reviews.
  • Use in-text citations for all information from the sources, whether summarized, paraphrased or quoted.
  • Include a complete References page at the end.
  • Make sure all formatting elements follow APA guidelines.
  • Consult the Writing Center’s other APA information sheets for details and/or The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. and/or Purdue OWL online APA writing resource
  • Submit the paper via the assignment portal on Canvas and through Turnitin to check for plagiarism.


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