Part 1: Recognizing Synthesis of Multiple Sources: Creating an Outline as Your Early Draft
If you’ve ever assembled a jigsaw puzzle then you know that each piece makes a contribution to the whole puzzle, the whole story. Writing a literature review is a bit like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. All of the individual pieces (the sources’ arguments) must be put together in order to reveal the whole picture, which in the case of the literature review, is the current state of thinking about your selected topic. As a literature review is different than an annotated bibliography, which presents source summaries one after the other, it can be challenging to structure and organize your research so that you’re showing the current state of knowledge on your topic.
Where do you begin? Your goal as a researcher, who has analyzed a body of literature, is to determine the current state of knowledge about your research topic. One of the tools you can use to process the source information, organize your thoughts and research, and shape your Project 3 Literary Review, is an outline.
Skills & Strategies
This Part 1 Assignment will help you to
- build on your information literacy, critical thinking, note-taking, and assessment skills
- assess the credibility and significance of each of your sources
- summarize each source and identify its contribution to the state of knowledge on your research topic
- identify the intersections and connections among your collected research, often represented as key issues, sub-issues, major themes or trends, or topics
- analyze the sources’ major points and points of repetition among the sources’ arguments
- synthesize and organize source material with a goal to shape the conversation on state of knowledge on your research topic
Description (and Step by Step)
For Part 1, you will construct a full sentence alphanumeric outline. Prior to writing your outline, you should consider the following pre-outline questions/steps:
- Summarize and cite your sources using the rhetorical summary model as a guide. Zero in on the key issues each source reveals and the author’s position on each issue.
- Step back and see the key issues that the sources’ arguments reveal when the bigger picture emerges as a result of your synthesis. These key issues are the repeated topics of concern raised by your sources, the intersections/connections, points of agreement, and/or the points of contradictions you have discovered.
- With each key issue the big picture reveals, note any subtopics within the key issues, highlight examples, paraphrase source material, and sparingly use quotes that provide detail.
- Now you’re ready to write your thesis and organize your material by key issues.
The following suggested steps will help you to present the intended content of your literature review and organize that content in a logical, coherent manner:
- Begin with a centered working title for your Project 3 Literature Review
- Construct your thesis, the sentence or two that reveals the current state of knowledge on your topic: the overarching focus of your literature review
- Write topic sentences that introduce at least 4 major key issues. Label these major key issues as Roman Numerals (I, II, III, IV)
- List any key issue subtopics that subdivide the major key issues further. Label these key issue subtopics in capital letters (A, B, C, etc.)
- Note supporting points or arguments as evidence (examples, paraphrased material, brief quotes) for each key issue. Label this evidence in Alpha numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.).
- If applicable, continue to sub-divide each supporting point until your outline is fully developed. Label any subdivisions in lower case letters (a, b, c, etc.).
You want to identify at least 4 key issues (and subsequent sub-issues if they exist) so that you have enough material related to the current state of thinking on your research topic.
Try to be as complete as you can in the details you provide (examples, paraphrased material, brief quotes) from your source material. By being thorough, you will have (1) more information to draw from, (2) an organization pattern to follow, and (3) a solid reference guide to transfer to the writing of your literature review.
While you want to quote from the research when the way something is said is unique and critical to the understanding of the argument, be careful not to overquote or use long or block quotes; otherwise.
Part 2: Advancing Your Synthesis: Writing the Intermediate Draft of Your Literature Review
By completing your Part 1 Outline, you’ve done much of the preparatory work in analyzing, synthesizing, and organizing your intermediate draft. You have already analyzed the literature on your selected topic, synthesized how each source contributes to the current state of knowledge on your selected topic, and organized the current thinking that surrounds your research topic by key issues and sub-issues that address the intersections/connections and repetitions of the sources’ concerns regarding your research topic.
Now you are ready, in Part 2, to advance your literature review by writing your intermediate Project 3 draft.
Skills & Strategies
This Part 2 Assignment will help you to
- demonstrate responsiveness within an established disciplinary context to new information, experiences, and ideas through a process of re-evaluating the ideas and/or approaches
- identify and develop organizational strategies that contribute to the effective delivery of information and argument
- analyze rhetorical effectiveness of a variety of print and non-print sources
- evaluate relevant sources according to their contexts, rhetorical situation, usefulness, and credibility for specific research tasks
- summarize research sources through effective annotation, note-taking, quotation, citation, and paraphrase
- synthesize disparate or conflicting thoughts when evaluating questions/problems to form cohesive and collaborative solutions
Description (and Step by Step)
Part 2 is a 1,000 – 1,200-word literature review draft that advances the current state of knowledge on your selected topic in an organized pattern.
While the Part 1 Outline helped you to identify the sources’ contribution of knowledge on your research topic, frame your thesis statement, and define the key issues/sub-issues that will facilitate your organizing your literature review, the writing of the intermediate draft will extend your literature review as you more fully demonstrate the current state of knowledge surrounding your selected topic.
At least six sources are required for this Intermediate Draft. Your six sources should include a combination of public and scholarly sources.
The following steps will help you to further develop your Part 2 Intermediate Draft:
- Consider your purpose in writing the literature review: to demonstrate your understanding of the current state of thinking on your research topic by synthesizing various viewpoints and logically organizing information.
- In Part 2, you will aim for a clear and cohesive essay that integrates those key issues and literature details that reveal the current state of knowledge on your research topic.
- Begin with a creative title that reflects the current state of knowledge of your research topic.
- In the introduction, explain the overarching focus of your literature review and establish why your research topic being reviewed is important. Conclude your introduction with your thesis statement, the sentence or two that reveals the current state of knowledge.
- Divide the body of your literature review into the key issues and sub-issues you identified in your analysis of the current literature. As a reminder, these key issues and sub-issues represent the major themes, points, topics, important trends, intersections, and findings about which researchers agree or disagree. The key issues/sub-issues will represent an organized section of the literature review and will be used as a path for further discussion in the body of your literature review.
- Introduce each key issue/sub-issue with a topic sentence that describes the synthesis. Details that follow the topic sentence should describe the literature and include source identification and evidence in the form of examples, brief quotes, and paraphrases.
- Be sure to use clear transitions as you introduce sub-issues and sources.
- Provide source citations according to the required guidelines.
- Write a conclusion to your literature review that highlights the presented evidence and that demonstrates any possibilities for future research/action.
- Proofread your literature review.
- Focus on analysis, rather than a summary/description of what research has been done.
- Divide body sections into key issues/sub-issues, rather than on the individual work of the researchers.
- Review the topic sentences of each paragraph to be sure that they link back to your thesis and demonstrate a logical progression of ideas and evidence from beginning to end.