Suggestions for preparing and writing a Literature Review

A literature review is a summary of research that has been published about a particular subject. It provides the reader with an idea about the current situation in terms of what has been done, and what we know. Sometimes it includes suggestions about what needs to be done to increase the knowledge and understanding of a particular problem.

The articles used must be from professional journals, which means we can trust that the authors are trained professionals, and others have examined their work. Some studies are more easily read and summarized than others. Be sure you feel comfortable with your choices, since it is difficult to summarize ideas you don't understand.

Once you have found the articles, read them and take notes. Write the literature review from your notes.

Writing the paper:

A literature review usually has three sections although they will not be identified as such in the paper.

1) Introduction: Introduce your topic and briefly explain why this is a significant or important area for study. Define terms if necessary.

2) Summary of articles: In a paragraph or two for each study, briefly explain the purpose, how it was conducted (how information was gathered), and the major findings. When referring to an article, use the last name of author or authors and date of publication in the text. Example: Calvin and Brommel (1996) believe family communication . . .


Communication serves two primary functions in families--cohesion and adaptability (Galvin and Brommel, 1996).

3) Conclusion: Briefly summarize the major findings of the studies chosen. Comments about what questions need to still be answered may be included.

4) References: List the studies used on a separate page according to APA style format.

Adapted from Dr. Hellmann's Family Communication class handout.

Thesis Syllabus