One useful point that the authors raise is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” literature review. Rather, each review must be oriented toward the specific topic of the essay or research paper for which the literature has been selected. The crucial initial step that the writer needs to take is to establish their “guiding concept.” This means determining their objective in conducting research, identifying a central problem or issue, or developing a thesis in the case of an argumentative essay.
This point, raised in the first paragraph, is later supported by several questions that writers should ask themselves. The first question in the list concerns identifying a “specific thesis, problem, or research question” that the writer aims to define through their literature review. The second question asks the writer to clarify the type of literature review they are conducting. The possible purposes are to examine issues of theory, methodology, and policy as well as to emphasize quantitative or qualitative research.
Another important point that the authors raise is a literature review is not descriptive; rather, it is intended to provide a “critical appraisal.” The writer’s goal is neither to summarize the findings in each source nor to determine if the content is applicable to their selected topic. Instead, the writer should evaluate the usefulness of each source.
Two recommended questions in the subsequent list speak to the critical goal. For all the sources, the writer should address the same “set of concepts and questions”; in doing so, they should compare the sources to each other in relationship to the subject at hand as well as asses the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various sources. It is also crucial, the authors note, that the writer include sources that are “contrary to [the writer’s]… perspective” rather than reinforce a previously determined belief.