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Interpreting Studies Resources for Organizing and Writing Your Thesis or Action Research Project

Writing Literature Review Paragraphs with Examples  

Literature Review Goal and Organization 

The goal of the literature review is to establish what is known about your topic, what are the current thoughts and theories regarding your topic, and what is unknown or missing from the current literature about the topic.

Literature reviews are typically organized in a thematic/concept based approach using headings to separate the major themes/ideas. 

Incorporating Sources and Writing Paragraphs 

Literature reviews are not just summaries of existing research. 

When you are writing a paragraph in a literature review, you are essentially doing two things: Citing existing literature and adding your own thoughts and insights to put it into context. This is called synthesizing the literature. 

To synthesize research you:

  • Identify similarities and differences in the articles as they apply to your topic.
    Similarity = ideas/concepts/evidence in two or more articles that agree on particular issues.
    Differences = ideas/concepts/evidence in two or more articles that contrast or juxtapose particular issues.

    NOTE: Don't think of this in binary terms as in these two articles are the same, these two articles are different. Focus on the ideas/concepts/evidence in the sections of the articles. It is possible to have two articles that have both similarities and differences that you would use in your literature review paragraphs. 
  • Make connections between these similarities and differences by highlighting the similarities, showing the differences, and noting how ideas/concepts/evidence builds upon existing ideas/concepts/evidence. 


In the following paragraphs you can see how similar concepts from articles are synthesized together with additional thoughts from the author to contextualize the research around the topic. Also included are various examples in which articles are introduced, cited, and used.  

Note-These examples have been reformatted in the APA 7th edition style and condensed for demonstration purposes. These paragraphs can be read in context on pages 39-42 of: Self-care as an ethical responsibility: A pilot study on support provision for interpreters.



In the following paragraphs, two positive aspects of different studies are shown while a study that showed no positive results and one that only showed results under certain conditions are used to highlight the differences and provide nuance into understanding the topic. 

Note-These examples have been reformatted in the APA 7th edition style and condensed for demonstration purposes. These paragraphs can be read in context on pages 3 and 4 of: A Comparison of comprehension processes in sign language interpreter videos with or without captions.


Note on Using Direct Quotes 

While you can use direct quotes in your literature review section, they are typically used only when a specific phrase or statistic is so unique it needs to stand out on its own. As you read articles, pay attention to how they craft their literature review paragraphs. Direct quotes are used only sparingly with the preferred format for synthesizing information being the summary/paraphrase format.