Common Challenges of Writing a Literature Review

Common Challenges of Writing a Literature Review

When it comes to writing a research paper or dissertation, students tend to think that writing a literature review is just the minor part of it, but sometimes it becomes the biggest challenge. Writing a literature review, you should remember about the topicality of the particular sources, the academic “power” of their authors, etc. More of it, you should pay attention to the most common challenges inherent to a literature review writing process. Use this list as your personal literature review writing help, as it will assist you in avoiding significant pitfalls related to this part of the research and writing process.

Challenge #1 It is not easy to concentrate on the details of the text

Our attention span is short. Above all, we want to be entertained, and our attention spans are far from perfect. When reading a book or an extended article you might notice that it is increasingly hard for you to concentrate. This lack of attention makes you lose some details, which are necessary for writing a successful literary review. There two options — either you are too “excited” or not “excited” enough. The excitement here means the activity of your cognitive system, its ability to focus, to concentrate on the material, often a boring one.

Possible solution: Analyze your state, decide whether you are too excited or not enough. If not enough, add some triggers, for example, turn on music to make your brain more active. It will fight against extra irritating factor and work faster. If you feel over-excited try to reduce the number of annoying factors influencing your mind.

Challenge #2. Google search doesn’t show relevant results

Though they say that everything can be found in Google, when it comes to literature review writing, it is not particularly accurate. The amount of information is excessive, and it is particularly challenging to find some relevant results and worthy references.

Possible solution: The first and the most obvious one is to start using the Google Scholar search. It is the basic level. To have even better results don’t wait till you need to write a literature review and sign up for several relevant scientific newsletters. This way you will have a list of references in your email, and later you will be able to use them without wasting too much time.

Challenge #3. Sorting information

Even using the most advanced techniques, you will still have lots of redundant information which is hard to sort. If you don’t sort it well enough, you will have a true mess in your works cited page.

Possible solution: When choosing sources, it is recommended, first of all, to rely on some more extensive fundamental source in which the selected topic is considered, and move further in the direction from general to particular — from necessary provisions to more specific ones. It is better to refer to sources whose authors have the most significant scientific authority in this field. Subscripts will help you find more relevant sources for your paper.

Challenge #4. Managing a proper balance

Make sure your literature review has both modern, provocative works and fundamental ones. You should maintain a proper balance of the most actual studies and the most prominent researchers of the past, which contributed to the development of the particular topic.

Possible solution: Talk to your supervisor. There are two basic ratios 1:2 or 2:1. It means that either you have to describe two modern works for each fundamental ones or reverse. It depends on the requirements of your educational institution and your professor, so it is better to deal with the needed ratio from the very beginning, not to rewrite it further.

Challenge #5. Formatting

Unfortunately, even if you pay the utmost attention to sorting and analyzing the content relevant to your field and topic of study, but fail to make the needed formatting, you will not gain points you hope for.

Possible solution: The only magic trick we can offer here is to use some online formatting services. Choose the ones which have the most fields to fill and which work with different releases of the particular style guide: not just MLA but 8th edition MLA, for example.

Check on this list before you start writing a literature review with someone’s help or by yourself and you will be done with it faster and more efficient than you’ve ever expected to.


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