Knee Deep in Research Papers: an overview into writing my literature review.

One of the most dreaded parts of a university degree is not the exam season, it is writing your third year dissertation. For a science student, this all starts with your literature review; a summary of all the literature surrounding your scientific topic of choice. My degree path has decided to change things up this year and have the deadline for this section come in second year, specifically in 21 days.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to this, the first being it breaks up the whole degree path and give you a little more time to write the required word count. However, as a second year student I feel vastly underprepared for a task which compromises a large amount of my degree grade.

My writing technique is strange, mainly because I have a habit of thinking faster than I can type, which is nowhere near 100 words per minute; I also struggle with spelling and grammar (the dropping of words in my northern accent not helping). I started of my literature review by doing all the necessary reading; which lead me to discover I am vastly out of my depth in terms of subject knowledge. When I picked an interesting topic I failed to take into account the amount of knowledge I had in the subject and instead went with a summary I found most interesting; this has left me scrambling to gain the basic knowledge to competently understand my review. After gaining a basic knowledge I wrote a pretty basic list; just bullet points of the major sections and subsections.

The list gave me the basic form I had in mind for reviewing and summarizing all the reading I had done and specifying it to my topic. It was easy then to transfer this to a word document; writing the titles and expanding small sections by adding starting sentences and summary statements. This has given me a good starting point to go back in and write the science-y parts and develop the ideas into a sound project topic; it reminds me of a painting by number, though more academic and brain numbing.

With 21 days to go I am not too stressed about the completion of this, as I have friends at university who haven’t even started yet. What concerns me is the lack of information about what a literature review is and the best tips and tricks in terms of writing one; especially when a majority of the grade comes from the lowest plagiarism score as its supposed to be completely your own ideas and words based of your understanding of others research.

Struggling with this I wrote out my preferred method of getting through a literature review, bare in mind I left out the copious amounts of tea, biscuits and chips consumed during the process to help with self control.

Step 1: Read! Read like you have never read before, all textbook passages and research papers you can find on your topic – you need the knowledge

Step 2: write down each paper, where you found it and when – along with a few words or a quote about what you learnt from this in relation to your paper.

Step 3: plan out what you have to write about

Step 4: Expand the plan into a basic pro-forma (questions to answer)

Step 5: Fill in your pro-forma

Step 6: reference – there should be a variety of these but not repetitive use as theis hsould all be in oyur oown words. This is a key part of the literature review.

Step 6a: I have the opportunity to early submit, giving a chance to check the simmilarity percentage before final submission. This is a great opportunity to figure out the weaker parts of the paper.

Step 7: Check spelling, punctuation and grammer. Computers are not perfect, it is vital that you read through your literature review and check this yourself.

Step 8: Submit! – and party! My deadline is the 20th February 2017, my 20th birthday ironically, so I have two reasosn to celebrate that day.

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