We’re nearly halfway through the semester, and for some of us, that means we’re transitioning from reading about our research topics to writing about them. Now that you have acquired in-depth knowledge of your topic—its controversies, dominant and marginal perspectives, and ongoing debates—it’s time to join the conversation and offer an original argument.
But before joining the conversation, you should first write about the conversation itself. In other words, an important step towards writing a compelling and original thesis statement is writing a literature review. A literature review assesses and synthesizes a selected body of published material on a particular topic. It can stand alone, independent of your researched paper, but more often appears as a section of your paper.
As an essay-within-an-essay, the literature review has its own thesis statement and its own organization. A literature review thesis statement makes an informed claim about your selected body of published material. Depending on your discipline, your literature review thesis statement may:
- combine older material with newer material in order to reveal how perspectives have changed over time
- reveal unanswered questions or unsolved problems in previous research
- offer fresh insight into long-standing debates or controversies
Through its thesis statement and organization, your literature review not only contextualizes your larger paper with what has already been published about your research topic, but also establishes why your larger thesis statement is relevant.
For example, a literature review thesis statement might argue current climatology research persuasively reveals the long-term effects of climate change, but has left the question of short-term solutions inadequately answered. This literature review thesis statement lends credibility and relevance to a paper’s larger thesis statement about the need to increase financial incentives for homeowners to retrofit their houses with solar panels.
For more general information about writing literature reviews, please visit the OWL Purdue’s Literature Review page.
If you need help synthesizing your sources, this synthesis matrix created by NC State University Writing and Speaking Tutorial Service Tutors is useful.