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Tools for Effective Writing

Everything you need to become successful in your academic writing.

Starting the Process: Before Writing

Clarify
Make sure you understand what you need to do for your assignment. Ask your instructor if anything is unclear. You should know:

  • how many sources to include
  • what kind of sources to include
  • whether you need to address a common theme or issue
  • if you should evaluate your sources
  • if you need to provide extra information, like definitions and history

Find examples
Look for other literature reviews in your area of interest to get a sense of themes you might want to look for in your own research and how to organize your final review. Check out some of the sample reviews included on this guide for some examples.

Choose your topic
Pick a topic that fits the assignment and that you find interesting. If you're personally connected to your topic, the process will be less stressful and more enjoyable. Also be sure to narrow your topic so you won't have an overwhelming number of sources to go through. It will make your job easier if you limit the scope of your assignment by asking an answerable and focused research question. Your professors can also be very helpful in choosing a topic; make sure to utilize their expertise. And remember you can still change your topic later if you are finding too much or not enough information.

Find sources
Break your research question down into the most important key terms to use as keywords when you search for sources. When you find a useful source, check the cited references to find more related research. Consider whether the sources you find are current. Especially in the sciences, in areas such as medicine, you will want to make sure the information is up-to-date.

Read and analyze
Once you find relevant sources, go through them, analyzing them as you read to discover major themes and connections. Make notes about important points in each source. These notes will come in handy when you build your outline and write your literature review.

Remember: DON'T PANIC!
Completing a research project can be complicated and frustrating, but you don't have to go through it on your own. If you run into difficulties, feel free to contact your instructor with assignment-related questions or concerns and De Paul library staff for help with the research process