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Literature Reviews for Media, Communication and Information: 4. Structure Your Lit Review

A guide to getting started with literature reviews in media, communication and information (CMCI).

How to Structure Your Lit Review

A literature review, even when it is within a larger paper, should include an introduction, a main body section, and a conclusion.

In the Introduction Section:

  • define your topic and scope
  • explain the organization of your lit review

In the Main Section:

  • Present the literature you found related to your topic in a clear, organized way
  • Compare and contrast the literature
  • Identify problems, issues, and debates among scholars on the topic
  • There are many ways to organize the main section of a literature review. Here are a few ways you could organize this section:

    • Chronological - Present a condensed history of the major ideas and developments of a topic over time.
    • Thematic - Present the major theories relevant to your topic and how they agree or contrast.
    • Methodological - If there are different methods of research on your topic, you can organize your review by grouping the findings of different methodologies. Be sure to compare and contrast these methods (you are setting up an argument for your own methods.)
    • Theoretical - Organize your review by the various theories others have developed relevant to the topic, comparing and contrasting the strengths and weaknesses of each.

In the Conclusion Section:

  • Summarize your findings in the scholarly literature
  • Identify any gaps and explain briefly how you are filling that gap with your own research (if appropriate)
  • Explain how your paper/ideas/research relates to the greater scholarly literature and create a transition to the rest of your paper

Helpful Sites on Literature Reviews

Much of the information in this guide and more information can be found on the websites listed on the Helpful Sites tab.

APRD, Communication, Journalism, and Media Studies Librarian

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Stacy Gilbert


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Elizabeth Novosel