Part 1: Recognizing Synthesis of Multiple Sources: Creating an Outline as Your Early Draft
If you’ve ever assembled a jigsaw puzzle then you know that each piece makes a contribution to the whole puzzle, the whole story. Writing a literature review is a bit like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. All of the individual pieces (the sources’ arguments) must be put together in order to reveal the whole picture, which in the case of the literature review, is the current state of thinking about your selected topic. As a literature review is different than an annotated bibliography, which presents source summaries one after the other, it can be challenging to structure and organize your research so that you’re showing the current state of knowledge on your topic.
Where do you begin? Your goal as a researcher, who has analyzed a body of literature, is to determine the current state of knowledge about your research topic. One of the tools you can use to process the source information, organize your thoughts and research, and shape your Project 3 Literary Review, is an outline.
Skills & Strategies
This Part 1 Assignment will help you to
- build on your information literacy, critical thinking, note-taking, and assessment skills
- assess the credibility and significance of each of your sources
- summarize each source and identify its contribution to the state of knowledge on your research topic
- identify the intersections and connections among your collected research, often represented as key issues, sub-issues, major themes or trends, or topics
- analyze the sources’ major points and points of repetition among the sources’ arguments
- synthesize and organize source material with a goal to shape the conversation on state of knowledge on your research topic
Description (and Step by Step)
For Part 1, you will construct a full sentence alphanumeric outline. Prior to writing your outline, you should consider the following pre-outline questions/steps:
- Summarize and cite your sources using the rhetorical summary model as a guide. Zero in on the key issues each source reveals and the author’s position on each issue.
- Step back and see the key issues that the sources’ arguments reveal when the bigger picture emerges as a result of your synthesis. These key issues are the repeated topics of concern raised by your sources, the intersections/connections, points of agreement, and/or the points of contradictions you have discovered.
- With each key issue the big picture reveals, note any subtopics within the key issues, highlight examples, paraphrase source material, and sparingly use quotes that provide detail.
- Now you’re ready to write your thesis and organize your material by key issues.
The following suggested steps will help you to present the intended content of your literature review and organize that content in a logical, coherent manner:
- Begin with a centered working title for your Project 3 Literature Review
- Construct your thesis, the sentence or two that reveals the current state of knowledge on your topic: the overarching focus of your literature review
- Write topic sentences that introduce at least 4 major key issues. Label these major key issues as Roman Numerals (I, II, III, IV)
- List any key issue subtopics that subdivide the major key issues further. Label these key issue subtopics in capital letters (A, B, C, etc.)
- Note supporting points or arguments as evidence (examples, paraphrased material, brief quotes) for each key issue. Label this evidence in Alpha numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.).
- If applicable, continue to sub-divide each supporting point until your outline is fully developed. Label any subdivisions in lower case letters (a, b, c, etc.).
You want to identify at least 4 key issues (and subsequent sub-issues if they exist) so that you have enough material related to the current state of thinking on your research topic.
Try to be as complete as you can in the details you provide (examples, paraphrased material, brief quotes) from your source material. By being thorough, you will have (1) more information to draw from, (2) an organization pattern to follow, and (3) a solid reference guide to transfer to the writing of your literature review.
While you want to quote from the research when the way something is said is unique and critical to the understanding of the argument, be careful not to overquote or use long or block quotes; otherwise.