Putting it all together...
Your literature review should have the following components. These sections don't need to have headings or sub-headings.
Introduction: Provide an overview of your topic, including the major problems and issues that have been studied.
Body: This is where you actually talk about the literature and your findings. Hopefully, you noticed specific themes emerge as you did your reading. You may want to create sub-headings for each of the themes you found.
Conclusion/Discussion: Summarize what you've found in your review of literature, and identify areas in need of further research. Make sure to mention any gaps in the literature - things you think should have been researched, but were not.
Tips for writing about the literature
Synthesize, don't summarize. Here's an excellent example of synthesis provided by NC State University; it's essentially a text summary of the chart in the previous section. The overall topic is women in World War II.
Use quotes sparingly: Since the purpose of a literature review is to talk about many different articles, you won't be discussing any one article in great detail. NC State University suggests that there are a few cases where it's okay to use quotations:
- If you want to emphasize a point
- If there's no good way to paraphrase or rewrite the author's idea, other than to quote them
- If the author has used or quoted certain terms which are not commonly known by the average person
Make sure not to misrepresent the author's ideas.
Let's look at an example. Here's a direct quote from an article:
This quote might lead you to believe that Kirschner & De Bruyckerec believe in the concept of digital natives. However, in this case, they are describing the thoughts of another author (Marc Prensky). In fact, Kirschner & De Bruyckerec's article argues that the concept of digital natives is a myth - in fact, it's right in the title of their article:
As the person selecting the quotation, I could have been clearer about whose ideas I was expressing. Make sure you understand the author's intent when you're writing about their work.