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Think of scholarly papers like a conversation. A paper takes a look at what people are saying on a particular topic and then adds something new to the conversation based on their own research. A literature review is how scholars get caught up on the conversation so they will know what to say or ask next.
A literature review can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis.
A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information. It might give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates.
A research question is what forms and guides your literature review. It is the question that you want the literature to answer for you. A research question should be specific, focused, and concise.
To develop a research question, start with a general topic of interest to you. You'll want to do some preliminary and background research on this topic to think through what specific questions you might have.
Sample Topic: impact of social media on adolescent physical activity
Sample Research Question: Can social media serve as an effective tool for increasing physical activity among adolescents?
Need more guidance on developing your topic into a research question? Check out this video from the library at Northern Kentucky University.
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