An Inspector Calls

Lord of the flies, the merchant of venice, the scarlet letter.

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Conquering the classics, one book at a time.

summarize of literature

No Fear Literature

The original text of classic works side-by-side with an easy-to-understand translation. No Fear Literature is available online and in book form at .

summarize of literature

Study Guides

Thorough summaries and insightful critical analyses of classic and contemporary literature. Our most popular guides include quick quizzes, so you can test your retention before the test.

Ordered by Title

2001: a space odyssey.

Arthur C. Clarke

John Updike

Absalom, Absalom!

The absolutely true diary of a part-time indian.

Sherman Alexie

An Abundance of Katherines

Across five aprils, the adventures of huckleberry finn, the adventures of tom sawyer, the age of innocence, alas, babylon, the alchemist.

Paulo Coelho

Alias Grace

Alice in wonderland, all american boys.

Jason Reynolds

All But My Life

Gerda Weissmann Klein

All the Bright Places

Jennifer Niven

All the King's Men

Robert Penn Warren

All the Light We Cannot See

Anthony Doerr

All the Pretty Horses

Cormac McCarthy

All Quiet on the Western Front

All's well that ends well, the ambassadors, the american.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

American Dream

Edward Albee


And then there were none, angela's ashes, angels in america.

Tony Kushner

Animal Dreams

Animal farm, anna karenina.

Leo Tolstoy

Anne of Green Gables

L. M. Montgomery

Jamaica Kincaid

Antigone (The Oedipus Plays)

Jean Anouilh

Antony and Cleopatra

Tom Stoppard

Arms and the Man

George Bernard Shaw

Sinclair Lewis

As I Lay Dying

The assistant.

Bernard Malamud

As You Like It

Atlas shrugged, the autobiography of benjamin franklin.

Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Malcolm X & Alex Haley

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

The awakening, babylon revisited, the bacchae, barn burning, the bean trees, the beautiful and the damned.

Michelle Obama

Ann Patchett

The Bell Jar

A bend in the river.

V.S. Naipaul

Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Bible: The New Testament

Bible: the old testament, the big sleep.

Raymond Chandler

Billy Budd, Sailor

Bird by bird.

Anne Lamott

The Birthmark

Richard Wright

Black Like Me

John Howard Griffin

The Black Prince

Iris Murdoch

Bleak House

Bless the beasts and children.

Glendon Swarthout

Bless Me, Ultima

Rudolfo A. Anaya

The Blind Assassin


Nora Roberts

The Bluest Eye

The bonesetter's daughter, the book of the city of ladies.

Christine de Pizan

The Book of Margery Kempe

Margery Kempe

The Book Thief

Markus Zusak

A Border Passage

Leila Ahmed

Born a Crime

Trevor Noah

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The boy who harnessed the wind.

William Kamkwamba

Brave New World

Bread givers.

Anzia Yezierska

Breath, Eyes, Memory

Edwidge Danticat

Brideshead Revisited

Evelyn Waugh

Bridge to Terabithia

Katherine Paterson

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Brokeback mountain.

Annie Proulx

The Brothers Karamazov

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Bud, Not Buddy

Christopher Paul Curtis

Dashka Slater

The Caine Mutiny

Herman Wouk

The Call of the Wild

Cannery row, the canterbury tales.

Geoffrey Chaucer

Joseph Heller

The Catcher in the Rye

Catching fire, cat on a hot tin roof.

Raymond Carver

Cat's Cradle

Kurt Vonnegut

Leslie Marmon Silko

Eugène Ionesco

Changes: A Love Story

Ama Ata Aidoo

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlotte's web, chekhov stories.

Anton Chekhov

The Cherry Orchard

Childhood's end, child of the dark.

Carolina Maria de Jesus

The Chocolate War

Robert Cormier

Chaim Potok

A Christmas Carol

Chronicle of a death foretold, the chrysanthemums.

Samuel Richardson

The City of Ember

Jeanne DuPrau

A Clash of Kings

George R. R. Martin

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

Ernest Hemingway

A Clockwork Orange

Caryl Churchill

Cold Mountain

Charles Frazier

Cold Sassy Tree

Olive Anne Burns

The Color of Water

James McBride

The Color Purple

The comedy of errors, coming of age in mississippi, common sense.

Thomas Paine

Concrete Rose

Angie Thomas

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

The contender.

Robert Lipsyte

Continuity of Parks

Julio Cortázar

The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

Crime and Punishment

The crucible, cry, the beloved country, the crying of lot 49.

Thomas Pynchon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Mark Haddon

Cyrano de Bergerac

Edmond Rostand

Daisy Miller

Dandelion wine, dangerous liaisons.

Pierre Ambroise Laclos

David Copperfield

David and goliath.

Malcolm Gladwell

The Da Vinci Code

A day no pigs would die.

Robert Newton Peck

The Day of the Locust

Nathanael West

Dead Man Walking

Sister Helen Prejean

A Deadly Education: A Novel

Naomi Novik

Dear Martin

Death be not proud.

John Gunther

A Death in the Family

A death in the woods.

Sherwood Anderson

Death in Venice

Thomas Mann

The Death of Ivan Ilych

Death of a salesman, the devil in the white city.

Erik Larson

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Young Girl

Dicey's song.

Cynthia Voigt

Distant View of a Minaret

Alifa Rifaat

Veronica Roth

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Philip K. Dick

Doctor Faustus

Christopher Marlowe

A Doll’s House

Don quixote.

Bram Stoker

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Dr. zhivago.

Boris Pasternak

The Duke and I

Julia Quinn

The Dumb Waiter

Harold Pinter

Frank Herbert

East of Eden

Tara Westover

Eleanor & Park

Rainbow Rowell

The Elegant Universe

Brian Greene

Ellen Foster

Kaye Gibbons

Ender's Game

Orson Scott Card

An Enemy of the People

The english patient.

Michael Ondaatje

Esperanza Rising

Pam Muñoz Ryan

Ethan Frome

Everyday use.

Philip Roth

Everything Everything

Nicola Yoon

Everything I Never Told You

Everything that rises must converge.

Flannery O’Connor

Mohsin Hamid

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Jonathan Safran Foer

Fahrenheit 451

Fallen angels.

Walter Dean Myers

A Farewell to Arms

Farewell to manzanar.

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Far from the Madding Crowd

The fault in our stars, the fellowship of the ring.

August Wilson

Laurie Halse Anderson

Jean-Paul Sartre

Flowers for Algernon

Fool for love.

Sam Shepard

For Whom the Bell Tolls

The fountainhead, frankenstein, franny and zooey, freak the mighty.

Rodman Philbrick

A Game of Thrones

Game of thrones: a clash of kings, game of thrones: a storm of swords, a gathering of old men, a gentleman in moscow.

Amor Towles

A Gesture Life

Chang-rae Lee

Giants in the Earth

O. E. Rölvaag

Giovanni's Room

James Baldwin

Girl, Interrupted

Susanna Kaysen

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson

The Glass Castle

Jeannette Walls

The Glass Menagerie

Glengarry glen ross.

David Mamet

Go Ask Alice

Go down, moses, go set a watchman, gone with the wind.

Margaret Mitchell

The Good Earth

Pearl S. Buck

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

The good soldier.

Ford Madox Ford

Go Tell it on the Mountain

The grapes of wrath, the graveyard book.

Neil Gaiman

Great Expectations

The great gatsby, gulliver’s travels, the handmaid’s tale, harrison bergeron, harry potter and the chamber of secrets, harry potter and the deathly hallows, harry potter and the goblet of fire, harry potter and the half-blood prince, harry potter and the order of the phoenix, harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban, harry potter and the sorcerer's stone.

Gary Paulsen

The Hate U Give

The haunting of hill house.

Shirley Jackson

Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years

Delany, Delany, Hearth

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

Carson McCullers

Heart of Darkness

Hedda gabler, henry iv, part 1, henry iv part 2, henry vi part 1, henry vi part 2, henry vi part 3.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Saul Bellow

Hidden Figures

Margot Lee Shetterly

The Hiding Place

Corrie ten Boom

Hillbilly Elegy

Hills like white elephants.

John Hersey

His Dark Materials

Philip Pullman

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams

Hound of the Baskervilles

Michael Cunningham

House Made of Dawn

N. Scott Momaday

The House of Mirth

The house of the seven gables, the house of the spirits.

Isabel Allende

The House on Mango Street

Howards end.

E. M. Forster

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

Julia Alvarez

Hunchback of Notre Dame

A hunger artist.

Franz Kafka

The Hunger Games

The hunger games: catching fire, i am the cheese, i am malala.

Malala Yousafzai

The Iceman Cometh

Eugene O'Neill

An Ideal Husband

I know why the caged bird sings, the immortal life of henrietta lacks.

Rebecca Skloot

The Importance of Being Earnest

Incidents in the life of a slave girl.

Harriet Jacobs

In Cold Blood

Indian horse.

Richard Magawese

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

Joanne Greenberg

Dante Alighieri

Inherit the Wind

Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee

Interpreter of Maladies

Jhumpa Lahiri

In Our Time

J. B. Priestley

In the Time of the Butterflies

Into the wild.

Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air

Invisible man.

Frances Harper

I, Rigoberta Menchu

Rigoberta Menchu

Island of the Blue Dolphins

Scott O'Dell

I Stand Here Ironing

Tillie Olsen

Sir Walter Scott

The Jew of Malta

The jilting of granny weatherall.

Katherine Ann Porter

Johnny Got His Gun

Dalton Trumbo

Johnny Tremain

Esther Forbes

Journey into the Whirlwind

Eugenia Ginzburg

The Joy Luck Club

The joys of motherhood.

Buchi Emecheta

Jude the Obscure

Julius caesar.

Upton Sinclair

Jurassic Park

Michael Crichton

Bryan Stevenson

The Killer Angels

Michael Shaara

Octavia Butler

The King Must Die

Mary Renault

The Kitchen God's Wife

The kite runner, krik krak, lady chatterley's lover.

D.H. Lawrence

The Last of the Mohicans

James Fenimore Cooper

William Kennedy

Les Misérables

A lesson before dying, the libation bearers, lieutenant nun.

Catalina de Erauso

Light in August

The light in the forest.

Conrad Richter

The Lightning Thief

Rick Riordan

Like Water for Chocolate

Laura Esquivel

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

C. S. Lewis

Little Fires Everywhere

The little prince, little women.

Louisa May Alcott

A Long Walk to Water

Linda Sue Park

A Long Way Gone

Ismael Beah

Long Day's Journey into Night

Looking backward.

Edward Bellamy

Looking for Alaska

Lord of the rings: the fellowship of the ring, lord of the rings: the two towers, lord of the rings: the return of the king, the lottery, love in the time of cholera, love's labours lost.

Kingsley Amis

Lucy: A Novel

Madame bovary.

Gustave Flaubert

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets

Main street, major barbara, a man for all seasons.

Robert Bolt

Mansfield Park

The man who was almost a man, the martian chronicles, maus: a survivor's tale.

Art Spiegelman

The Mayor of Casterbridge

The maze runner.

James Dashner

Measure for Measure

A medieval life.

Judith Bennett

Melville Stories

The member of the wedding, the merry wives of windsor, the metamorphosis, middlemarch.

Jeffrey Eugenides

Midnight's Children

Salman Rushdie

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A midwife’s tale.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

A Million Little Pieces

The mill on the floss, the misanthrope.

August Strindberg

Miss Lonelyhearts

A modest proposal, moll flanders.

Daniel Defoe

The Monkey’s Paw

W. W. Jacobs

The Moonstone

Wilkie Collins

The Most Dangerous Game

Richard Connell

Mother Courage

Bertolt Brecht

Mourning Becomes Electra

Mrs. dalloway, much ado about nothing, the murder of roger ackroyd, murder on the orient express.

Willa Cather

My Brother Sam is Dead

Christopher Collier & James Lincoln Collier

My Name is Asher Lev

My sister’s keeper.

Jodi Picoult

Edith Hamilton

The Namesake

Narrative of the life of frederick douglass, the natural, the necklace.

Guy de Maupassant

Nectar in a Sieve

Kamala Markandaya

Nervous Conditions

Tsitsi Dangarembga

Never Let Me Go

Kazuo Ishiguro

The New Jim Crow

Michelle Alexander

The New Testament

Nickel and dimed.

Barbara Ehrenreich

The Nickel Boys

Colson Whitehead

Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman

Marjorie Shostak

No Longer At Ease

No one is too small to make a difference.

Greta Thunberg

Normal People

Sally Rooney

Northanger Abbey

Notes from underground, number the stars, an occurrence at owl creek bridge.

Ambrose Bierce

Odour of Chrysanthemums

D. H. Lawrence

The Odyssey

The oedipus plays, of mice and men, the old man and the sea, the old testament, oliver twist, on the beach.

Nevil Shute

The Once and Future King

T. H. White

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

One hundred years of solitude, one of us is lying.

Karen M. McManus

On the Road

Jack Kerouac

The Open Boat

O pioneers, oranges are not the only fruit.

Jeanette Winterson

Ordinary People

Judith Guest

Oryx and Crake

The other wes moore.

Thornton Wilder

Out of My Mind

Sharon M. Draper

Out of Africa

Isak Dinesen

The Outsiders

Paper towns, parable of the sower, paradise lost.

John Milton

A Passage to India

Nella Larsen

Paul’s Case: A Study in Temperament

A perfect day for bananafish, the perks of being a wallflower.

Stephen Chbosky

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return

The phantom tollbooth.

Norton Juster

The Piano Lesson

The picture of dorian gray, pigs in heaven, pilgrim’s progress.

John Bunyan

Albert Camus

Poe’s Short Stories

The poisonwood bible, a portrait of the artist as a young man, the portrait of a lady, the power and the glory.

Graham Greene

The Power of One

Bryce Courtenay

A Prayer for Owen Meany

John Irving

Pride and Prejudice

Niccolò Machiavelli

The Princess Bride

William Goldman

Prometheus Bound

Pudd'nhead wilson, purple hibiscus.

Chimamanda Nogozi Adichie

The Quiet American

E. L. Doctorow

A Raisin in the Sun

Ready player one.

Ernest Cline

Ready Player Two

Daphne du Maurier

The Red and the Black

The red badge of courage, the red-headed league, the red pony, the red tent.

Anita Diamant


The remains of the day, the republic, the return of the king, the return of the native, richard iii, rita hayworth and the shawshank redemption.

Stephen King

Robinson Crusoe

Roll of thunder, hear my cry, romeo and juliet, a room of one's own, a room with a view.

E.M. Forster

A Rose for Emily

Rosencrantz and guildenstern are dead, the round house.

Louise Erdrich

Rubyfruit Jungle

Rita Mae Brown

The Screwtape Letters

The seagull, the second sex.

Simone de Beauvoir

The Secret Garden

Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Life of Bees

Sue Monk Kidd

Seize the Day

The selection, sense and sensibility, sentimental education, a separate peace.

John Knowles

Suzanne Fisher Staples

Jack Schaefer

Bobbie Ann Mason

The Shipping News

E. Annie Proulx

Silas Marner

Sir gawain and the green knight, sister carrie.

Theodore Dreiser

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Ann Brashares

Six Characters in Search of an Author

Luigi Pirandello


A small place, snow falling on cedars.

David Guterson

Something Wicked This Way Comes

The song of achilles.

Madeline Miller

Song of Roland

Song of solomon, sonny’s blues, sons and lovers, sophie's choice.

William Styron

Sophie's World

Jostein Gaarder

The Sorrows of Young Werther

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The Souls of Black Folks

W.E.B. Du Bois

The Sound and the Fury

William Armstrong

The Sovereignty and Goodness of God

Mary Rowlandson

Spanish Tragedy

Jerry Spinelli

Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mandel


A storm of swords, the story of an hour, the stranger, stranger in a strange land.

Robert A. Heinlein

A Streetcar Named Desire

A study in scarlet, the sun also rises, super-frog saves tokyo.

Haruki Murakami

Swann's Way

Marcel Proust

The Swimmer

John Cheever

A Tale of Two Cities

The taming of the shrew, the tempest, tender is the night, tess of the d’urbervilles, the testaments, their eyes were watching god, there there.

Tommy Orange

Things Fall Apart

The things they carried, thirteen reasons why, this boy's life.

Tobias Woolff

This Side of Paradise

A thousand splendid suns.

Kahled Hosseini

Three Cups of Tea

Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin

The Three Musketeers

Through the looking glass, the time machine.

H. G. Wells

Timon of Athens

Titus andronicus, to kill a mockingbird, to the lighthouse.

Henry Fielding

Tortilla Flat

Treasure island, a tree grows in brooklyn.

Betty Smith

Tristram Shandy

Laurence Sterne

Troilus and Cressida

Tuesdays with morrie.

Mitch Albom

The Turn of the Screw

Tuck everlasting.

Natalie Babbitt

Turtles All the Way Down

Twelfth night, twelve years a slave.

Solomon Northup

“Twilight of the Superheroes”

Deborah Eisenberg

Stephanie Meyer

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

The two towers, the unbearable lightness of being.

Milan Kundera

The Underground Railroad

Uncle tom’s cabin, uncle vanya, under the feet of jesus.

Helena Maria Viramontes

The Unvanquished

The vanishing half.

Brit Bennett

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Tahereh Mafi

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

V for vendetta, a view from the bridge, virgin suicides, waiting for godot.

B. F. Skinner

Walk Two Moons

Sharon Creech

War and Peace

The war of the worlds, warriors don’t cry.

Melba Patillo Beals

Watership Down

Richard Adams

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

The way to rainy mountain, the westing game.

Ellen Raskin

We Were Liars

E. Lockhart

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

When heaven and earth changed places.

Le Ly Hayslip

When the Legends Die

Hal Borland

When the Emperor Was Divine

Julie Otsuka

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

Joyce Carol Oates

Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens

Where the Red Fern Grows

Wilson Rawls

White Fragility

Robin DiAngelo

White Noise

Don DeLillo

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Why i live at the p.o..

Eudora Welty

Wide Sargasso Sea

Will grayson, will grayson, winesburg, ohio, winter dreams, the winter's tale, the witch of blackbird pond.

Elizabeth George Speare

Woman at Point Zero

Nawal El Saadawi

The Woman Warrior

Maxine Hong Kingston

R.J. Palacio

The Wonderful World of Oz

L. Frank Baum

The Women of Brewster Place

Gloria Naylor

A Wrinkle in Time

Madeleine L'Engle

Wuthering Heights

The year of magical thinking.

Joan Didion

A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

Michael Dorris

The Yellow Wallpaper

Young goodman brown.

summarize of literature

The Sheridan Libraries

summarize of literature

Not every source you found should be included in your annotated bibliography or lit review. Only include the most relevant and most important sources.

Get Organized

Summarize your Sources

Summarize each source: Determine the most important and relevant information from each source, such as the findings, methodology, theories, etc.  Consider using an article summary, or study summary to help you organize and summarize your sources.


Annotated Bibliographies

     Annotated bibliographies can help you clearly see and understand the research before diving into organizing and writing your literature review.        Although typically part of the "summarize" step of the literature review, annotations should not merely be summaries of each article - instead, they should be critical evaluations of the source, and help determine a source's usefulness for your lit review.  


A list of citations on a particular topic followed by an evaluation of the source’s argument and other relevant material including its intended audience, sources of evidence, and methodology

Steps to Creating an Annotated Bibliography:

Annotated Bibliography Resources


Write a Literature Review

summarize of literature

Not every source you found should be included in your annotated bibliography or lit review. Only include the most relevant and most important sources.

Get Organized

Summarize your Sources

Summarize each source: Determine the most important and relevant information from each source, such as the findings, methodology, theories, etc.  Consider using an article summary, or study summary to help you organize and summarize your sources.


Use your own words, do not copy and paste the abstract.  See Purdue Owl's advice on paraphrasing to ensure you don't plagiarize.

Annotated Bibliographies

Annotated bibliographies can help you clearly see and understand the research before diving into organizing and writing your literature review.  Although typically part of the "summarize" step of the literature review, annotations should not merely be summaries of each article - they should be critical evaluations of the source, and help determine a source's usefulness for your lit review.


A list of citations on a particular topic followed by an evaluation of the source’s argument and other relevant material including its intended audience, sources of evidence, and methodology

Steps to Creating an Annotated Bibliography:

Annotated Bibliography Resources

Creative Commons License

Encyclopedia Britannica

When did American literature begin?

Who are some important authors of american literature.

American literature

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

John Smith: Virginia

Literature has existed in the Americas for as long as the people who lived there have been telling stories. Native American cultures have a rich history of oral literature. Mayan books from as far back as the 5th century are known, and it is believed that the Maya started writing things down centuries before that. As a specific discipline viewed through the lens of European literature, American literature began in the early 17th century with the arrival of English-speaking Europeans in what would become the United States.

Notable authors of American literature include: John Smith , who wrote some of its earliest works; Phillis Wheatley , who wrote the first African American book; Edgar Allan Poe , a standout of the Romantic era; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow , a celebrated poet; Emily Dickinson , a woman who wrote poetry at a time when the field was largely dominated by men; Mark Twain , a master of humour and realism; Ernest Hemingway , a novelist who articulated the disillusionment of the Lost Generation ; and Toni Morrison , a writer who centred her works on the black experience and received a Nobel Prize in 1993.

What are the periods of American literature?

American literature is often divided into five major periods:

American literature , the body of written works produced in the English language in the United States .

Like other national literatures, American literature was shaped by the history of the country that produced it. For almost a century and a half, America was merely a group of colonies scattered along the eastern seaboard of the North American continent—colonies from which a few hardy souls tentatively ventured westward. After a successful rebellion against the motherland, America became the United States, a nation. By the end of the 19th century this nation extended southward to the Gulf of Mexico , northward to the 49th parallel, and westward to the Pacific. By the end of the 19th century, too, it had taken its place among the powers of the world—its fortunes so interrelated with those of other nations that inevitably it became involved in two world wars and, following these conflicts, with the problems of Europe and East Asia. Meanwhile, the rise of science and industry, as well as changes in ways of thinking and feeling, wrought many modifications in people’s lives. All these factors in the development of the United States molded the literature of the country.

This article traces the history of American poetry , drama , fiction , and social and literary criticism from the early 17th century through the turn of the 21st century. For a description of the oral and written literatures of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, see Native American literature . Though the contributions of African Americans to American literature are discussed in this article, see African American literature for in-depth treatment. For information about literary traditions related to, and at times overlapping with, American literature in English, see English literature and Canadian literature: Canadian literature in English .

Interesting Literature

A summary and analysis of sarah orne jewett’s ‘a white heron’.

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

‘A White Heron’ is one of the best-known short stories by the American writer Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909). Published in 1886 in the collection A White Heron and Other Stories , the story is about a young girl who is approached by a hunter who offers her money if she will divulge the location of a rare white heron he wants to shoot.

You can read ‘A White Heron’ here , before proceeding to our summary and analysis of Jewett’s story below. The story takes around fifteen minutes to read.

‘A White Heron’: plot summary

Sylvia is a young girl who lives in the woods with her grandmother, Mrs Tilley, in Maine. On a June evening, she is driving home a cow, which she has been out looking for. We learn that Sylvia loves to wander in the woods, loitering and ‘straying’ before coming home. Sylvia had lived with her parents in a crowded city for the first eight years of her life, but enjoys life in the country with her grandmother. However, Sylvia is, according to her grandmother, afraid of people, and much prefers the company of the animals, like the cow, which is her ‘companion’.

As she is walking home, she hears a whistling sound, and meets a tall, handsome young man carrying a gun. He asks her for directions towards the road, and she tells him it is quite a distance away. He tells her he has been hunting birds and managed to get lose, and he then asks if he can accompany her home, and spend the night at her farm.

Sylvia reluctantly leads the stranger to the farm where she lives with her grandmother. Mrs Tilley is happy to play the hostess and give him a bed for the night, and some milk to drink. The man tells them that he is an ornithologist and has been out hunting for birds to add to his collection of stuffed specimens.

When he discovers that Sylvia – who, according to her grandmother, takes after her uncle, Dan – knows her way around the woods, he wonders if she would show him where he might find a rare white heron which he plans on adding to his collection. But Sylvia, who is watching a toad while he is talking, doesn’t fully hear what he’s saying, until he mentions the white heron. He offers them ten dollars if she will show him where to find it.

The next day, Sylvia goes out with the stranger, walking through the woods together. Sylvia is careful not to lead the way, and, because of her natural shyness, barely speaks to him. However, as they walk together she relaxes in his company, but when he starts shooting birds out of the trees, she is horrified.

Something is being awakened in her. When the evening comes, they begin the walk home without having seen the white heron. At night, Sylvia cannot sleep because she is thinking about how to give the stranger what he wants. Before dawn she heads out to a ‘huge tree’ and climbs it expertly, looking out at the distant sea. Then, finally, she sees the white heron in its nest.

She goes home, but when she’s asked about it, she doesn’t tell the stranger where he can find the white heron he seeks. He leaves the farm, and the narrator praises the bond Sylvia shares with nature, while calling her ‘lonely’ – because the first true friend she had made has gone away and left her.

‘A White Heron’: analysis

Sarah Orne Jewett ’s story is often read as a kind of allegory, but precisely what it is an allegory for can be answered in two different, but subtly interlinked, ways. Some people view ‘A White Heron’ as a story about taking care of nature, and regard Jewett’s tale as almost an early work about conservation: the rare (almost endangered) white heron is saved from being hunted and killed by the kindly action of Sylvia, who refuses to give up the bird in order to please her male friend.

But this ‘male friend’ also raises the possibility of a second way of viewing the story, and some critics and readers see ‘A White Heron’ as being more about Sylvia’s coming of age and her awakening of romantic love. She is only nine years old, of course, so things are subtler and more platonic than they would be with, say, an adolescent protagonist, but Jewett provides a series of revealing symbolic details which support such an interpretation.

This male friend who arrives is someone with whom Sylvia, in time, comes to feel relaxed and comfortable, despite her shyness. As Jewett’s third-person narrator tells us, ‘the woman’s heart, asleep in the child, was vaguely thrilled by a dream of love.’ Something has been awakened in her by the arrival of the male stranger, who shares with Sylvia an interest in the birds of the forest.

But there’s a crucial difference, of course. To Sylvia, those birds, like her family cow, are companions and friends; to him, they are merely trophies to be stuffed and mounted in his house. He is a hunter, suggesting a predatory manner which extends, at least symbolically, beyond the birds of the forest. His gun and knife can both be viewed as phallic symbols, and he presumptuously invites himself (or as good as) to Sylvia’s home as soon as he meets her, and later offers money in return for the whereabouts of the white heron.

The heron, too, can be interpreted as a symbol: its whiteness represents Sylvia’s own childhood innocence and perhaps, even, her virginity, since whiteness is associated with purity . In refusing to give up the heron to the male hunter, we might say, Sylvia is also refusing to give up her childhood innocence, and her virginity, to a man. The fact that he was willing to pay Sylvia money for the white heron is obviously suggestive in this connection, given what the heron can be said to symbolise.

There are fairy-tale aspects to ‘A White Heron’, with its woodland setting and its echoes of Little Red Riding Hood : the young girl, the grandmother, the male threat which interposes itself into their idyllic world. So the male hunter’s significance is almost archetypal: he could be said to prefigure some of Angela Carter ’s later predatory male figures in her reworkings of classic fairy tales (including Red Riding Hood), almost a century later.

In the last analysis, then, ‘A White Heron’ has two clear, interrelated themes: the loss of innocence and the dawning of romantic love, and the love and care for nature which Sylvia embodies. In choosing to give up the latter in pursuit of the former, Sylvia makes the decision to remain ‘lonely’, at least for the time being, without any ‘human friend’ now the stranger has departed.

Her natural affinity with the woods and its creatures, including the heron, is underscored not only by her name (Sylvia is derived from the Latin silva , meaning ‘wood’), but even by the way she climbs the tree from which she spies the heron: she has, the narrator tells us, ‘bare feet and fingers, that pinched and held like bird’s claws to the monstrous ladder reaching up, up, almost to the sky itself.’ It is as if she is part-bird herself, at one with the forest.

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Classic Literature Summaries

Austen, Jane Pride and Prejudice Emma Sense and Sensibility Bronte, Emily Wuthering Heights Cervantes, Miguel de Don Quixote Dickens, Charles A Christmas Carol Great Expectations A Tale of Two Cities Bleak House Martin Chuzzlewit Nicholas Nickleby Oliver Twist The Old Curiosity Shop David Copperfield The Pickwick Papers Little Dorrit Fitzgerald, F. Scott The Great Gatsby Homer, The Odyssey Huxley, Aldous Brave New World Orwell, George Animal Farm 1984 Shakespeare, William Two Gentlemen of Verona Taming of the Shrew Comedy of Errors Love's Labour's Lost Midsummer Night's Dream Merchant of Venice Merry Wives of Windsor Much Ado About Nothing As You Like It Twelfth Night Troilus and Cressida Measure for Measure All's Well That Ends Well Pericles, Prince of Tyre Winter's Tale Cymbeline Tempest King Henry VI Part 1 King Henry VI Part 2 King Henry VI Part 3 Richard III Richard II King John King Henry IV Part 1 King Henry IV Part 2 King Henry V King Henry VIII Titus Andronicus Romeo and Juliet Julius Caesar Hamlet Othello Timon of Athens King Lear Macbeth Antony and Cleopatra Coriolanus Twain, Mark The Adventures of Tom Sawyer The Prince and the Pauper Huckleberry Finn Wells, H.G. The Time Machine Wilde, Oscar The Importance of Being Earnest

summarize of literature

The Effortless Academic

summarize of literature

The Effortless Literature Review

Literature review does not need to be time consuming or confusing. effortlessly find literature, use ai to screen for relevance and "3-step-filtering" to find the top 10% papers in your collection..

summarize of literature

Getting into a new field, starting a project or PhD can be challenging. The problem: You don’t know what you don’t know (aka unknown unknowns).

Most people therefore start “hoarding” publications – everything seems relevant. You quickly collect a 100 papers but do you have the 2 months it takes to study them? Probably not.

There is a better way and I call it: Effortless Literature Review . After testing dozens of tools I polished a workflow that leverages AI, modern discovery tools and creates an automated discovery & priotization engine.

Join the Workshop on Sat, March 18th

Let’s look at the whole process and then go into details:

summarize of literature

This seems like many steps - but you probably know some of them already. The effortlessness comes from integrating them with one another and leveraging the synergy between them.

Let’s look at the steps:

1. Finding “Seeds”

The old ways of finding papers is to “google” them, e.g. on Google Scholar or Arxiv.

If you search for “yeast” you may find papers on:

Brewing science (yeast as a fermentation agent)

Molecular biology (yeast as a model organism)

Medical science (yeast as infection)

Evolution (yeast by itself)

summarize of literature

Google would usually rank higher cited papers at the top. Molecular biology and medicine are huge domains. So effectively you will find much less on evolution.

Problem: Finding all relevant literature in such cross-domain fields becomes challenging. Separating important from irrelevant is even harder. (20$/mo) can help here by hinting at the importance of individual papers. It can tell you how often a paper has been supported or contrasted.

Papers with supporting claims are not “just mentioned” but actually validated. So the connection in our publication network is stronger and thus indicated relevance.

Luckily you can use both - as scite integrates into google scholar.

summarize of literature will also allow us to find where and how exactly a paper is mentioned (i.e. let us see the mentioning snippet). It is an amazing tool that integrates well with the rest of the academic tool eco system.

This combination of google scholar and is a great way to find the first few papers. Their citations and references will give us access to all the other relevant papers (Step 3).

I am making a workshop on this workflow, if you are inclined to learn more and would like a demo and to ask questions. Saturday, March 18th on zoom.

The Effortless Lit Review Workshop

2. Analyze abstracts with AI

A while ago I tweeted about how to use ChatGPT to read abstracts using a little known plugin called ArxivGPT.

With a little bit of creativity you can use ArxivGPT not to summarize abstracts but to ask it to RATE them.

People are weary of using ChatGPT in science, because it creates fake citations , doesn’t know math and is over confident .

But ChatGPT is good at one thing: Comparing text.

If you design your prompts to describe what you are looking for and then add the abstract of a paper the results will surprise you.

In this example I used a simple prompt and asked it to rate for relevance. And indeed the results are spot-on!

summarize of literature

This allows me to screen papers for relevance. You can ask ANY question that could be answered from the abstract and without domain knowledge.

There are so many way this workflow can be used:

Filter method papers, from theory papers

Identify papers working with a specific model organism, algorithm or methodology

Identify what the authors themselves see as potential limitations (discussion)

Summarize in different formats (keywords, bullets, sentences)

In the upcoming workshop on Literatur Review, you will learn even more ways to use this, to integrate and automate it. I would love to see you there.

Effortless Literature Review Workshop

3. Growing your collection

Once you have acquired a few seed papers, it is time to start exploring the citation network. Go through the list of references at the end of your seed paper and you will find all the papers in the past .

The problem here is that you can only go back in time - not forward.

summarize of literature

References are easy to find, but they only look into the past. We need citations to find out how the field has developed since.

In the past you would look into the journal of the publication and read a more recent issue. But citations can be scattered across many journals.

Today the journal method is outdated. There are tools to find everything much more easily and visually.

My all-time favourite tool for the job is Litmaps . In Gourmet Literature Review I described how we can use it, so I won’t go into too much detail here. But to give you an overview, this is how it looks:

summarize of literature

Seed maps in Litmaps show us all publications related (references and citations) to a single publication. They are an effortless way of discovery where we don’t have to drill through references lists.

Discovery in Litmaps shows us similar papers to a collection of papers we already have.

So each time we look at either of these we can add new papers and grow our collection.

Litmaps will be at the very core of the Effortless Literature Review Workshop (March 18th or as a download after).

Bonus: I invited the CEO of Litmaps and you can ask him anything you want about the tool or even make suggestions!

More Info on the Workshop

4. Importance Filtering

After you have grown your collection in the previous step you will probably end up with 100s of papers. Impossible to read.

My method is to filter in 3 steps or cuts. Identify the:

10% most recent

10% most cited

10% reviews

Archive the rest of the papers for later (or never).

All of this is easy to do with Litmaps and Zotero. Luckily those two work together through an exchange format called BibTeX. I can import and export papers from one to another.

This workflow is also partially described in the literature review article . Since writing the article I added to also look and sort for controversial papers.

summarize of literature

In the picture above you see that the Mori 2018 paper did receive the least citations of the 5. But it has more debate going on as there are many supporting claims as well as someone contrasting it.

This paper is therefore debated . (And indeed it is, this paper is about the link of biodiversity to ecological functions or eco system services. First of all we don’t know for sure where biodiversity comes from and second we only start to understand what services eco systems provide (i.e. air/water purification, climate regulation, flood protection) etc. Of course it is a subject of scrutiny! )

This integration allows us to identify ongoing debates in the field. And this is where “science” happens. You can quickly learn arguments around your field with precisely these papers.

I will show you many other examples in the webinar - join us, it is just 15$ as last time or a recording if you can’t attend.

Boost your Literature Review with AI

5. Reading and taking notes

Note taking is actually the more important skill when doing research. In my last article I wrote about boosting creativity and generating ideas on auto-pilot by using the right tools and methods.

Problem : We summarize what we read but we focus less on connecting them.

That is because our brain is a connecting system. So even by summarizing we get new ideas through the subconscious workings of the mind.

But our mind has limits. That means the number of ideas generally won’t scale indefinitely with the amount of information we consume. At some point you will start forgetting and this replaces older knowledge.

The right note taking system can help here. We can let our tools generate some of the connections we miss with our mind. Plus everything is stored forever.

summarize of literature

This graph visualizes the idea.

In gray are notes that summarize what I know (here: on proteins A,B,C,D…). While some of them are connected because I thought of it, others are connected in two steps by the green and purple nodes. These are tags and maps of content respectively.

By tagging two notes with the same label I connect them, but without explicitly thinking of it.

This is the “auto-pilot” aspect of this method. We only think of tagging N notes. The number of possible connections between them is N * (N - 1). For 100 notes this is 9900 connections - impossible to think of manually.

In the upcoming workshop we will talk about this as well as the idea of visual reference management (VRM).

If you have used Zotero or another reference manager you have encountered these endless lists of papers with the only way to navigate being the search bar.

But you can only search for what you can recall i.e. title, author or tag of a paper you saved.

VRM allows you to lay out the papers visually on a canvas and connect them in groups or individually.

summarize of literature

The result is that you can now use your spatial memory to remember your publications. Humans have evolved from animals that had to roam vast landscapes in search for food, naturally our spatial memory is quite well developed.

Concepts on the other hand are abstract and only a very recent evolutionary development. That’s why you can remember the neighbourhood of your childhood even decades later.

We will develop a visual reference manager in Obsidian in the Effortless Literature Review workshop. Join if you like the idea.

Learn Visual Reference Management

Literature Review is central to any researcher and also the most time consuming part of science.

Tools and polished workflows can cut the time you spend on it. They can help you create an overview, identify debates and “hot topics”.

Just 5 years ago most of the tools I am using here did not exist. If you have been in research that long, chances are you might have missed out on some of them.

This is why I created the Effortless Literature Review workshop. It will get you up to date and hopefully boost your career in the long run.

Those tools are not complicated. They are increasingly more customer focused and user experience based. That is why I am very confident that you can learn most of it in just about 2 hours.

I hope to see you in this workshop (March 18th, ~noon in the US, ~evening in the EU). I priced it at 15$ dollars to keep it accessible to everyone. Reach out to me with questions you have.

summarize of literature

Ready for more?

summarize of literature

Literature Review

About this guide

This research guide was developed for students at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

If you are a student from another school, you are welcome to peruse the guide, using the links above, but please know that our librarians can only provide general help to non-BU students. Contact the librarians at your own institution for help in using the resources available to you.

-Andruss Library

A literature review is a comprehensive summary of previous research on a topic. The literature review surveys scholarly articles, books, and other sources relevant to a particular area of research.  The review should enumerate, describe, summarize, objectively evaluate and clarify this previous research.  It should give a theoretical base for the research and help you (the author) determine the nature of your research.  The literature review acknowledges the work of previous researchers, and in so doing, assures the reader that your work has been well conceived.  It is assumed that by mentioning a previous work in the field of study, that the author has read, evaluated, and assimiliated that work into the work at hand.

A literature review creates a "landscape" for the reader, giving her or him a full understanding of the developments in the field.  This landscape informs the reader that the author has indeed assimilated all (or the vast majority of) previous, significant works in the field into her or his research. 

 "In writing the literature review, the purpose is to convey to the reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. The literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (eg. your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries.( )

Recommended Reading

summarize of literature


Many thanks to Kate Houston and Libbie Blanchard of CQ University Libraries, (Queensland, Australia) whose LibGuide on the Literature Review served as a framework for this guide.

Designed and updated by Michael Coffta

Andruss Library | 570-389-4205 |  [email protected] ©Copyright Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania • 400 East Second Street, Bloomsburg PA 17815-1301 • 570.389.4000

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Literature reviews offer a critical synthesis of empirical and theoretical literature to assess the strength of evidence, develop guidelines for practice and policymaking, and identify areas for future research. 1 It is often essential and usually the first task in any research endeavour, particularly in masters or doctoral level education. For effective data extraction and rigorous synthesis in reviews, the use of literature summary tables is of utmost importance. A literature summary table provides a synopsis of an included article. It succinctly presents its purpose, methods, findings and other relevant information pertinent to the review. The aim of developing these literature summary tables is to provide the reader with the information at one glance. Since there are multiple types of reviews (eg, systematic, integrative, scoping, critical and mixed methods) with distinct purposes and techniques, 2 there could be various approaches for developing literature summary tables making it a complex task specialty for the novice researchers or reviewers. Here, we offer five tips for authors of the review articles, relevant to all types of reviews, for creating useful and relevant literature summary tables. We also provide examples from our published reviews to illustrate how useful literature summary tables can be developed and what sort of information should be provided.

Tip 1: provide detailed information about frameworks and methods

Tabular literature summaries from a scoping review. Source: Rasheed et al . 3

The provision of information about conceptual and theoretical frameworks and methods is useful for several reasons. First, in quantitative (reviews synthesising the results of quantitative studies) and mixed reviews (reviews synthesising the results of both qualitative and quantitative studies to address a mixed review question), it allows the readers to assess the congruence of the core findings and methods with the adapted framework and tested assumptions. In qualitative reviews (reviews synthesising results of qualitative studies), this information is beneficial for readers to recognise the underlying philosophical and paradigmatic stance of the authors of the included articles. For example, imagine the authors of an article, included in a review, used phenomenological inquiry for their research. In that case, the review authors and the readers of the review need to know what kind of (transcendental or hermeneutic) philosophical stance guided the inquiry. Review authors should, therefore, include the philosophical stance in their literature summary for the particular article. Second, information about frameworks and methods enables review authors and readers to judge the quality of the research, which allows for discerning the strengths and limitations of the article. For example, if authors of an included article intended to develop a new scale and test its psychometric properties. To achieve this aim, they used a convenience sample of 150 participants and performed exploratory (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) on the same sample. Such an approach would indicate a flawed methodology because EFA and CFA should not be conducted on the same sample. The review authors must include this information in their summary table. Omitting this information from a summary could lead to the inclusion of a flawed article in the review, thereby jeopardising the review’s rigour.

Tip 2: include strengths and limitations for each article

Critical appraisal of individual articles included in a review is crucial for increasing the rigour of the review. Despite using various templates for critical appraisal, authors often do not provide detailed information about each reviewed article’s strengths and limitations. Merely noting the quality score based on standardised critical appraisal templates is not adequate because the readers should be able to identify the reasons for assigning a weak or moderate rating. Many recent critical appraisal checklists (eg, Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool) discourage review authors from assigning a quality score and recommend noting the main strengths and limitations of included studies. It is also vital that methodological and conceptual limitations and strengths of the articles included in the review are provided because not all review articles include empirical research papers. Rather some review synthesises the theoretical aspects of articles. Providing information about conceptual limitations is also important for readers to judge the quality of foundations of the research. For example, if you included a mixed-methods study in the review, reporting the methodological and conceptual limitations about ‘integration’ is critical for evaluating the study’s strength. Suppose the authors only collected qualitative and quantitative data and did not state the intent and timing of integration. In that case, the strength of the study is weak. Integration only occurred at the levels of data collection. However, integration may not have occurred at the analysis, interpretation and reporting levels.

Tip 3: write conceptual contribution of each reviewed article

While reading and evaluating review papers, we have observed that many review authors only provide core results of the article included in a review and do not explain the conceptual contribution offered by the included article. We refer to conceptual contribution as a description of how the article’s key results contribute towards the development of potential codes, themes or subthemes, or emerging patterns that are reported as the review findings. For example, the authors of a review article noted that one of the research articles included in their review demonstrated the usefulness of case studies and reflective logs as strategies for fostering compassion in nursing students. The conceptual contribution of this research article could be that experiential learning is one way to teach compassion to nursing students, as supported by case studies and reflective logs. This conceptual contribution of the article should be mentioned in the literature summary table. Delineating each reviewed article’s conceptual contribution is particularly beneficial in qualitative reviews, mixed-methods reviews, and critical reviews that often focus on developing models and describing or explaining various phenomena. Figure 2 offers an example of a literature summary table. 4

Tabular literature summaries from a critical review. Source: Younas and Maddigan. 4

Tip 4: compose potential themes from each article during summary writing

While developing literature summary tables, many authors use themes or subthemes reported in the given articles as the key results of their own review. Such an approach prevents the review authors from understanding the article’s conceptual contribution, developing rigorous synthesis and drawing reasonable interpretations of results from an individual article. Ultimately, it affects the generation of novel review findings. For example, one of the articles about women’s healthcare-seeking behaviours in developing countries reported a theme ‘social-cultural determinants of health as precursors of delays’. Instead of using this theme as one of the review findings, the reviewers should read and interpret beyond the given description in an article, compare and contrast themes, findings from one article with findings and themes from another article to find similarities and differences and to understand and explain bigger picture for their readers. Therefore, while developing literature summary tables, think twice before using the predeveloped themes. Including your themes in the summary tables (see figure 1 ) demonstrates to the readers that a robust method of data extraction and synthesis has been followed.

Tip 5: create your personalised template for literature summaries

Often templates are available for data extraction and development of literature summary tables. The available templates may be in the form of a table, chart or a structured framework that extracts some essential information about every article. The commonly used information may include authors, purpose, methods, key results and quality scores. While extracting all relevant information is important, such templates should be tailored to meet the needs of the individuals’ review. For example, for a review about the effectiveness of healthcare interventions, a literature summary table must include information about the intervention, its type, content timing, duration, setting, effectiveness, negative consequences, and receivers and implementers’ experiences of its usage. Similarly, literature summary tables for articles included in a meta-synthesis must include information about the participants’ characteristics, research context and conceptual contribution of each reviewed article so as to help the reader make an informed decision about the usefulness or lack of usefulness of the individual article in the review and the whole review.

In conclusion, narrative or systematic reviews are almost always conducted as a part of any educational project (thesis or dissertation) or academic or clinical research. Literature reviews are the foundation of research on a given topic. Robust and high-quality reviews play an instrumental role in guiding research, practice and policymaking. However, the quality of reviews is also contingent on rigorous data extraction and synthesis, which require developing literature summaries. We have outlined five tips that could enhance the quality of the data extraction and synthesis process by developing useful literature summaries.

Twitter @Ahtisham04, @parveenazamali

Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Competing interests None declared.

Patient consent for publication Not required.

Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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Supervisor Psychological Contract Management pp 143–148 Cite as

Summary of Literature Review

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As has been detailed in Chapter 2, there is no general agreement on the appropriate definition of psychological contracts. For the purpose of this research a definition proposed by Rousseau (1995) has been adopted. Thus, psychological contracts are defined here as perceptions of individual employees about the mutual obligations between themselves and the organisation they work for. The main advantage of this definition is that it offers a clear unit of analysis for empirical research. It has also been argued that organisations do not have psychological contracts with their employees. Organisations have employment strategies which they use to shape the exchange relationship between themselves and their employees. It has been proposed that supervisors do form perceptions of the mutual obligations between their subordinates and the organisation. However, it has also been proposed that they are different from psychological contracts because they are partly third party judgements and thus similar to implied contracts. Exploring similarities and differences between supervisor implied contracts and employee psychological contracts has been highlighted as an interesting question for further research.

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How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples

Published on November 23, 2020 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 4, 2022.

Summarizing , or writing a summary, means giving a concise overview of a text’s main points in your own words. A summary is always much shorter than the original text.

There are five key steps that can help you to write a summary:

Writing a summary does not involve critiquing or evaluating the source . You should simply provide an accurate account of the most important information and ideas (without copying any text from the original).

Table of contents

When to write a summary, step 1: read the text, step 2: break the text down into sections, step 3: identify the key points in each section, step 4: write the summary, step 5: check the summary against the article, frequently asked questions about summarizing.

There are many situations in which you might have to summarize an article or other source:

When you’re writing an academic text like an essay , research paper , or dissertation , you’ll integrate sources in a variety of ways. You might use a brief quote to support your point, or paraphrase a few sentences or paragraphs.

But it’s often appropriate to summarize a whole article or chapter if it is especially relevant to your own research, or to provide an overview of a source before you analyze or critique it.

In any case, the goal of summarizing is to give your reader a clear understanding of the original source. Follow the five steps outlined below to write a good summary.

You should read the article more than once to make sure you’ve thoroughly understood it. It’s often effective to read in three stages:

There are some tricks you can use to identify the key points as you read:

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

To make the text more manageable and understand its sub-points, break it down into smaller sections.

If the text is a scientific paper that follows a standard empirical structure, it is probably already organized into clearly marked sections, usually including an introduction , methods , results , and discussion .

Other types of articles may not be explicitly divided into sections. But most articles and essays will be structured around a series of sub-points or themes.

Now it’s time go through each section and pick out its most important points. What does your reader need to know to understand the overall argument or conclusion of the article?

Keep in mind that a summary does not involve paraphrasing every single paragraph of the article. Your goal is to extract the essential points, leaving out anything that can be considered background information or supplementary detail.

In a scientific article, there are some easy questions you can ask to identify the key points in each part.

If the article takes a different form, you might have to think more carefully about what points are most important for the reader to understand its argument.

In that case, pay particular attention to the thesis statement —the central claim that the author wants us to accept, which usually appears in the introduction—and the topic sentences that signal the main idea of each paragraph.

Now that you know the key points that the article aims to communicate, you need to put them in your own words.

To avoid plagiarism and show you’ve understood the article, it’s essential to properly paraphrase the author’s ideas. Do not copy and paste parts of the article, not even just a sentence or two.

The best way to do this is to put the article aside and write out your own understanding of the author’s key points.

Examples of article summaries

Let’s take a look at an example. Below, we summarize this article , which scientifically investigates the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Davis et al. (2015) set out to empirically test the popular saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are often used to represent a healthy lifestyle, and research has shown their nutritional properties could be beneficial for various aspects of health. The authors’ unique approach is to take the saying literally and ask: do people who eat apples use healthcare services less frequently? If there is indeed such a relationship, they suggest, promoting apple consumption could help reduce healthcare costs.

The study used publicly available cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants were categorized as either apple eaters or non-apple eaters based on their self-reported apple consumption in an average 24-hour period. They were also categorized as either avoiding or not avoiding the use of healthcare services in the past year. The data was statistically analyzed to test whether there was an association between apple consumption and several dependent variables: physician visits, hospital stays, use of mental health services, and use of prescription medication.

Although apple eaters were slightly more likely to have avoided physician visits, this relationship was not statistically significant after adjusting for various relevant factors. No association was found between apple consumption and hospital stays or mental health service use. However, apple eaters were found to be slightly more likely to have avoided using prescription medication. Based on these results, the authors conclude that an apple a day does not keep the doctor away, but it may keep the pharmacist away. They suggest that this finding could have implications for reducing healthcare costs, considering the high annual costs of prescription medication and the inexpensiveness of apples.

However, the authors also note several limitations of the study: most importantly, that apple eaters are likely to differ from non-apple eaters in ways that may have confounded the results (for example, apple eaters may be more likely to be health-conscious). To establish any causal relationship between apple consumption and avoidance of medication, they recommend experimental research.

An article summary like the above would be appropriate for a stand-alone summary assignment. However, you’ll often want to give an even more concise summary of an article.

For example, in a literature review or meta analysis you may want to briefly summarize this study as part of a wider discussion of various sources. In this case, we can boil our summary down even further to include only the most relevant information.

Using national survey data, Davis et al. (2015) tested the assertion that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and did not find statistically significant evidence to support this hypothesis. While people who consumed apples were slightly less likely to use prescription medications, the study was unable to demonstrate a causal relationship between these variables.

Citing the source you’re summarizing

When including a summary as part of a larger text, it’s essential to properly cite the source you’re summarizing. The exact format depends on your citation style , but it usually includes an in-text citation and a full reference at the end of your paper.

You can easily create your citations and references in APA or MLA using our free citation generators.

APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator

Finally, read through the article once more to ensure that:

If you’re summarizing many articles as part of your own work, it may be a good idea to use a plagiarism checker to double-check that your text is completely original and properly cited. Just be sure to use one that’s safe and reliable.

A summary is a short overview of the main points of an article or other source, written entirely in your own words.

A summary is always much shorter than the original text. The length of a summary can range from just a few sentences to several paragraphs; it depends on the length of the article you’re summarizing, and on the purpose of the summary.

You might have to write a summary of a source:

To avoid plagiarism when summarizing an article or other source, follow these two rules:

An abstract concisely explains all the key points of an academic text such as a thesis , dissertation or journal article. It should summarize the whole text, not just introduce it.

An abstract is a type of summary , but summaries are also written elsewhere in academic writing . For example, you might summarize a source in a paper , in a literature review , or as a standalone assignment.

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If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

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What is a summary of the poem "Ballad of the Dreamy Girl" by Edith Roseveare?

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“Ballad of the Dreamy Girl” by Edith Roseveare is all about the conflict between a practical mother and a dreamy girl who would rather write poetry than do household chores. Let's look at how the poem presents this conflict.

The speaker is looking back to herself at age sixteen. She loves writing poetry, but one day her mother comes in with a duster and tells her to quit that nonsense and clean her room. Poetry will not make money. The speaker's mother scolds her often, but the speaker continues her dreams and poetry anyway. She knows her mother will never understand, so she dusts and writes, still following her dreams even as she tries to obey her mother.

The speaker learns to cook, and her mother emphasizes that she will have to feed her future husband well to keep him happy and sweet. The speaker asks in response, “And how do men keep women sweet?” Her mother does not answer. She just shakes her head and sighs as she goes on cooking. We can see that this mother and daughter have very different outlooks on life.

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What Is a Written Summary?

Examples of Summaries

Steps in composing a summary, characteristics of a summary, a checklist for evaluating summaries.

The Lighter Side of Summaries

A summary, also known as an abstract, precis , or synopsis , is a shortened version of a text that highlights its key points. The word "summary" comes from the Latin, " sum ."

A Summary of the Short Story "Miss Brill" by Katherine Mansfield "'Miss Brill' is the story of an old woman told brilliantly and realistically, balancing thoughts and emotions that sustain her late solitary life amidst all the bustle of modern life. Miss Brill is a regular visitor on Sundays to the Jardins Publiques (the Public Gardens) of a small French suburb where she sits and watches all sorts of people come and go. She listens to the band playing, loves to watch people and guess what keeps them going, and enjoys contemplating the world as a great stage upon which actors perform. She finds herself to be another actor among the so many she sees, or at least herself as 'part of the performance after all.' One Sunday Miss Brill puts on her fur and goes to the Public Gardens as usual. The evening ends with her sudden realization that she is old and lonely, a realization brought to her by a conversation she overhears between a boy and a girl, presumably lovers, who comment on her unwelcome presence in their vicinity. Miss Brill is sad and depressed as she returns home, not stopping by as usual to buy her Sunday delicacy, a slice of honey-cake. She retires to her dark room, puts the fur back into the box and imagines that she has heard something cry." -K. Narayana Chandran.

A Summary of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" "One way of discovering the overall pattern of a piece of writing is to summarize it in your own words. The act of summarizing is much like stating the  plot of a play. For instance, if you were asked to summarize the story of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet,' you might say:

It's the story of a young prince of Denmark who discovers that his uncle and his mother have killed his father, the former king. He plots to get revenge, but in his obsession with revenge he drives his sweetheart to madness and suicide, kills her innocent father, and in the final scene poisons and is poisoned by her brother in a duel, causes his mother's death, and kills the guilty king, his uncle.

This summary contains a number of dramatic elements: a cast of characters (the prince; his uncle, mother, and father; his sweetheart; her father, and so on), a scene (Elsinore Castle in Denmark), instruments (poisons, swords), and actions (discovery, dueling, killing)." -Richard E. Young, Alton L. Becker, and Kenneth L. Pike.

The primary purpose of a summary is to "give an accurate, objective representation of what the work says." As a general rule, "you should not include your own ideas or interpretations." -Paul Clee and Violeta Clee

"Summarizing condenses in your own words the main points in a passage:

" a general procedure you can use [for composing a summary]:

Step 1 : Read the text for its main points. Step 2 : Reread carefully and make a descriptive outline . Step 3 : Write out the text's thesis or main point. Step 4 : Identify the text's major divisions or chunks. Each division develops one of the stages needed to make the whole main point. Step 5 : Try summarizing each part in one or two sentences. Step 6: Now combine your summaries of the parts into a coherent whole, creating a condensed version of the text's main ideas in your own words." -(John C. Bean, Virginia Chappell, and Alice M. Gillam, Reading Rhetorically . Pearson Education, 2004)

"The purpose of a summary is to give a reader a condensed and objective account of the main ideas and features of a text. Usually, a summary has between one and three paragraphs or 100 to 300 words, depending on the length and complexity of the original essay and the intended audience and purpose. Typically, a summary will do the following:

"Good summaries must be fair, balanced, accurate, and complete. This checklist of questions will help you evaluate drafts of a summary:

On the Summary App  Summly

"Upon hearing, in March of [2013], reports that a 17-year-old schoolboy had sold a piece of software to Yahoo! for $30 million, you might well have entertained a few preconceived notions about what sort of child this must be...The app [that then 15-year-old Nick] D'Aloisio designed, Summly , compresses long pieces of text into a few representative sentences. When he released an early iteration, tech observers realized that an app that could deliver brief, accurate summaries would be hugely valuable in a world where we read everything—from news stories to corporate reports—on our phones, on the go...There are two ways of doing natural language processing: statistical or semantic,' D'Aloisio explains. A semantic system attempts to figure out the actual meaning of a text and translate it succinctly. A statistical system—the type D'Aloisio used for Summly— doesn't bother with that; it keeps phrases and sentences intact and figures out how to pick a few that best encapsulate the entire work. 'It ranks and classifies each sentence, or phrase, as a candidate for inclusion in the summary. It's very mathematical. It looks at frequencies and distributions, but not at what the words mean." -Seth Stevenson.

"Here are some...famous works of literature that could easily have been summarized in a few words:

Think of all the valuable hours we would save if authors got right to the point this way. We'd all have more time for more important activities, such as reading newspaper columns." -Dave Barry.

"To summarize: It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem." -Douglas Adams.

summarize of literature

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summarize of literature

Summary Of Why Literature Matters By Dana Gioia

Oppression in one flew over the cuckoo's nest essay.

Literature exists to express, and thus is tied to the oldest and finest art in human expression, complaining. Complaints can take many levels, from the trivial to the hefty and legitimate. Literature then is often used to illustrate some issue, be it political, social, antisocial, intrinsic, extrinsic, people not being friendly enough, people being overbearing, people being people, men being men, imagined, concrete, abstract, modern, postmodern, post-postmodern, meta-post-postmodern, timeless, classical, the faults of the young, the faults of the old, the faults of the very old and now dead, endemic, exdemic, tenacious,

Analysis Of Street Smarts By Gerald Graff

Gerald Graff’s argument on how educational systems are missing a great opportunity to tap into “street smarts” and focus them into a path of academic work is indeed convincing (Graff, 198). After all, anyone who’s been through the American educational system knows odds are often stacked against the “street smarts.” This is especially true in english classes, where one is often required to read boring and somewhat heartless books like, 1984, Beowulf, and the majority of Shakespeare’s classics. This is not to say these books are bad or shouldn’t be read during one’s schooling years, instead, the problem is one of apathy. For instance, in my high school years I never even remotely liked to read books Othello, but I loved to read magazines and

As the digital age comes upon us, more and more Americans become dissatisfied with the state of literacy in this generation. Because the Internet paves the way for shorter and shorter interactions, namely articles versus novels and six-second viral videos versus films, many people that grew up in the age of the Internet have a preference for this condensed form of entertainment. Dana Gioia of The New York Times asserts in his essay “Why Literature Matters” that the decline of reading in America is destined to have a negative impact on society as a whole.

Margaret Atwood An End To Audience Analysis

Literature is important in any one culture. Written word is used all throughout history, and it is transported all over the world. However spoken word is different, it is altered every single time that it is told. Every person tells a story differently, and everyone interprets a story differently. In the speech that Margret Atwood gave, An End to Audience, she uses many personal analogies to show how all a story teller can do is tell the kinds of stories that they wish to tell and hope that someone out in the world will want to listen, even if they are not in the same place or time as the story teller themselves.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Cannot Read Summary

She believes the syllabus provided to students do not include any challenging books, and her belief toward high school teachers becoming too lazy to examine thoroughly if the book the education system provides them with represent any true and significant value is a recurring concern of hers’- therefore ineffective to students. All in all, Prose used ethos, pathos, logos and the usage of specific words to help her argument. She successfully persuades her point of view and makes it clear that if schools want their curriculum to improve, they must change their way of teaching and push their students to view literature in a new

Rhetorical Analysis Of Why Literature Matters By Dana Gioia

In the article, “Why Literature Matters” by Dana Gioia, he states that the decline of interest in literature—especially from young teens—will have a negative outcome in society. Notably, he informs the readers by utilizing strong vocabulary, as well as rhetorical appeals to persuade his audience that the decline in reading will have a negative outcome. This allows readers to comprehend his views and join his side of the argument.

Dana Gioia's Why Literature Matters

First of all, Gioia begins with strong appeals to reader's logos by clearly laying out the statistic source. For example, "According to the 2002 survey of Public Participation in the Arts, the reading population of the Americans is declining." In turn, is an attempt to point out the thesis statement and make the readers to think out about this topic wile reading through her essay. In order to make her audience keep interests in her speech, she also uses rhetorical device - irony. Where she mentioned in the sixth paragraph that the survey which is made by National Association of employees in 2001, shows 38 percent of the employers complained the schools inadequately taught reading comprehension. While the concern and the curiosity raised among readers, this persuasive technique have effectively enhances the power of Gioia arguments that her audiences will agree to take her side.

The Human Condition In Literature

The Human condition is the root of what it means to be human, how we are all human, and in the same way, how we are individuals. Throughout this essay, you will perceive a better understanding of the human condition, and how it is reflected in select pieces of literature. The Human condition is an extremely paramount part of understanding literature. Who are we if we are not human?

Can Poetry Matter Dana Gioia Analysis

literature is in society.In the essay poet Gioia goes on to state that literature is beneficial to society

Ethos Pathos And Logos By Dana Gioia

Quoting the credible National Association of Manufacturers, he states, “poor reading skills ranked second” (in skills deficiencies among workers) and that “38 percent of employees complained that local schools inadequately taught reading comprehension.” This use of logos helps to show the reader the importance of reading in a situation that is likely a part of their daily life. After that he goes on to show how reading has impacted society and politics as well, illustrating to the reader his claim that reading affects all of us. He then states that “literary readers are markedly more civically engaged than non readers.” This fact shows the benefits of reading while also falling under logos. Showing the reader positives of reading in a factual way can be very persuasive. He then goes on to use strong and persuasive diction to support his claim, stating “The decline of literary reading foreshadows serious long-term social and economic problems, and it is time to bring literature and the other arts into discussions of public policy.” Using a slight guilt technique can persuade the reader. This strong diction continues to support his claim. And finally he ends his essay saying that the qualities gained from reading are not skills that “society can afford to

How To Read Literature Like A Professor By Thomas C. Foster

How To Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster, is a book that teaches adolescence how to read and comprehend literature. Foster’s purpose for writing this book was to help adolescents become better readers. Foster also wants to show that literature is not just a story, though it is also a learning experience to help us in life. He teaches us that “Every Trip is a Quest”, Vampires do exist, “It’s All Political”, and much more. After reading this book, readers should understand more about literature and how to connect stories to other stories and real life.Thomas C. Foster feels that after reading this, Students will become a better readers, because we will be able to comprehend literature better.

What Is The Death Of Liberal Arts Response To Fahrenheit 451

The value for a complete, effective education has decreased over the years. Important courses in liberal arts have been eliminated from a numerous amount of collages causing their students to be less prepared for the working world. In the novel Fahrenheit 451 where it’s characters live in a dystopian society that does not value books at all they in fact are burned due to the threat it holds relates to the death of liberal arts in today’s society. This supports why Centenary College should not cut their courses in the humanities.

Fahrenheit 451, By Ray Bradbury And Joe Fassler

Capturing a reader within every word, a strong piece of literature holds the power to reshape a reader’s perspective. Readers of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Joe Fassler’s article entitled “How Literature Inspires Empathy,” discover how quality literature can improve humanity. Bradbury and Alaa Al Alswany display literature’s capability to transform the compassion, knowledge, and vision of a person.

Summary Of I Know Why The Caged Bird Cannot Read

English class should be a place of imagination and creativity, where great works of fiction are read and not reduced to a moral value. Prose states, “Only rarely do teachers propose writing must be worth reading closely. Instead, students are informed that literature is principally a vehicle for the soporific moral blather that they suffer daily from their parents” (93). Books should be enjoyed and not feel like punishment. Many students today are feeling exactly that, that books are just assignments that need to be completed and not enjoyed. The time students have for reading independant books that interest them is dwindling to none. Instead, as Prose explains, the only reading material for students is just the “moral blather” that uninterests them. Prose also took issue with the fact that books were chosen based on what social issue it addressed, not on the quality of plot or language. One of these books Prose took issue with was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper

In the reading from “why literature matters”, Dana Gioia constructs an argument using statistical evidence and strong diction to persuade his readers that the decline of reading in America will have a negative effect on society.

More about Summary Of Why Literature Matters By Dana Gioia

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When you underline and annotate a text, when you ask yourself questions about its contents, when you work out an outline of its structure, you are establishing your understanding of what you are reading. When you write a summary, you are demonstrating your understanding of the text and communicating it to your reader.

To summarize is to condense a text to its main points and to do so in your own words. To include every detail is neither necessary nor desirable. Instead, you should extract only those elements that you think are most important—the main idea (or thesis) and its essential supporting points, which in the original passage may have been interwoven with less important material.

Many students make the mistake of confusing summary with analysis. They are not the same thing. An analysis is a discussion of ideas, techniques, and/or meaning in a text. A summary, on the other hand, does not require you to critique or respond to the ideas in a text. When you analyze a piece of writing, you generally summarize the contents briefly in order to establish for the reader the ideas that your essay will then go on to analyze, but a summary is not a substitute for the analysis itself.

If you are writing a literature paper, for example, your teacher probably does not want you to simply write a plot summary. You may include some very brief summary within a literature paper, but only as much as necessary to make your own interpretation, your thesis, clear.

It is important to remember that a summary is not an outline or synopsis of the points that the author makes in the order that the author gives them. Instead, a summary is a distillation of the ideas or argument of the text. It is a reconstruction of the major point or points of development of a text, beginning with the thesis or main idea, followed by the points or details that support or elaborate on that idea.

If a text is organized in a linear fashion, you may be able to write a summary simply by paraphrasing the major points from the beginning of the text to the end. However, you should not assume that this will always be the case. Not all writers use such a straightforward structure. They may not state the thesis or main idea immediately at the beginning, but rather build up to it slowly, and they may introduce a point of development in one place and then return to it later in the text.

However, for the sake of clarity, a summary should present the author’s points in a straightforward structure. In order to write a good summary, you may have to gather minor points or components of an argument from different places in the text in order to summarize the text in an organized way. A point made in the beginning of an essay and then one made toward the end may need to be grouped together in your summary to concisely convey the argument that the author is making. In the end, you will have read, digested, and reconstructed the text in a shorter, more concise form.


There are many instances in which you will have to write a summary. You may be assigned to write a one or two page summary of an article or reading, or you may be asked to include a brief summary of a text as part of a response paper or critique. Also, you may write summaries of articles as part of the note-taking and planning process for a research paper, and you may want to include these summaries, or at least parts of them, in your paper. The writer of a research paper is especially dependent upon summary as a means of referring to source materials. Through the use of summary in a research paper, you can condense a broad range of information, and you can present and explain the relevance of a number of sources all dealing with the same subject.

You may also summarize your own paper in an introduction in order to present a brief overview of the ideas you will discuss throughout the rest of the paper.

Depending on the length and complexity of the original text as well as your purpose in using summary, a summary can be relatively brief—a short paragraph or even a single sentence—or quite lengthy—several paragraphs or even an entire paper.


A good summary should be comprehensive, concise, coherent, and independent . These qualities are explained below:


Summarizing shorter texts (ten pages or fewer).

Summarizing Longer Texts (more than ten pages)

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Literature Reviews

What this handout is about.

This handout will explain what literature reviews are and offer insights into the form and construction of literature reviews in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.


OK. You’ve got to write a literature review. You dust off a novel and a book of poetry, settle down in your chair, and get ready to issue a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” as you leaf through the pages. “Literature review” done. Right?

Wrong! The “literature” of a literature review refers to any collection of materials on a topic, not necessarily the great literary texts of the world. “Literature” could be anything from a set of government pamphlets on British colonial methods in Africa to scholarly articles on the treatment of a torn ACL. And a review does not necessarily mean that your reader wants you to give your personal opinion on whether or not you liked these sources.

What is a literature review, then?

A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period.

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. And depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant.

But how is a literature review different from an academic research paper?

The main focus of an academic research paper is to develop a new argument, and a research paper is likely to contain a literature review as one of its parts. In a research paper, you use the literature as a foundation and as support for a new insight that you contribute. The focus of a literature review, however, is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of others without adding new contributions.

Why do we write literature reviews?

Literature reviews provide you with a handy guide to a particular topic. If you have limited time to conduct research, literature reviews can give you an overview or act as a stepping stone. For professionals, they are useful reports that keep them up to date with what is current in the field. For scholars, the depth and breadth of the literature review emphasizes the credibility of the writer in his or her field. Literature reviews also provide a solid background for a research paper’s investigation. Comprehensive knowledge of the literature of the field is essential to most research papers.

Who writes these things, anyway?

Literature reviews are written occasionally in the humanities, but mostly in the sciences and social sciences; in experiment and lab reports, they constitute a section of the paper. Sometimes a literature review is written as a paper in itself.

Let’s get to it! What should I do before writing the literature review?

If your assignment is not very specific, seek clarification from your instructor:

Find models

Look for other literature reviews in your area of interest or in the discipline and read them to get a sense of the types of themes you might want to look for in your own research or ways to organize your final review. You can simply put the word “review” in your search engine along with your other topic terms to find articles of this type on the Internet or in an electronic database. The bibliography or reference section of sources you’ve already read are also excellent entry points into your own research.

Narrow your topic

There are hundreds or even thousands of articles and books on most areas of study. The narrower your topic, the easier it will be to limit the number of sources you need to read in order to get a good survey of the material. Your instructor will probably not expect you to read everything that’s out there on the topic, but you’ll make your job easier if you first limit your scope.

Keep in mind that UNC Libraries have research guides and to databases relevant to many fields of study. You can reach out to the subject librarian for a consultation: .

And don’t forget to tap into your professor’s (or other professors’) knowledge in the field. Ask your professor questions such as: “If you had to read only one book from the 90’s on topic X, what would it be?” Questions such as this help you to find and determine quickly the most seminal pieces in the field.

Consider whether your sources are current

Some disciplines require that you use information that is as current as possible. In the sciences, for instance, treatments for medical problems are constantly changing according to the latest studies. Information even two years old could be obsolete. However, if you are writing a review in the humanities, history, or social sciences, a survey of the history of the literature may be what is needed, because what is important is how perspectives have changed through the years or within a certain time period. Try sorting through some other current bibliographies or literature reviews in the field to get a sense of what your discipline expects. You can also use this method to consider what is currently of interest to scholars in this field and what is not.

Strategies for writing the literature review

Find a focus.

A literature review, like a term paper, is usually organized around ideas, not the sources themselves as an annotated bibliography would be organized. This means that you will not just simply list your sources and go into detail about each one of them, one at a time. No. As you read widely but selectively in your topic area, consider instead what themes or issues connect your sources together. Do they present one or different solutions? Is there an aspect of the field that is missing? How well do they present the material and do they portray it according to an appropriate theory? Do they reveal a trend in the field? A raging debate? Pick one of these themes to focus the organization of your review.

Convey it to your reader

A literature review may not have a traditional thesis statement (one that makes an argument), but you do need to tell readers what to expect. Try writing a simple statement that lets the reader know what is your main organizing principle. Here are a couple of examples:

The current trend in treatment for congestive heart failure combines surgery and medicine. More and more cultural studies scholars are accepting popular media as a subject worthy of academic consideration.

Consider organization

You’ve got a focus, and you’ve stated it clearly and directly. Now what is the most effective way of presenting the information? What are the most important topics, subtopics, etc., that your review needs to include? And in what order should you present them? Develop an organization for your review at both a global and local level:

First, cover the basic categories

Just like most academic papers, literature reviews also must contain at least three basic elements: an introduction or background information section; the body of the review containing the discussion of sources; and, finally, a conclusion and/or recommendations section to end the paper. The following provides a brief description of the content of each:

Organizing the body

Once you have the basic categories in place, then you must consider how you will present the sources themselves within the body of your paper. Create an organizational method to focus this section even further.

To help you come up with an overall organizational framework for your review, consider the following scenario:

You’ve decided to focus your literature review on materials dealing with sperm whales. This is because you’ve just finished reading Moby Dick, and you wonder if that whale’s portrayal is really real. You start with some articles about the physiology of sperm whales in biology journals written in the 1980’s. But these articles refer to some British biological studies performed on whales in the early 18th century. So you check those out. Then you look up a book written in 1968 with information on how sperm whales have been portrayed in other forms of art, such as in Alaskan poetry, in French painting, or on whale bone, as the whale hunters in the late 19th century used to do. This makes you wonder about American whaling methods during the time portrayed in Moby Dick, so you find some academic articles published in the last five years on how accurately Herman Melville portrayed the whaling scene in his novel.

Now consider some typical ways of organizing the sources into a review:

Sometimes, though, you might need to add additional sections that are necessary for your study, but do not fit in the organizational strategy of the body. What other sections you include in the body is up to you. Put in only what is necessary. Here are a few other sections you might want to consider:

Questions for Further Research: What questions about the field has the review sparked? How will you further your research as a result of the review?

Begin composing

Once you’ve settled on a general pattern of organization, you’re ready to write each section. There are a few guidelines you should follow during the writing stage as well. Here is a sample paragraph from a literature review about sexism and language to illuminate the following discussion:

However, other studies have shown that even gender-neutral antecedents are more likely to produce masculine images than feminine ones (Gastil, 1990). Hamilton (1988) asked students to complete sentences that required them to fill in pronouns that agreed with gender-neutral antecedents such as “writer,” “pedestrian,” and “persons.” The students were asked to describe any image they had when writing the sentence. Hamilton found that people imagined 3.3 men to each woman in the masculine “generic” condition and 1.5 men per woman in the unbiased condition. Thus, while ambient sexism accounted for some of the masculine bias, sexist language amplified the effect. (Source: Erika Falk and Jordan Mills, “Why Sexist Language Affects Persuasion: The Role of Homophily, Intended Audience, and Offense,” Women and Language19:2).

Use evidence

In the example above, the writers refer to several other sources when making their point. A literature review in this sense is just like any other academic research paper. Your interpretation of the available sources must be backed up with evidence to show that what you are saying is valid.

Be selective

Select only the most important points in each source to highlight in the review. The type of information you choose to mention should relate directly to the review’s focus, whether it is thematic, methodological, or chronological.

Use quotes sparingly

Falk and Mills do not use any direct quotes. That is because the survey nature of the literature review does not allow for in-depth discussion or detailed quotes from the text. Some short quotes here and there are okay, though, if you want to emphasize a point, or if what the author said just cannot be rewritten in your own words. Notice that Falk and Mills do quote certain terms that were coined by the author, not common knowledge, or taken directly from the study. But if you find yourself wanting to put in more quotes, check with your instructor.

Summarize and synthesize

Remember to summarize and synthesize your sources within each paragraph as well as throughout the review. The authors here recapitulate important features of Hamilton’s study, but then synthesize it by rephrasing the study’s significance and relating it to their own work.

Keep your own voice

While the literature review presents others’ ideas, your voice (the writer’s) should remain front and center. Notice that Falk and Mills weave references to other sources into their own text, but they still maintain their own voice by starting and ending the paragraph with their own ideas and their own words. The sources support what Falk and Mills are saying.

Use caution when paraphrasing

When paraphrasing a source that is not your own, be sure to represent the author’s information or opinions accurately and in your own words. In the preceding example, Falk and Mills either directly refer in the text to the author of their source, such as Hamilton, or they provide ample notation in the text when the ideas they are mentioning are not their own, for example, Gastil’s. For more information, please see our handout on plagiarism .

Revise, revise, revise

Draft in hand? Now you’re ready to revise. Spending a lot of time revising is a wise idea, because your main objective is to present the material, not the argument. So check over your review again to make sure it follows the assignment and/or your outline. Then, just as you would for most other academic forms of writing, rewrite or rework the language of your review so that you’ve presented your information in the most concise manner possible. Be sure to use terminology familiar to your audience; get rid of unnecessary jargon or slang. Finally, double check that you’ve documented your sources and formatted the review appropriately for your discipline. For tips on the revising and editing process, see our handout on revising drafts .

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Jones, Robert, Patrick Bizzaro, and Cynthia Selfe. 1997. The Harcourt Brace Guide to Writing in the Disciplines . New York: Harcourt Brace.

Lamb, Sandra E. 1998. How to Write It: A Complete Guide to Everything You’ll Ever Write . Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Rosen, Leonard J., and Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook , 5th ed. New York: Longman.

Troyka, Lynn Quittman, and Doug Hesse. 2016. Simon and Schuster Handbook for Writers , 11th ed. London: Pearson.

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