Academic Writing and Research Skills
Literature review refers to a way that enables one to learn about what other people think about a topic of interest. Before conducting any review of literature, a researcher must have an idea or a topic that guides his/her review. One’s notes are vital in the identification of a topic to be reviewed. A researcher can read through his notes so as to identify a topic or a statement that can be used as a thesis for his review. After identifying a statement, it is necessary to read through the notes again to have a better understanding of the statement, and develop one’s views on the topic. A researcher further needs to make a critical analysis of the statement to determine whether he agrees with the viewpoint of the statement, and the reasons behind his agreeing or disagreeing with it (Ridley, 2008). It is only after this critical analysis that a researcher can now embark on testing the statement and his view against the views of others.
Class notes are important as they can be used to test the views of the researcher. Through notes, researchers can get a feedback on the quality of their analysis and the relevance of what they have been reading. Notes can also assist them in defending their views. When writing literature review, a researcher is supposed to state his/her arguments in support of his thesis. The researcher can derive some of his arguments from his notes and thus another importance of notes in reviewing literature.
Referencing refers to citing or referring sources that have been used in an academic work with the aim of acknowledging other authors for their contribution in one’s work. References are usually found in a bibliography that comes last in an academic paper. Referencing can also occur as citations within the body of the text. Citations enable readers to trace borrowed knowledge within the body or the specific ideas that other authors have contributed. Referencing assists readers in differentiating original work from that which is not original (Pears & Shields, 2010).
Styles of referencing vary depending on institutions in which an individual studies or the discipline under which his work falls. Referencing styles are crucial and important parts of a paper. The styles also demonstrate some degree of knowledge in a given field. It is vital to use a referencing style properly as referencing attracts some marks in most academic essays. There are many referencing styles even though some are rarely used. The following styles are normally used:
- APA- this style is based on the author and the date. This means that great emphasis is placed on the date and the author, and this is evident even in the in-text citation of this style.
- MLA- this style is mostly applied in humanities and arts disciplines, mostly in the US. It is the most used style of all referencing styles.
- Harvard- this style is resembles APA in many aspects. MLA style is widely used in Australia and in the United Kingdom, and it is mostly applied in the discipline of Humanities (Pears & Shields, 2010).
- Turabian and Chicago- these two styles are separate but are similar in almost all aspects. They are widely used in the fields of Economics and History, just like it is the case with APA style.
- Vancouver- this style is rarely used, but it is mainly applied in scientific papers, as well as in the field of medicine.
All referencing styles have their unique ways and rules of citing them. For example the in-text citations for Harvard, MLA, and APA styles occur in the body of the text, while those of Oxford and Chicago occur at the bottom of the pages as footnotes or endnotes (Neville, 2010).
Neville, C. (2010). The complete guide to referencing and avoiding plagiarism. Maidenhead: Open University Press/McGraw Hill.
Pears, R., & Shields, G. (2010). Cite them right. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Ridley, D. (2008). The literature review. London: SAGE.