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It will help you considerably if your topic for your literature review is the one on which you intend to do your final M. project, or is in some way related to the topic of your final project.
A literature review may consist of simply a summary of key sources, but in the social sciences, a literature review usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis, often within specific conceptual categories.
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 in a way that informs how you are planning to investigate a research problem.
I was running a protein over a nickel column on a Sunday evening in February 2010 when my adviser approached me about co-authoring a review article for Annual Review of Biochemistry.
My adviser is a busy guy, with a lot of papers and grants to work on, so I knew that by “co-author” he meant that I would be the main researcher and writer, getting mostly broad, guiding suggestions from him.
I hope the following tips will help other scientists who find themselves in this kind of uncharted territory. Distilling all sorts of data from experiments done by scientists all around the world into a coherent story turned out to be very satisfying.
I’ll end by mentioning that, for me, this was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had during my time as a Ph. I look forward to doing it again someday, perhaps in a somewhat more efficient manner.
In the end, I finished by the deadline (well, plus one two-week extension the editor agreed to grant me) and was very happy with the product and with all I had learned about caspase substrates, about the scientific literature and about the review-writing process.
Yet I estimate that the next time I undertake a task like this, I’ll be able to do it in half the time.