Using Scholarly Argument in your Literature Review

Literature Review is More Than a Summary of the Research Studies on Your Topic

Think of the literature review as a persuasive argument for why your study needs to be done. However, scholarly arguments are not like the persuasive essays you may have written in the past. Instead, you use facts, found in empirical research to show your reader what is going on in your field and within your topic. Your argument will be stronger based on the quality of the resources, how you organize the facts, and the logic you use to connect facts to your study.


However, there are a number of qualities that scholarly arguments should not include. The first is vocabulary that evokes emotion. While you should be passionate about your study, you are writing an academic, scholarly argument. The facts, not emotion should make the argument. Next, scholarly arguments should not be degree-indicating. Do not use words such as, very, fantastic, amazing etc..

And last, your argument should not be bias. While you probably chose your topic based on a hunch of what you might expect from the results of your study, you must remain open minded and the language you chose must show this. For example, when discussing the social change impact of your study, have you considered the contribution your study has to offer even if the data do not show any significant results? The language throughout chapter 2 must show facts, not emotion, bias-free language, and open-mindedness.

Last Paragraph in Each APA Level 1 Heading

For each APA Level 1 Heading you will end with a final paragraph before moving on to the next topic of your literature review.

This paragraph is not a summary of what was in the section; instead it has other purposes beyond summary. These include any or all of the following:

  • Identifying any gaps in the literature (If you did this within the section, it does not have to be here.)
  • Why the gap is important and should be studied
  • Connect the literature to your proposed study
  • How your study will add understanding to that gap
  • How your approach to the gap will add understanding
  • How your study will be situated within and expand on current research.

Remember, each APA level 1 heading of the literature review can be viewed as a mini-paper. Approach your literature review this way, with a final paragraph linking it to your proposed study, and you’ll make steady progress through chapter 2. Good luck!

Resources that will help with scholarly argumentation

Writing Center Webinar on Building and Organizing Academic Arguments

Argue is Not a Dirty Word: Taking a Stand in Your Thesis Statement

Avoiding Logical Fallacies

Does Creativity Belong in Academic Writing

For the Good of All Humanity; Imperatives Must Be Abolished



5 thoughts on “Using Scholarly Argument in your Literature Review

  1. Eve says:

    The amount of information that we have to saturate and synthesize is overwhelming. I will try the mini-paper route that you suggested, yet my “paper bag” will be on standby 🙂

    • Yes, I know it feels that way. But keeping a bird’s eye view of the entire chapter and then narrowing in on one area as a mini-paper, works well. Best of luck!

  2. Here is an example template for the last paragraph of a level 1 heading within the Literature Review section of chapter 2. maybe this is helpful?

    Teacher perceptions of social learning range [insert your level 1 heading topic] from [WHAT] to [WHAT]. The gap that remains is [DESCRIBE GAP]. This gap is important because [WHY]. While some studies explored [WHAT] (cite), this proposed study will explore [WHAT]. This proposed study will expand on current research [HOW]. This study will add understanding to the gap [HOW].

    Don’t make this harder than it is! 🙂 Good luck! ~Dr. Darci

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