Literature Review

Getting Mentally Prepared to Write a Literature Review

We all know that courses, subjects and study assignments are not created equal – some fill us with enthusiasm, interest, and motivation to dig deep, while others leave us struggling to find the energy to pursue them.

If the literature review you need to complete is on a subject that intrigues and fascinates you, you might not even need to get mentally prepared. You are already there. Waiting to uncover new knowledge, read to your heart’s content and increase your understanding and expertise on your given subject matter, you are eager to get started and the assignment just naturally flows.

However, writing a literature review is not often on the Top 5 “to do” list of things people choose and/or like spending their time on. Yet, such projects do need to be completed from time to time, and can be a stepping stone towards academic and professional vistas far more exciting than the review itself.

This is your first step in the mental preparation:

  • Visualize where you would like to get and make the (possibly dreaded) literature review an expeditor that will take you to your desired destination quicker. Imagine positive results and what you will learn. If you feel that your future research might really contribute to science and certain groups of people, imagine yourself already contributing to the greater good; the literature review being a tool that got you there by identifying a research gap and substantiating the need for your work.

When you feel positive about what you are about to do, the assignment is more likely to succeed and will bring you more satisfaction, both in the process of working on it and also when enjoying the end result. Martin Turner, who works on psychology related to top performance, emphasizes the importance of positive self-talk before doing something that might be stressful. This is your second step:

  • Remind yourself of the benefits of writing the review and increase your confidence levels by feeling positive you can do it. Also, take pride knowing you have the abilities and expertise to do it. Remember all the previous times you’ve been in a similar situation and you’ve succeeded. This time will be no different.

You can also use past experience to learn from. If you had identified before that two weeks were required for a good quality literature review, don’t start three days before it’s due. Stress does have its place and can stimulate, but you don’t want to push yourself over the edge and become a nervous wreck. Make sure you assign enough time for the review and you have all the needed resources at hand.

Lastly, create some routines that will get you in the right frame of mind and make you feel mentally calm and ready for the academic challenge you are about to take. Some might opt for a jog; others might enjoy a cup of coffee before they embark on the strenuous journey of sifting through research databases. Choose whatever works for you and gives you the right balance of stimulation and calmness, and then go for it. It is not as hard you think.