Writing a literature review the Confetti Way

The Confetti Way is a simple, ten-step method to help students summarize and synthesize sources

Video transcript

A literature review assignment can feel like a mess of text with no beginning or end. The confetti way is a simple, ten-step method to find direction and put some colour back into your writing.

The confetti way will help you summarize and synthesize your sources, making it easy to create an outline, write, and reference your review.

Step One is to locate and evaluate sources on your topic.

The number and type of sources you need is determined by the style of review you must write.

Literature reviews can be stand-alone works or components within larger papers. They can be selective or more comprehensive, depending on the project.

Their purpose is to provide an account of significant research on a given topic. In CEGEP and undergraduate work, literature reviews are usually placed in the introduction section of research proposals or papers. A well-synthesized review demonstrates your grasp of the scholarly conversation.

Avoid popular publications and websites, which are not acceptable forms of scientific information. Use only authoritative sources whose authors provide methodical accounts of their findings. 

For Step Two, use for each selected source a different coloured paper to help you keep track of them.

Step Three is to make summary notes for each source using the coloured paper assigned to each.

For Step Four, get out the scissors and cut each individual summary note into a confetti piece. You should end up with a large pile of multi-coloured confetti pieces.

Step Five is synthesis and organization.

A literature review is not a sequential list of source information—that’s an annotated bibliography. Instead, source information should be mixed together and sorted into themes to reveal the overlaps and connections between sources.

To synthesize the source information, group the confetti notes according to common themes, conclusions, or any other meaningful category.

Step Six is to order the groupings.

A review goes from the known to the unknown, and from the general to the specific.

Progressively more specific information is plotted downward on the inverted pyramid. 

Step Seven is to develop a viable research question out of an existing gap, inconsistency, or controversy that emerges from the literature.

The top half of the research proposal hourglass contains the Introduction. Most of the Introduction consists of the literature review.

Its information, and the gaps it reveals, funnel down to your research question which in turn sets the stage for the bottom half of the hourglass—the Research Plan (a.k.a Method Plan), or the completed research paper.

Now it’s time for Step Eight: writing and referencing.

Create a paragraph or two to correspond to each theme.

Whenever you refer to confetti notes, use a citation in the format required by your teacher.

The colour of the note indicates its source.

The Ninth Step is paragraph topic sentences.

They summarize the paragraph’s material and provide a strong backbone for your text.

Note that, unlike in other formal writing you will do, each paragraph of a literature review stands alone, with little need of transitions.

Congratulations, you can now take a break and proceed to Step Ten: getting feedback.

Research forms part of the ongoing conversation among scholars, so jump in and have a peer read your review. Consider returning to the sources, depending on the feedback you receive.

After you have made any necessary adjustments, you are ready to move ahead in the production of your Research Plan (or Method Plan) or your research proposal.

Now, if you want some help to plan your research, please watch the Decision Circuit video.