A literature review is a comprehensive summary of previous research on a topic.
The literature review surveys scholarly articles, books, and other sources relevant to a particular area of research. The review should enumerate, describe, summarize, objectively evaluate and clarify this previous research. It should give a theoretical base for the research and help you the author determine the nature of your research. The literature review acknowledges the work of previous researchers, and in so doing, assures the reader that your work has been well conceived.
It is assumed that by mentioning a previous work in the field of study, that the author has read, evaluated, and assimiliated that work into the work at hand. This landscape informs the reader that the author has indeed assimilated all or the vast majority of previous, significant works in the field into her or his research.
The literature review must be defined by a guiding concept eg. It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries.
Literature Review Tips: 5 Steps to an Outstanding Paper
Subject Librarians. Focus on the relevance of the material to your proposed topic, and map out a logical framework for analyzing that material. Develop relationships that make sense within that framework and organize your review around ideas not tenuous links by researcher or subject or chronology. Your reader should reach the end of your literature review with a sense of full comprehension as to how your proposed study fits together with the current body of published work:.
Leave A Reply Cancel Reply. Subscribe for free to get unrestricted access to all our resources on research writing and academic publishing including:. What do you think a literature review is, and what is it not?
Drag and drop the following statements under the right heading and click 'check' to check your answers. A literature review should not include every single source that you have read. Ensure the sources you analyse are directly relevant to your research question s and topic.
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As you can see, a core characteristic of literature reviews - and a point of difference from these other genres - is the synthesis of multiple sources. Whereas a critical review evaluates a single source, and an annotated bibliography evaluates a number of sources presented separately within a series of isolated paragraphs , a literature review connects and brings together a number of sources, often within single paragraphs - and indeed sentences. While an annotated bibliography functions as a list, with little opportunity to connect sources, a literature review necessitates the juxtaposing, comparing and contrasting of sources.
Creating an annotated bibliography is a useful step towards completing a literature review, and it is a useful note taking method.
Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review
However, the literature review is one step beyond this evaluation of resources, as it is primarily concerned with examining the field. If you are writing a systematic review, you can find useful information in this Library Guide. In a literature review, however, you will notice the synergy between analysis and synthesis as you zoom-in to closely analyse an individual source, then zoom-out to consider it in relation to the broader field. After analysing a range of sources, you should synthesise the relevant sources, connecting, linking and positioning them against each other, in order to identify the recurring themes, trends and areas of agreement or disagreement within your research field.
After reading and analysing individual sources, you have identified a key concept relating to your research topic as well as a key resource A relating to that concept. The argument in resource A is supported by another article B , which is in turn supported by article D. However, you have also found article C, which contradicts the argument presented in resource A. One way to synthesise these texts, is to group together the texts supporting your key resource articles B and D , and explain that article C presents contradictory results.
Then, you would need to examine the methodological differences or any other possible reasons for the contradictory results. Another way of managing sources and arguments presented in them is to use a literature review matrix also called synthesis matrix.
Literature review matrix is a table in which you can represent the views, ideas, or data according to thematic categories that correspond to your research project. As you fill out your matrix, you will begin to get a clearer view of how different sources are related, and recognise patterns that may not have been immediately visible before.
For example, you may see a correlation between sample sizes and types of conclusions, or between specific kinds of aims and the methods chosen to address them.
Why do we write literature reviews?
Because information is arranged in thematic columns, you can get a useful overview of all aims, or all methods at a glance. You can add new columns as your understanding improves. Thus the review matrix can also be a powerful tool for synthesising the patterns you identify across literature, and for formulating your own observations. Literature reviews exist within different types of scholarly works with varying foci and emphases. Short or miniature literature reviews can be presented in journal articles, book chapters, or coursework assignments to set the background for the research work and provide a general understanding of the research topic.
However, the focus of a literature review in a graduate research thesis is to identify gaps and argue for the need for further research. Depending on the purpose of the writer and the context in which the literature review will be presented, a selective or comprehensive approach may be taken. In the selective approach, a single or limited number of sources are reviewed e. A comprehensive approach requires the review of numerous books and articles e.