Literature Review

In preparing a literature review, you will need to conduct extensive research on your topic using a number of sources (use the links at the left). First, you may want to know a few things:


What is a Literature Review?

For those new to academic research, the literature review is one of the least understood parts of a research project. A literature review is a summary of previous research on a topic. Literature reviews can be either a part of a larger report of a research project, or it can be a bibliographic essay that is published separately in a scholarly journal. Either way, the purpose is the same, to review the scholarly literature relevant to the topic you are studying. This review will help you design your methodology and help others to interpret your research. Some questions you may think about as you develop your literature review:

  • What is known about the subject?
  • Are there any gaps in the knowledge of the subject?
  • Have areas of further study been identified by other researchers that you may want to consider?
  • Who are the significant research personalities in this area?
  • Is there consensus about the topic?
  • What aspects have generated significant debate on the topic?
  • What methods or problems were identified by others studying in the field and how might they impact your research?
  • What is the most productive methodology for your research based on the literature you have reviewed?
  • What is the current status of research in this area?
  • What sources of information or data were identified that might be useful to you?

If the literature review is part of a Ph.D. dissertation, this review will be comprehensive covering all research on the topic. As part of your research report, you will want to cover the major work that has been done on the topic recently, but it is not necessary to try to identify all research on the subject.

 

Why do a Literature Review?

The purpose of a literature review is to help you explain how the question to be investigated fits into the larger picture and why you have approached the topic the way you have. This section of a scholarly report allows the reader to be brought up to date regarding the state of research in the field and familiarizes him or her to any contrasting perspectives and viewpoints on the topic.

 

How do you write a Literature Review?

Summarize and explain what research has been done on the topic, citing the sources as you mention them. Point out the different ways researchers have treated the topic. Point out any connections between the sources especially where one source built upon prior study. Explain how this past work fits together to make your research question significant. Your literature review should present your synthesis of previous research and lay the foundation for understanding your research and appreciating its value. See the links in the border to the left for information about finding appropriate sources for your literature review

 

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