Writing a literature review
A literature review is an examination of academic sources on a particular topic. It offers a glimpse of the present knowledge, thus allows a researcher to pinpoint appropriate methods, theories, and gaps from the present research. The literature review entails collecting, evaluating, and analyzing publications like journal articles and books related to the research question. Writing an award-winning literature review involves five processes: search, evaluate, identify, outline, and write. An excellent literature review does more than summarizing the sources; indeed, it should synthesize, analyze, and critically assess to provide a vivid picture of knowledge on the matter under study.
Why review literature
While writing a thesis or dissertation, conducting a literature review helps to situate your study within the current knowledge. Review of literature provides the researcher with an opportunity to:
- Demonstrate familiarity with the topic within the scholarly context
- Develop research methodology and theoretical framework for the research
- Position the scholar concerning other scholars and theorists
- Demonstrate how the thesis or dissertation fills the gap or contribute to the body of knowledge
Search for appropriate literature
Search for relevant literature that comes after you have selected the topic for research. Similarly, if your literature review is part of a research paper or thesis/dissertation, you should search for literature associated with research questions and objectives. However, if your literature review is an independent task, select a focus, and create a key question to guide your study.
Evaluate and choose sources
It is a fact that you will not have time to read all the materials written on your research topic, therefore evaluate the relevant sources to your research questions. To help assess materials for your research topic, answer the following questions:
- What problem or question is the researcher addressing?
- What are the major ideas, and how is the researcher defining?
- What are the major methods, models, and theories?
- What are the findings and conclusions of the research?
- How does the paper associate with other sources in the field?
Identify gaps, debates, and themes
To organize your literature review structure and arguments, you must understand your sources' relationship and association. While reading takes note, take note of the following:
- Patterns and trends in results, methods, and theory
- Themes: The concepts or questions that recur throughout the literature
- Conflicts, debates, and contradictions
- Pivotal publications
This step is critical since it will help you organize the organization of your literature.
Define the structure of your literature review
There exist several ways of structuring your literature review. Have an idea of how you want to organize your literature review before you begin writing.
Chronological is where you trace the growth of the topic with time.
Thematic, this is where you organize a literature review to subsections addressing diverse facets of the topic.
Write the review of your literature
Like all scholarly texts, the literature review should have the following sections introduction, body, and conclusion. The contents of each section depending on the objective of the literature review.
Introduction: This section develops the purpose and focus of the literature review.
The body of your literature review depends on its length. If it is reasonably long, consider dividing it to subsections and possibly subheading each methodology, period, or theme approach.
A conclusion should have a summary of significant findings from literature and highlight their importance.