How to write review of literature

Review of literature

A literature review is not an annotated bibliography in which you summarize briefly each article that you have reviewed. While a summary of what you have read is contained within the literature review, it goes well beyond merely summarizing professional literature. It focuses on a specific topic of interest to you and includes a critical analysis of the relationship among different works, and relating this research to your work. It may be written as a stand-alone paper or to provide a theoretical framework and rationale for a thesis or dissertation.

There are two kinds of literature reviews you might write at university: one that students are asked to write as a stand-alone assignment in a course, often as part of their training in the research processes in their field, and the other that is written as part of an introduction to, or preparation for, a longer work, usually a thesis or research report.

  • It gives readers easy access to research on a particular topic by selecting high quality articles or studies that are relevant, meaningful, important, valid and summarizing them into one complete report
  • It provides an excellent starting point for researchers beginning to do research in a new area by forcing them to summarize, evaluate, and compare original research in that specific area
  • It ensures that researchers do not duplicate work that has already been done
  • It can provide clues as to where future research is heading or recommend areas on which to focus
  • It highlights key findings
  • It identifies inconsistencies, gaps and contradictions in the literature
  • It provides a constructive analysis of the methodologies and approaches of other researchers
  • Roughly how many studies should you include?
    • < 50
    • 51-100
    • >100
  • What types of sources
    • books,
    • journal articles
    • websites
  • Time frame of publications
    • Less than 5 years old
    • 5-10 years
    • More than 10 years
  • Should you provide subheadings

Format of ROL

  • Current Situation: Information necessary to understand the topic or focus of the literature review.
  • Methods and/or Standards: The criteria you used to select the studies in your literature review or the way in which you present your information.
    • Key words used for search
    • Data bases searched
    • Duration of study included
    • Type of studies included

Step one: identify the main topics (study objectives)

Step two: “explains the focus and establishes the importance of the topic” every topic identified.

Step three:  “discusses what type of studies has been done on the topic” for every topic identified

  • What methodologies do they use? What testing procedures, subjects, material tested?
  • Evaluate and synthesize the research findings and conclusions drawn

Step four: identify any controversies within the different studies

  • Which studies have different results for same objectives.

Step five any recent study which has raised questions about earlier assumptions/ observations

 Step six: concludes with a purpose or thesis statement

The conclusion summarizes all the evidence presented and shows its significance. If the review is an introduction to your own research, it highlights gaps and indicates how previous research leads to your own research project and chosen methodology. If the review is a stand-alone assignment for a course, it should suggest any practical applications of the research as well as the implications and possibilities for future research.

  • Summarise the important aspects of the existing body of literature;
  • Evaluate the current state of the literature reviewed;
  • Identify significant flaws or gaps in existing knowledge;
  • Outline areas for future study;
  • Link your research to existing knowledge.

Additional resource

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