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Literature Review

May 31, 2018| Category: Uncategorized

A literature review provides a brief summary of existing research on the chosen topic. The main difference between the literature review and research paper is that the first presents existing research, instead of establishing new arguments and making original contributions. Literature reviews can be written as separate papers or as portions of bigger research projects.

What Literature Review Is Not

If you wondering about the simplest meaning of a literature review, it might be easier for you to come at this from another angle. First and the most popular erroneous opinion is that a literature review is a bibliography. Actually, it is not. A bibliography just lists resources used during the research process of some topic. Literature review does more: it outlines the main points and presents the carried-out critical analysis of each source.

The second important thing is a prohibition on being subjective. Quite the contrary, a literature review does not present writer’s opinion but provides summary and critical assessment of scholarly literature from a relatively objective perspective. Thus, producing such piece of writing is a thorough process, which requires a strict evaluation of each and every discussed source, especially paying attention to their quality.

Reasons for Compiling a Literature Review

To produce a literature review, one has to spend enough time and do thorough research, using critical analyzing skills. However, you might question why you should spend so much time producing a paper on research that has already been published.

Here is sound reasoning for choosing this type of writing:

  • Justifying your own research. If you have to write a review as a part of a bigger project, it provides you with an opinion to demonstrate what adds value to your research. A literature review summarizes existing research on the certain topic and thus, reveals points of consensus and the ones of disagreement, gaps, and questions which remain. Supposedly, your original research has arisen from one of those questions, so the review often serves as a jumping off point for the entire project.
  • Demonstrating your expertise. Before writing a review, you have to immerse yourself in solid and thorough research. By the time you have produced the review, you have read a lot on the topic and have the ability to synthesize and logically present the information. This makes you a trustworthy authority on your topic.
  • Joining the conversation. The entire academic writing is part of an endless conversation between the scholars and researchers over the globe. Therefore, when one writes a literature review, he or she is engaging with all the people who examined this particular issue.

Tips for Producing a Good Review

  • Select a topic with a limited scope. Choosing a broad topic can entail a never-ending writing process. Instead, select the topic with a narrow focus. If you find yourself sorting through hundreds of results each time you conduct a database search, it would be better to further refine your topic.
  • Take organized notes. Make sure you use an organizational system like literature grid to keep track of your readings. This will help you to record key information and the most important findings for every source. Once you start writing, you will have the ability to refer back to your literature grid every time you want to add information about a certain source.
  • Be attentive to patterns and trends. While reading, stay vigilant for any patterns or trends, which arise among your sources. It is possible that you will find out that there are several existing schools of thought related to your search question. Also, there is a possibility that you will discover that the prevailing ideas about the topic of your research have shifted dramatically a couple of times over the last century. The structure of your review will be based on the discovered patterns. If there are no obvious trends, select the organizational structure, which suits your topic best.

Producing a literature review requires time, patience, and much intellectual energy. While working on your paper, consider every researcher that preceded you and every one which will follow. Keep in mind that your review is a contribution to the field’s future.


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