What is a literature review?
A literature review describes academic papers which are relevant to a particular field or topic. It provides an overview of the main theories and hypotheses, appropriate methods and methodologies, what questions are being asked, the key findings, and who the key writers are.
Why do a literature review?
By reviewing other literature in your subject area, you can see what did and didn’t work for other researchers. It also allows you to demonstrate that you have a good understanding of the key published work in the field.
How do you conduct a literature review?
You can approach your literature review by breaking it down into a number of stages:
- Define the problem
- Search for relevant materials
- Evaluate the materials
- Analyse the findings
You then need to organize your review into an introduction, the main body, and the conclusion.
Nearly there! We just need a few details before we unlock the 4 steps to writing a killer literature review…
For a focused scientific review with pre-defined methodology, see Systematic review.
This article needs attention from an expert on the subject. Please add a reason or a talk parameter to this template to explain the issue with the article.
A literature review is a text of a scholarly paper, which includes the current knowledge including substantive findings, as well as theoretical and methodological contributions to a particular topic. Literature reviews are secondary sources, and do not report new or original experimental work. Most often associated with academic-oriented literature, such reviews are found in academic journals, and are not to be confused with book reviews that may also appear in the same publication. Literature reviews are a basis for research in nearly every academic field.[unreliable source] A narrow-scope literature review may be included as part of a peer-reviewed journal article presenting new research, serving to situate the current study within the body of the relevant literature and to provide context for the reader. In such a case, the review usually precedes the methodology and results sections of the work.
Producing a literature review may also be part of graduate and post-graduate student work, including in the preparation of a thesis, dissertation, or a journal article. Literature reviews are also common in a research proposal or prospectus (the document that is approved before a student formally begins a dissertation or thesis).
The main types of literature reviews are: evaluative, exploratory, and instrumental.
A fourth type, the systematic review, is often classified separately, but is essentially a literature review focused on a research question, trying to identify, appraise, select and synthesize all high-quality research evidence and arguments relevant to that question. A meta-analysis is typically a systematic review using statistical methods to effectively combine the data used on all selected studies to produce a more reliable result.
Process and product
Shields and Rangarajan (2013) distinguish between the process of reviewing the literature and a finished work or product known as a literature review.:193–229 The process of reviewing the literature is often ongoing and informs many aspects of the empirical research project. All of the latest literature should inform a research project. Scholars need to be scanning the literature long after a formal literature review product appears to be completed.
A careful literature review is usually 15 to 30 pages and could be longer. The process of reviewing the literature requires different kinds of activities and ways of thinking. Shields and Rangarajan (2013) and Granello (2001) link the activities of doing a literature review with Benjamin Bloom’s revised taxonomy of the cognitive domain (ways of thinking: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating).
The first category in Bloom's taxonomy is remembering. For a person doing a literature review this would include tasks such as recognition, retrieval and recollection of the relevant literature. During this stage relevant books, articles, monographs, dissertations, etc. are identified and read. Bloom’s second category understanding occurs as the scholar comprehends the material they have collected and read. This step is critical because no one can write clearly about something they do not understand. Understanding may be challenging because the literature could introduce the scholar to new terminology, conceptual framework and methodology. Comprehension (particularly for new scholars) is often improved by taking careful notes. In Bloom’s third category applying the scholar is able to make connections between the literature and his or her larger research project. This is particularly true if the literature review is to be a chapter in a future empirical study. The literature review begins to inform the research question, and methodological approaches. When scholars analyze (fourth category in Bloom's taxonomy) they are able to separate material into parts and figure out how the parts fit together. Analysis of the literature allows the scholar to develop frameworks for analysis and the ability to see the big picture and know how details from the literature fit within the big picture. Analysis facilitates the development of an outline (list). The books, articles and monographs read will be of different quality and value. When scholars use Bloom’s fifth category evaluating they are able to see the strengths and weaknesses of the theories, arguments, methodology and findings of the literature they have collected and read. When scholars engage in creating the final category in Bloom's taxonomy, they bring creativity to the process of doing a literature review. In other words, they draw new and original insights from the literature. They may be able to find a fresh and original research question, identify a heretofore, unknown gap in the literature or make surprising connections. By understanding how ways of thinking connect to tasks of a literature review, a scholar is able to be self-reflective and bring metacognition to the process of reviewing the literature.
Most of these tasks occur before the writing even begins. The process of reviewing the literature and writing a literature review can be complicated and lengthy. It is helpful to bring a system of organization and planning to the task. When an orderly system can be designed, it is easier to keep track of the articles, books, materials read, notes, outlines and drafts.
- Cooper, Harris M. (1998). Synthesizing Research: A Guide for Literature Reviews. Applied Social Research Methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-0761913481.
- Creswell, John W. (2013). "Review of the Literature". Research Design. Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Method Approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. ISBN 9781452226101.
- Dellinger, Amy B. (2005). "Validity and the Review of Literature". Research in the Schools. 12 (2): 41–54.
- Dellinger, Amy B.; Leech, Nancy L. (2007). "Toward a Unified Validation Framework in Mixed Methods Research". Journal of Mixed Methods Research. 1 (4): 309–332.
- Galvan, José L. (2015). Writing Literature Reviews: A Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (6th ed.). Pyrczak Publishing. ISBN 978-1936523375.
- Green, Bart N.; Johnson, Claire D.; Adams, Alan (2006). "Writing Narrative Literature Reviews for Peer-Reviewed Journals: Secrets of the Trade". Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. 5 (3): 101–114.
- Hart, Chris (2008). "Literature Reviewing and Argumentation". In Hall, Gerard; Longman, Jo. The Postgraduate's Companion. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1-4129-3026-0.
- Hart, Chris (1998). Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination. SAGE Study Skills. London: SAGE Publications. ISBN 9780761959755.
- Hart, Chris (2001). Doing a Literature Search: A Guide for the Social Sciences. SAGE Study Skills. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-0761968108.
- ^Lamb, David. "The Uses of Analysis: Rhetorical Analysis, Article Analysis, and the Literature Review". Academic Writing Tutor. Archived from the original on 23 May 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
- ^Baglione, L. (2012). Writing a Research Paper in Political Science. Thousand Oaks, California: CQ Press.
- ^Adams, John; Khan, Hafiz T A; Raeside, Robert (2007). Research methods for graduate business and social science students. New Delhi: SAGE Publications. p. 56. ISBN 9780761935896.
- ^Bolderston, Amanda (June 2008). "Writing an Effective Literature Review". Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences. 39 (2): 86–92. doi:10.1016/j.jmir.2008.04.009.
- ^ abcShields, Patricia; Rangarjan, Nandhini (2013). A Playbook for Research Methods: Integrating Conceptual Frameworks and Project Management. Stillwater, Oklahoma: New Forums Press. ISBN 1-58107-247-3.
- ^Baker, P. (2000). "Writing a Literature Review". The Marketing Review. 1 (2): 219–247.
- ^ abGranello, D. H. (2001). "Promoting cognitive complexity in graduate written work: Using Bloom's taxonomy as a pedagogical tool to improve Literature Reviews". Counselor Education & Supervision. 40: 292–307.
- ^Shields, Patricia (2000). Step by Step: Building a Research Project. Stillwater, Oklahoma: New Forums Press.