A review of literature is an essential part of your academic research project. The review is a careful examination of a body of literature pointing toward the answer to your research question. A literature or a body of literature is a collection of published research relevant to a research question. All good research and writing is guided by a review of the relevant literature. Your literature review will be the mechanism by which your research is viewed as a cumulative process. That makes it an integral component of the research process.
The purpose of the literature review remains the same regardless of the research methodology you use. It is an essential test of your research question against that which is already known about your subject. Through the literature review you will discover whether someone else already has answered your research question. If your research question has been answered, you must change or modify your question.
If you find that someone else has not answered your research question satisfactorily, then search out the answers to these questions:
- What is known about my subject?
- What is the chronology of the development of knowledge about my subject?
- Are there any gaps in the knowledge of my subject?
- What openings for research have other researchers identified?
- How do I intend to bridge the gaps?
- Is there a consensus on relevant issues? Or is there significant debate on issues?
- What are the various positions?
- What is the most fruitful direction I can see for my research as a result of my literature review?
- What directions are indicated by the work of other researchers?
Only you can determine what is satisfactory, relevant, significant or important in the context of your own research.
Getting ready to write: It is time to review your notes and begin the draft of your literature review. Write out your research question again at the head of a list of the various keywords and authors that you have uncovered in your search. Do any pairings or groups pop out at you? You are structuring or sketching out the literature review, which is the first step in writing a research paper, thesis or dissertation. Eventually, a broad overview picture of the literature in your subject area will begin to emerge.
Writing the review: In preparing to write your review, remember that your first draft will not be your final draft. Throughout the writing process, allow yourself to write in a non-linear fashion. If a selection of the writing is giving you difficulty, jump to another section.
Edit and rewrite: Your oal is to communicate effectively and efficiently the answer you found to your research question in the literature. While editing your work, take into consideration that your review should be clear and concise. Big words and technical terms will make your review hard for all readers to understand. Always re-read what you have written. Once you have edited your work, have someone else proofread your review. Then revise and rewrite it. If you ar writing an abstract and introduction, leave them for last.
Writing the conclusion: Throughout your written review, you should communicate your new knowledge by combining the research question you asked with the literature you reviewed. End your writing with a conclusion that wraps up what you learned in the literature review process. While the interaction between the research questions and the relevant literature is foreshadowed throughout the review, it usually is written at the very end. The interaction itself is a learning process that gives researchers new insight into their area of research.
[Information adapted from materials published by the Union Institute]