A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources that provides an overview of a particular topic. Literature reviews are a collection of the most relevant and significant publications regarding that topic in order to provide a comprehensive look at what has been said on the topic and by whom.
A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period.
A literature review is a comprehensive overview of all the knowledge available on a specific topic till date. When you decide on a research topic, usually the first step you take in the direction of conducting research is learn more about the previous research published on the topic, and this eventually translates into literature review when you write your research paper.
But how is a literature review different from an academic research paper?
The main focus of an academic research paper is to develop a new argument, and a research paper is likely to contain a literature review as one of its parts. The focus of a literature review, however, is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of others without adding new contributions.
What is the difference between a literature review and an annotated bibliography?
An annotated bibliography is a list of your references with a summary of the content and the publication’s relationship to your research question. A literature review is an overview of the topic, an explanation of how publications differ from one another, and an examination of how each publication contributes to the discussion and understanding of the topic.
Types of literature review
Literature reviews can be categorized as experimental and theoretical. Experimental literature review basically refers to surveying all the information available on a particular topic and critically analyzing the gaps that need to be worked upon.
What is the purpose of a literature review?
The purpose of a literature review is to provide a review of writings on the given topic in order to establish the reviewer’s own position in the existing field of scholarship on that topic.
Literature reviews are written occasionally in the humanities, but mostly in the sciences and social sciences; in experiment and lab reports, they constitute a section of the paper.
Literature review could be a part of a dissertation or research article and a stand-alone literature review. Let us look at this in more detail.
How do I create a literature review?
Define Your Goal
If you are writing an argument paper, create a thesis statement with a clear position. If you are evaluating scientific theories, develop a hypothesis to examine. If you are providing a self-contained review of writings on a topic, state your project’s purpose.
Narrow your topic
There are hundreds or even thousands of articles and books on most areas of study. The narrower your topic, the easier it will be to limit the number of sources you need to read in order to get a good survey of the material. Your instructor will probably not expect you to read everything that’s out there on the topic, but you’ll make your job easier if you first limit your scope.
Do Your Research
Review a number of texts that most closely pertain to your topic and position, and are written by relevant scholars. Understand who the top voices are in your topic’s academic field, and be sure to include the most pertinent publications by those scholars.
A literature review may not have a traditional thesis statement (one that makes an argument), but you do need to tell readers what to expect. Try writing a simple statement that lets the reader know what is your main organizing principle.
Include References/Works Cited List
As you are writing the literature review you will mention the author names and the publication years in your text, but you will still need to compile comprehensive citations for each entry at the end of your review. Follow APA, MLA, or Chicago style guidelines, as your course requires.
Literature reviews can also be written as stand-alone articles. These are not different from the literature review sections described above; however, they are not followed by experimental data.
Literature reviews fall into 2 broad categories: narrative reviews and systematic reviews.
Narrative reviews are usually organized as follows:
Introduction that establishes the context of the field of research and the topic of the review
Body is normally used for describing the different themes under the main topic by dividing them into different subheadings. This section compares and contrasts published studies and identifies gaps that have not been addressed or have been unsuccessfully addressed.
Conclusions. This section differs slightly between reviews which are part of research articles and narrative reviews. The section describes the main conclusions from analysis of all the current studies and puts forth further avenues for research.
An effective literature review is important for the complete life cycle of a research from defining the right research goals to correctly interpreting and presenting the research results.