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Literature reviews are significant writings of scholarly papers that contain current knowledge and substantive findings, theoretical and methodological contributions on a selected topic. Literature reviews are secondary sources, which do not report new any experimental and are associated with the literature that is academic-oriented. Literature review covers sources like books, scholarly journal articles, websites, government reports and many more.

However, the literature review should not be confused with book reviews that might appear in the same publication. Every academic field relies on literature reviews for their research. The review of the literature gives a description, summary, and evaluation of respective sources. This is presented as a different section in a thesis or a dissertation of a graduating student.

Literature review purpose

The literature review provides a critical written account of the current state of research carried out on to given topic or field. It has the following purposes:

  • It identifies the areas of previous scholarship
  • It places each source in the context of its contribution to the understanding of a given theory under review or area of research.
  • Shows the relationship of each source to the others that have been selected
  • It identifies gaps and introduces new ways to interpret previous research
  • Gives a new direction for further research

Literature review follows the standard format of three components namely: the introduction, body, and conclusion.

Literature review process

The process of preparing a literature review follows four steps; these include:
1. Defining your topic and the latitude of your review
2. Searching the library catalogs, specific databases, and other search tools to identify essential and relevant sources for your argument.
3. Reading and evaluating the sources to determine their suitability concerning the understanding of the topic.
4. Analyze, interpret, and discuss the discoveries and conclusions of the available sources.

There is a notable variance in literature review scopes and the depth of the material that is under examination. This calls for the student to settle on a topic that does not transcend the requirements of his or her degree program. In other words, you are supposed to settle on a topic that he is sure to deliver a refined literature review without much difficulty or none thereof. One of the reasons for the student of the literature review is to provide a clear demonstration of familiarity with the research in the field and establish credibility for the current investigation.

An important aspect to consider is that literature review is pegged on the postulation that research will build upon the work steered by other researchers who belong to the large intellectual community. Not only does the literature review assist the student in focusing on the current research effort, but it also makes the student understand the historical context of their subject.

Students become capable of identifying grey areas and become aware of issues that have been overlooked. One can change their topic if they realize there is another important subject that needs to be studied and they can express it effectively. A literature review is essential since it helps the students to develop a framework for their study. With this, the can note what previous research designs have achieved and design similar techniques for data collection. When they read previous literature reviews, they can ge

t the overview of major theories and ideas that have guided past researchers. As such, literature review should be done in an organized manner if it is going to be fully effective.

Literature review writers should hatch a plan that is systematic in investigating literature review that covers both electronic and print sources. It should have a primary record keeping system that is essential in organized work accomplished to develop possible leads for future research. This also helps in preventing loss of data. For example, a student can save internet articles with their web browser for later use. One can also create basic questions to evaluate the importance of an article source. The questions can be structured like the ones below:

  • What is the article about?
  • How does it fit into what is already known?
  • How was the study carried out?
  • What were the findings?
  • What do these findings mean?

The literature review will require coming up with a methodology of analysis and critical appraisal of the writer’s work. One can start by creating a descriptive summary of the study providing a basic overview of the material. Subsequently, analyses the article to understand the reason behind the authors’ work.

An in-depth look at the article is essential in identifying the style and structure of the author’s reasoning. The writer must explore research aims and purposes, methodological assumptions, and the evidence presented if the literature review. This will be helpful in categorizing the article.

Constituents of a Literature Review

Like an essay, a literature review paper contains the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.

The introduction

The introduction describes the focus and establishes the significance of the subject. This is a discussion of previous works on the topic and identifies controversies within the field or any recent research whose findings questioned earlier suppositions. The introduction can present either background information or history. It closes with a thesis statement or the purpose. In a stand-alone literature review, a thesis statement will sum up, and evaluate the state of the current field of research. When a review proceeds as thesis or research report, it is supposed to suggest how the review findings will culminate in the research proposed by the writer.

The body

The body is usually divided into headings and subheadings. It is supposed to summarize and evaluate the current state of knowledge in the field. It is supposed to note significant topics or themes, important trends and any findings that the researchers agree or disagree. If the literature review is preliminary to a thesis or a research project, it is supposed to argue and justify the proposed research. It will only discuss the research that leads directly to the project.

The Conclusion

This is a summary of the evidence presented and shows its importance. A review that is an introduction to research highlights the gaps and shows how previous research leads to the current research and the chosen methodology. With a stand-alone review, the writer should show suggestions for any practical research applications, the effects, and the possibilities for future research.

Evaluating sources

When assessing the sources, the writer should consider the following:

  • The author’s expertise in the field of study
  • Find out if the arguments have the support of empirical evidence
  • Has the author considered contradiction argument or is he biased?
  • Does the source contribute to a better understanding of the topic?

Literature review writing process

These steps can be used when writing a literature review.

Settle on a working topic

Have a look at your specific area of study. Go for what parks interest in you and is a fertile ground for your study. You can talk to your professor, brainstorm, and go through your lecture notes. Recent issues of periodicals in that field can also come in handy when looking for a topic.

Review the available literature

It is recommended that you use two databases that are relevant to your area of study. Use keywords to search computer databases. Reference list of recent articles and reviews are a good source of valuable papers, so make use of them. Any study that is contrary to the point you are studying has to be included in the review.

Narrow the focus of your topic and select papers accordingly

At this point, you must consider your interest as well as the interests of others. You also have to decide the span of research that you are going to consider. You can choose a research area that is yet to receive a review.

Read the selected material thoroughly and evaluate them

Identify the assumptions that most researchers if not all, seem to be making. You also need to identify the methodologies they have been using, their testing procedures, subjects, and the material tested. You also have to evaluate and synthesize the research findings and conclusions you find. Remember to reference the names of the experts in the field. Include the conflicting theories, methodologies, and results. Watch out for popular theories and how this has changed over time or not.

Organize the selected papers by identifying patterns and developing subtopics

You ought to note things such as findings that are common or contested. Two or three trends within the research and the most influential theories have to be incorporated here.

Formulate a working thesis

Write a two-sentence summary of the conclusions you have deduced about the major trends and developments visible in the research that has been carried out on your subject.

Structure your paper based on the findings

You can now develop headings and subheadings for your review. If the review is going to be extensive, you have to organize your thoughts all your thoughts into categories. Post it cards can help you in achieving this. Move them around to decide if they fit better under different headings or to find out if you need to come up with new topic headings.

Write the body of your review

You can follow the plan that you have developed ensuring that each section logically links to the preceding one and the subsequent part. Your sections should be divided into themes and subtopics and that you are not reporting the work of individual theorists or researchers.

Take a look at your write-up paying attention to the analysis, not description

Look at each of the topic sentences for each paragraph and find out if they present a clear, logical development from the beginning to the end. For instance, if paragraphs begin with the researcher’s name, it implies that you have simply what the research has done. This is a common problem in literature reviews. Therefore, if it does not follow the central concept or id does not give a critical analysis of the literature provided, you have to make a new outline based on what you have said in each section of the paper.

You will also need to decide if you are going to add new information to reduce the existing one. It will help you in deciding whether you are going to restructure your paper or not.Revising and editing your paper

Read your work loudly

This will enable you to identify places where you need punctuation marks to signals pauses and decisions within sentences. You will also identify grammatical errors and places where sentences are ambiguous.

Confirm if you have covered all the major and pertinent text

The purpose of the literature review is to show how familiar the writer has become with the important professional literature on the matter. The literature e you use must be recent, though this is not a serious requirement in reviews that touch on humanities.

Citations and references

Ensure that you have used the correct citations and references in your review. This should be in line with the style of referencing that has been prescribed by the instructor. If you are not certain about it, you can consult your professor.

Check for plagiarism

Ensure that your review is free from plagiarism. This vice can result from the failure to make the right citation or omitting the citation altogether. Using direct quotes from a source without attributing them also amounts to plagiarism.

Your text should be written in a clear and concise academic language. It should not be descriptive nor should it contain the language of everyday speech.

Ensure that the review does not have grammatical and spelling errors.

There should be a smooth flow of sentences, paragraphs, and ideas throughout the review. The reader should be able to identify the transition from one point to the next easily.

If your paper is about social sciences, it is recommended that you use subheadings to organize your review.

Literature reviews call for patience and diligence in selecting and examining research studies. It is not something that you just decide to do on a whim.