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Literature Review

A literature review is an essential part of any research paper. It provides an overview of the current literature on your chosen topic, as well as a critical analysis of the texts. Writing a literature review can be a daunting task - it takes considerable time and effort to conduct the necessary research and compile your findings. However, it is an indispensable step in the process of creating an effective research paper and can help you make sure that you are building on existing knowledge rather than reinventing the wheel.

In this blog, we are going to share with you some tips on how to write a successful literature review, from finding appropriate sources to organizing your materials for maximum impact.

What Is a Literature Review

A literature review is an in-depth review of existing research related to your topic or specific research question. When reviewing the literature, you’re looking for patterns and trends across the existing body of work to inform your own research. By analyzing existing works, you’re able to relate your own findings to the larger field and form connections between different areas.

Types of Literature Reviews

The Types of literature review you write depend on your discipline and whether you are a researcher writing your PhD, publishing a study in a journal or a student completing a course assignment in your undergraduate study.

A literature review for an undergraduate course assignment will not be as comprehensive as the literature review required for a thesis in a PhD.  The most common types of literature reviews that you will encounter in your life are:

Review Type Description
Narrative Reviews Critiques literature and summarise the body of literature. It also concludes the topic and identifies the gaps or inconsistencies in a body of knowledge.
Critically Appraised Topic (CAT) It is a brief summary of the best existing evidence regarding a particular question. It is a shorter and less rigorous version of a systematic review.
Scoping Reviews As the name implies, it identifies the scope or coverage of literature on a given research question.  It helps identify gaps in the research.
Systematic Literature Reviews It is a rigorous way of synthesizing scientific evidence on a specific research question

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The Process of Writing a Literature Review

There are essentially 5 stages of writing a literature review:

Step 1: Establish the Topic

If you have the opportunity to choose your own literature review topic, start by choosing an interesting topic – Select a topic that is both interesting to you and relevant to the subject you’re researching. Then brainstorm related sub-topics and choose sub-topics that are most relevant to the focus of your extended literature review. And at last, compose a research question for your literature review topic – make sure that it is clear, specific and concise as well as answerable by doing a literature review.

Step 2: Gather Sources

Now that you have a clearly defined topic, it's time to start searching for literature.

Make a list of keywords

Begin by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each key concept you find interesting, and list terms or synonyms related to them. You can add more keywords to this list as you find new keywords in the process of your literature search.

Search specialized databases

Once you have a list of keywords, begin searching for sources on specialized databases that focus on your specific research field or discipline. These databases are more likely to provide highly detailed information on relevant topics and could offer newer publications.

Step 3: Select and Evaluate the Literature

Once you have collected a little treasure of articles, it's time to start reading and evaluating them for sources most relevant to your research question. You need to work on developing your own criteria for the literature and the scholars you choose to include in your literature review and those who you will be excluded. The criteria should always include:

  • If it is relevant to your study
  • Its importance to the field

Step 4: Analyze and Synthesize

Once the sources have been gathered, the next step is to analyze and synthesize the information. This involves reading and critically evaluating the sources, highlighting main points, comparing and contrasting information from multiple sources, making connections between sources taking notes, and organizing the information into categories.

Step 5: Write the Review

Once the sources have been read and organized, the review can be written. This involves creating an abstract and introduction, presenting the main points, discussing the findings, and drawing conclusions.

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How to Structure a Literature Review?

Literature reviews are generally structured similarly to the way an essay is structured, with an introduction, a body and a conclusion. These are the key structural elements the literature review adheres to. However, if you are writing a standalone literature review, you will need to include an abstract as well. Also, headings and subheadings should be used to divide the literature review into meaningful and understandable sections.

The Abstract

If you are working on a standalone extended literature review, you will need to provide an abstract as we mentioned above. The purpose of an abstract is to provide the readers with an overview of what your review is about.

Information one should include in a literature review abstract:

  • Brief background information
  • Including any gaps, or inconsistencies that the review aims to address
  • A statement about the scope and purpose of the review

The Introduction

Just like any introduction, the introduction section of your literature review should provide your reader with the context and purpose of your review. The general guideline of the literature review introduction are:

  • Describe your topic (relevant background information, etc) and provide an appropriate context for reviewing the literature
  • Tell the reader the purpose of the review
  • Explain the organization of the review
  • State the scope of the review

The Body

The body of the literature review contains the view of the literature relevant to your research question or aim. You should structure the body of your literature review logically and coherently. Divide the body of your review into sub-topics in order to answer your research question thoroughly and coherently. This will assist you in creating a logical structure.

The body of a literature review should provide a comprehensive and concise overview of the literature on the topic. To do this, it is important to identify the scope, key research questions, and methodological approaches to be used in the review. The body should also provide an analysis of the research findings.

When analyzing the research findings, it is important to note any similarities and differences among the studies and identify any gaps in the literature. The analysis should be supported by evidence from the literature and provide insight into the research topic. Finally, the body should provide a synthesis of the research findings and a discussion of implications for future research.

Key Note

The conclusion of a literature review is the summary of the research. It should provide a clear and concise summary of the research findings, make any recommendations for future research, and draw overall conclusions. When writing the conclusion, it is important to be professional and factual. The conclusion should not contain any personal opinions or subjective analysis. It should be short and to the point.

Writing a literature review is an important part of the research process. By following these steps, students can successfully create an effective and comprehensive literature review.


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