A literature review is a critical section of a research document. It helps readers understand how the current research expands upon earlier studies and how it contributes to the overall research in the field.
A well-written literature review is like a competency report that displays a researcher’s capabilities to the audience. Learning how to write a good literature review is a pre-requisite for every research scholar.
To help you write an informative research literature review, we have listed down the essentials. Read on to know more.
Attributes of a Well-Written Literature Review and Its Purpose
Before we delve any deeper, let us start by answering the fundamental question - What is a literature review?
A literature review justifies the conducted research and highlights its relationship with existing literature on the topic. In layman’s terms, a literature review tells your audience how much you know about the research topic. It shows whether you are aware of the latest published research and how your research draws inspiration and adds upon existing analysis. Literature reviews are the definition of the necessity of a research paper.
Every published research literature must show how it expands upon existing bodies of work. Literature reviews do just that by compiling published recent researches and analyzing them in light of the current research objectives.
Researchers use literature reviews for critical purposes, such as:
- Summarizing credible and relevant researches in the field
- Comparing each source with other related researches
- Highlighting key results & analyzing discussions of previous research works
- Evaluating the ideas in prior investigations and generating new ideas from their analyses
- Dwelling on the relevancy of the proposed research and how it addresses gaps in the existing literature
- Stating how a research work opens up the path for future research
- Validating proposed research methodologies
- Justifying the need for the current research
The thesis statement of a research paper summarizes the overarching focus of a literature review by relating the research question with the critical evaluations in the review.
Well planned and thorough research is necessary for developing an impeccable literature review. Books, journal articles, online research papers, thesis, dissertations – any published printed or electronic document can be a valid source.
Keep in mind that the quality and timeline of the conducted research are crucial factors. Always opt for expertly written research papers that are not more than two years old.
Let’s now take a look into the details of the writing process.
The Perfect Literature Review with an Outline
The general literature review structure follows the template of a typical essay. It begins with an introduction, moves on to the body paragraphs and wraps up with a conclusion.
The following framework portrays how to write a literature review that has all the essential segments.
The basic literature review outline consists of:
- An Introduction
It begins with a concise statement on the research topic or question. A summary of key research literature follows next. You must critically evaluate relevant research papers and decide upon the ones that will aid you in your research. Summarize those researches into the review introduction. Also, remember to cite all literature references accurately.
- The Body Paragraphs
The body is where you have to perform a critical evaluation of all the cited sources. Discuss the research results and analyze the ideas they have put forth. Take note of the research methodologies while performing evaluation and develop new ideas as you are doing so.
Certain organizing principles help in structuring the body of a literature review. They are:
- Theme: The most common way of organization, you can use this method when you need to explain key issues relevant to the research topic.
- Methodology: This technique comes into use when discussing interdisciplinary research approaches or multiple studies that have utilized different research methods.
- Chronology: Use this method to write literature reviews on topics in which historical changes are central to the research.
You need to compare and contrast each cited source with the other. Think deeply about how they contribute to the body of research on the topic and present your evaluations emphatically. Connect each assessment through logical transitions. And remember to highlight the questions raised or the gaps in research work.
- The Conclusion
The conclusion is where you integrate the ideas that you have gathered and relate them to your research topic. It justifies the purpose of your study by stating how it expands upon and addresses the gaps in the research literature.
Begin with a summary of your evaluations in the body of the review. Synthesize new ideas from your assessment and relate them to your research. Conclude the overall state of the research on the topic and note lack of definite knowledge, if any. You can also state your research methods briefly over here.
Put your research in context to existing literature and show the need for the current investigation by making a case for further studies on the topic.
Remember, a literature review must showcase the writers’ research acumen and knowledge. It should also summarize key observations, identify gaps in existing literature, justify the need for further research and validate the current research work.
Up next is an example of the conventional literature review template.
The general Literature Review Format with an Example
“Prior studies have identified many benefits for educational institutions from service-learning programs. These benefits include positive perceptions of the university by the community (Miron & Moely, 2006), enhanced student retention rates (Eyler et al., 2001), positive teaching and learning outcomes such as greater student involvement and participation in class (Caruso et al., 2007), and increased opportunities for meaningful research and scholarly activities (Strand et al., 2003).
In this study and related research, the individuals serving are university students who are collaborating with the community partner. The studied benefits that the individual serving enjoyed include cultural awareness sharing (Crabtree, 2008), as well as networking opportunities and application of classroom learning to real-world issues (Bowen et al., 2009). Ultimately, service-learning stimulates student learning and engages students in their surrounding communities. Service-learning creates new goals for students, such as personal development, career development, moral development, academic achievement, and "reflective civic participation" (Lamb et al., 1998).
Integrating concepts and theories learned in the classroom with everyday life makestudents more capable of highlighting the importance of each course. Additionally, material learned in business courses can be applied to benefit the community through a variety of tangible services, such as business planning or marketing new programs. Service-learning is an excellent way for students to apply their course lessons to real-world situations and concurrently benefit the community.”
Go through the above literature review example and relate it with everything you have learned in the earlier sections. Develop ideas about how to create your outline, perform meticulous research and use this guide to craft flawless literature reviews.
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