Literature Review Generally, the purpose of a review is to analyze critically a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles.
Define or identify the general topic, issue, or area of concern providing a context for the review
Point out overall trends; conflicts in theory, methodology, evidence, and conclusions; or gaps in research; or a single problem or new perspective
Establish the writer’s point of view for the review, the criteria to be used for analyzing and comparing literature, and the organization of the review; and, when necessary, state why certain literature is or is not included
Group studies and other types of literature according to common denominators such as qualitative vs. quantitative, conclusions of authors, specific purpose or objective, chronology, etc.
Summarize individual studies according to their comparative importance in the literature, remembering that space denotes significance
Provide the reader with strong “umbrella” sentences at beginnings of paragraphs, “signposts” throughout, and brief “so what” summary sentences at intermediate points in the review to aid in understanding comparisons and analyses
Summarize major contributions of significant studies and articles to the body of knowledge under review, maintaining the focus established in the introduction
Evaluate the current “state of the art” for the body of knowledge, pointing out major methodological flaws or gaps in research, inconsistencies in theory and findings, and areas or issues pertinent to future study
Conclude by providing some insight into the relationship between the central topic of the literature review and a larger area of study such as a discipline or the profession in general
1. What do we already know in the immediate area concerned?
2. What are the characteristics of the key concepts or the main factors or variables?
3. What are the relationships between these key concepts, factors, or variables?
4. What are the existing theories?
5. Where are the inconsistencies or other shortcomings in our knowledge and understanding?
6. What views need to be (further) tested? 7. What evidence is lacking, inconclusive, contradictory or too limited? 8. Why study (further) the research problem? 9. What contribution can the present study be expected to make? 10. What research designs or methods seem unsatisfactory?
You can use the following procedure for abstracting the contents of articles (Gay, 1996) :
Read the article's abstract or summary to see if it is a useful
Skim the entire article making a mental note of the main topics
Write the complete reference in APA style
Classify and code the article according to some system of your own devising. Put the code: on an index card, on the photocopied article (if you photocopied it), on the computer so you can sort the article abstracts in any way you wish to.
Summarize the reference by paraphrasing the essential points of the reference.
Add any thoughts that come to your mind about the article.
Indicate any statements that are direct quotations
A literature review is a piece of discursive prose, not a list describing or summarizing one piece of literature after another. It’s usually a bad sign to see every paragraph beginning with the name of the researcher. Instead, organize the literature review into sections that present themes or identify trends, including relevant theory. You are not trying to list all the material published, but to synthesize and evaluate it according to the guiding concept of your research question.