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How to develop a literature review

A literature review is a survey of academic sources on a particular project topic. It gives an overview of the ebb and flows information, permitting you to distinguish significant hypotheses, strategies, and holes in the current research. A literature review is to show your reader that you have read, and have a good grasp of, the main published work concerning a particular topic or question in your field.

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HOW TO DEVELOP A LITERATURE REVIEW FOR A RESEARCH WORK
researchwap.com/post/how-to-develop-a-literature-review-for-a-
research-work
Literature review, thesis writing, project writing, research
writing, research review,
INTRODUCTION:
A literature review is a survey of academic sources on a particular project topic. It gives an
overview of the ebb and flows information, permitting you to distinguish significant hypotheses,
strategies, and holes in the current research.
A literature review is to show your reader that you have read, and have a good grasp of, the main
published work concerning a particular topic or question in your field.
It is very important to note that your review should not be simply a description of what others
have published in the form of a set of summaries but should take the form of a critical
discussion, showing insight and an awareness of differing arguments, theories, and approaches. It
should be a synthesis and analysis of the relevant published work, linked at all times to your own
purpose and rationale.
Conducting a literature review involves collecting, evaluating and analyzing publications (such
as books and journal articles) that relate to your research question. There are five main steps in
the process of writing a literature review:
1. Searchfor relevantliterature
2. Evaluate sources
3. Identify themes,debates,andgaps
4. Outline the structure
5. Write your literature review
A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources – it analyzes, synthesizes, and critically
evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.
According to Caulley (1992) of La Trobe University, the literature review should:
• compare and contrast different authors’ views on an issue
• group authors who draw similar conclusions
• criticize aspects of the methodology
• note areas in which authors are in disagreement
• highlight exemplary studies
• highlight gaps in research
• show how your study relates to previous studies
• show how your study relates to the literature in general
• conclude by summarising what the literature says
THE PURPOSES OF THE REVIEWARE:
• To define and limit the problem you are working on
• To place your study in a historical perspective
• To avoid unnecessary duplication
• To evaluate promising research methods
• To relate your findings to previous knowledge and suggest further research
A good literature review, therefore, is critical of what has been written, identifies areas of
controversy, raises questions and identifies areas that need further research.
STRUCTURE OFTHE LITERATURE REVIEW
The overall structure of your review will depend largely on your own thesis or research area.
What you will need to do is to group together and compare and contrast the varying opinions of
different writers on certain topics. What you must not do is just describe what one writer says,
and then go on to give a general overview of another writer, and then another, and so on. Your
structure should be dictated instead by topic areas, controversial issues or by questions to which
there are varying approaches and theories. Within each of these sections, you would then discuss
what the different literature argues, remembering to link this to your own purpose.
Linking words are important. If you are grouping together writers with similar opinions, you
would use words or phrases such as: Similarly, in addition, also, again
More importantly, if there is disagreement, you need to indicate clearly that you are aware of this
by the use of linkers such as: however, on the other hand, conversely, nevertheless
At the end of the review, you should include a summary of what the literature implies, which
again links to your hypothesis or main question.
A standard research literature review is expected to follow the format below:
1. Introduction
2. Conceptual framework
3. Theoretical framework
4. Empirical review
5. Knowledgegap(optional)
6. Summaryof literature
INTRODUCTION: here undergraduate or final year project students are expected to simply spell
out in at least seven (7) what this chapter will contain. As we have it above conceptual
framework, theoretical framework, empirical review, etc. a good introduction gives the project
supervisor kind confidence in his or her project students.
CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK: a good conceptual framework will cover all the research
objectives so as to help solve the problem of the research work. This section involves the use of
diagrams to explain certain key variables in the research work. The use of diagram is usually
high in MBA/MSC thesis research.
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: this section is very important in research work.
Undergraduate project students, postgraduate research students are expected to search for
theories that are related to their research project topic.
For example, consider the project topic on human resource management: work-life balancing and
its effect on employee productivity; the theory that is suited for the above research topic is The
Segmentation Theory, Spill-Over Theory, Compensation Theory, Resource Drain Theory, and
Border Theory. A project student is expected to get the theories that are related to their research
work/ topic.
EMPIRICAL REVIEW
The empirical review is simply talking about the various researches done by other researchers
concerning your topic or people's research works that are similar to your research work. The
names of various researchers must be attached to their findings or statement.
For example, the use of instructional materials in teaching and learning of geography in senior
secondary schools has a significant effect on the level of the academic achievement of students
(Androameda, 2017)
SUMMARY OF LITERATURE
Here the research or project students are expected to point out their view concerning all that was
discussed in each section of the literature review.
WHY WRITE A LITERATURE REVIEW?
When you write a thesis, dissertation, or research paper, you will have to conduct a literature
review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a
chance to:
 Demonstrate yourfamiliaritywiththe topicandscholarlycontext
 Developatheoretical framework andmethodology foryourresearch
 Positionyourself inrelationtootherresearchersandtheorists
 Showhowyour researchaddressesagap or contributestoa debate
You might also have to write a literature review as a stand-alone assignment. In this case, the
purpose is to evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of scholarly
debates around a topic.
The content will look slightly different in each case, but the process of conducting a literature
review follows the same steps.
Step 1:Search forrelevantliterature
Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic.
If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search
for literature related to your research problem and questions.
If you are writing a literature review as a stand-alone assignment, you will have to choose a
focus and develop a central question to direct your search. Unlike a dissertation research
question, this question has to be answerable without collecting original data. You should be able
to answer it based only on a review of existing publications.
Searchforliteratureusingkeywordsandcitations
Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research topic and question. Some useful
databases to search for journals and articles include:
 Your university’slibrarycatalog
 Google Scholar
 JSTOR
 EBSCO
 ProjectMuse (humanitiesandsocial sciences)
 Medline (life sciencesandbiomedicine)
 EconLit (economics)
 Inspec(physics,engineering,andcomputerscience)
Read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a
useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.
To identify the most important publications on your topic, take note of recurring citations. If the
same authors, books or articles keep appearing in your reading, make sure to seek them out.
You can find out how many times an article has been cited on Google Scholar – a high citation
count means the article has been influential in the field, and should certainly be included in your
literature review.
What can proofreadingdo foryourpaper?
Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing
by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words, and awkward phrasing.
Step 2:Evaluateand select sources
You probably won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on the topic –
you’ll have to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your questions.
For each publication, ask yourself:
 What questionorproblemisthe authoraddressing?
 What are the keyconceptsand how are theydefined?
 What are the keytheories,modelsandmethods?Doesthe researchuse establishedframeworks
or take an innovative approach?
 What are the resultsandconclusionsof the study?
 How doesthe publicationrelatetootherliterature inthe field?Doesitconfirm, addto,or
challenge establishedknowledge?
 How doesthe publicationcontribute toyourunderstandingof the topic?Whatare itskey
insightsandarguments?
 What are the strengthsandweaknessesof the research?
Make sure the sources you use are credible and make sure you read any landmark studies and
major theories in your field of research.
The scope of your review will depend on your topic and discipline: in the sciences, you usually
only review recent literature, but in the humanities, you might take a long historical perspective
(for example, to trace how a concept has changed in meaning over time).
Takenotesand cite yoursources
As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate
into the text of your literature review.
It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism. It can be helpful
to make an annotated bibliography, where you compile full citation information and write a
paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and
saves time later in the process.
You can use our free citation generator to quickly create correct and consistent APA
citations or MLA format citations.
Step 3:Identify themes, debates,and gaps
To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, you need to understand the
connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes,
you can look for:
 Trends and patterns (intheory, methodor results): docertainapproachesbecome more orless
popularovertime?
 Themes:what questionsorconceptsrecuracrossthe literature?
 Debates,conflicts,and contradictions: where dosourcesdisagree?
 Pivotal publications:are there any influential theoriesorstudiesthatchangedthe directionof
the field?
 Gaps: What ismissingfromthe literature?Are there weaknessesthatneedtobe addressed?
This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show
how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.
Step 4:Outline yourliteraturereview’s structure
There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. You should have a
rough idea of your strategy before you start writing.

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How to develop a literature review

  • 1. HOW TO DEVELOP A LITERATURE REVIEW FOR A RESEARCH WORK researchwap.com/post/how-to-develop-a-literature-review-for-a- research-work Literature review, thesis writing, project writing, research writing, research review, INTRODUCTION: A literature review is a survey of academic sources on a particular project topic. It gives an overview of the ebb and flows information, permitting you to distinguish significant hypotheses, strategies, and holes in the current research. A literature review is to show your reader that you have read, and have a good grasp of, the main published work concerning a particular topic or question in your field. It is very important to note that your review should not be simply a description of what others have published in the form of a set of summaries but should take the form of a critical discussion, showing insight and an awareness of differing arguments, theories, and approaches. It should be a synthesis and analysis of the relevant published work, linked at all times to your own purpose and rationale. Conducting a literature review involves collecting, evaluating and analyzing publications (such as books and journal articles) that relate to your research question. There are five main steps in the process of writing a literature review: 1. Searchfor relevantliterature 2. Evaluate sources 3. Identify themes,debates,andgaps 4. Outline the structure 5. Write your literature review A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources – it analyzes, synthesizes, and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.
  • 2. According to Caulley (1992) of La Trobe University, the literature review should: • compare and contrast different authors’ views on an issue • group authors who draw similar conclusions • criticize aspects of the methodology • note areas in which authors are in disagreement • highlight exemplary studies • highlight gaps in research • show how your study relates to previous studies • show how your study relates to the literature in general • conclude by summarising what the literature says THE PURPOSES OF THE REVIEWARE: • To define and limit the problem you are working on • To place your study in a historical perspective • To avoid unnecessary duplication • To evaluate promising research methods • To relate your findings to previous knowledge and suggest further research A good literature review, therefore, is critical of what has been written, identifies areas of controversy, raises questions and identifies areas that need further research. STRUCTURE OFTHE LITERATURE REVIEW The overall structure of your review will depend largely on your own thesis or research area. What you will need to do is to group together and compare and contrast the varying opinions of different writers on certain topics. What you must not do is just describe what one writer says, and then go on to give a general overview of another writer, and then another, and so on. Your structure should be dictated instead by topic areas, controversial issues or by questions to which there are varying approaches and theories. Within each of these sections, you would then discuss what the different literature argues, remembering to link this to your own purpose. Linking words are important. If you are grouping together writers with similar opinions, you would use words or phrases such as: Similarly, in addition, also, again More importantly, if there is disagreement, you need to indicate clearly that you are aware of this by the use of linkers such as: however, on the other hand, conversely, nevertheless
  • 3. At the end of the review, you should include a summary of what the literature implies, which again links to your hypothesis or main question. A standard research literature review is expected to follow the format below: 1. Introduction 2. Conceptual framework 3. Theoretical framework 4. Empirical review 5. Knowledgegap(optional) 6. Summaryof literature INTRODUCTION: here undergraduate or final year project students are expected to simply spell out in at least seven (7) what this chapter will contain. As we have it above conceptual framework, theoretical framework, empirical review, etc. a good introduction gives the project supervisor kind confidence in his or her project students. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK: a good conceptual framework will cover all the research objectives so as to help solve the problem of the research work. This section involves the use of diagrams to explain certain key variables in the research work. The use of diagram is usually high in MBA/MSC thesis research. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: this section is very important in research work. Undergraduate project students, postgraduate research students are expected to search for theories that are related to their research project topic. For example, consider the project topic on human resource management: work-life balancing and its effect on employee productivity; the theory that is suited for the above research topic is The Segmentation Theory, Spill-Over Theory, Compensation Theory, Resource Drain Theory, and Border Theory. A project student is expected to get the theories that are related to their research work/ topic. EMPIRICAL REVIEW The empirical review is simply talking about the various researches done by other researchers concerning your topic or people's research works that are similar to your research work. The names of various researchers must be attached to their findings or statement. For example, the use of instructional materials in teaching and learning of geography in senior secondary schools has a significant effect on the level of the academic achievement of students (Androameda, 2017) SUMMARY OF LITERATURE Here the research or project students are expected to point out their view concerning all that was discussed in each section of the literature review.
  • 4. WHY WRITE A LITERATURE REVIEW? When you write a thesis, dissertation, or research paper, you will have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:  Demonstrate yourfamiliaritywiththe topicandscholarlycontext  Developatheoretical framework andmethodology foryourresearch  Positionyourself inrelationtootherresearchersandtheorists  Showhowyour researchaddressesagap or contributestoa debate You might also have to write a literature review as a stand-alone assignment. In this case, the purpose is to evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of scholarly debates around a topic. The content will look slightly different in each case, but the process of conducting a literature review follows the same steps. Step 1:Search forrelevantliterature Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic. If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions. If you are writing a literature review as a stand-alone assignment, you will have to choose a focus and develop a central question to direct your search. Unlike a dissertation research question, this question has to be answerable without collecting original data. You should be able to answer it based only on a review of existing publications. Searchforliteratureusingkeywordsandcitations Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research topic and question. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:  Your university’slibrarycatalog  Google Scholar  JSTOR  EBSCO
  • 5.  ProjectMuse (humanitiesandsocial sciences)  Medline (life sciencesandbiomedicine)  EconLit (economics)  Inspec(physics,engineering,andcomputerscience) Read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources. To identify the most important publications on your topic, take note of recurring citations. If the same authors, books or articles keep appearing in your reading, make sure to seek them out. You can find out how many times an article has been cited on Google Scholar – a high citation count means the article has been influential in the field, and should certainly be included in your literature review. What can proofreadingdo foryourpaper? Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words, and awkward phrasing. Step 2:Evaluateand select sources You probably won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on the topic – you’ll have to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your questions. For each publication, ask yourself:  What questionorproblemisthe authoraddressing?  What are the keyconceptsand how are theydefined?  What are the keytheories,modelsandmethods?Doesthe researchuse establishedframeworks or take an innovative approach?  What are the resultsandconclusionsof the study?  How doesthe publicationrelatetootherliterature inthe field?Doesitconfirm, addto,or challenge establishedknowledge?  How doesthe publicationcontribute toyourunderstandingof the topic?Whatare itskey insightsandarguments?  What are the strengthsandweaknessesof the research? Make sure the sources you use are credible and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.
  • 6. The scope of your review will depend on your topic and discipline: in the sciences, you usually only review recent literature, but in the humanities, you might take a long historical perspective (for example, to trace how a concept has changed in meaning over time). Takenotesand cite yoursources As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review. It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism. It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography, where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process. You can use our free citation generator to quickly create correct and consistent APA citations or MLA format citations. Step 3:Identify themes, debates,and gaps To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, you need to understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:  Trends and patterns (intheory, methodor results): docertainapproachesbecome more orless popularovertime?  Themes:what questionsorconceptsrecuracrossthe literature?  Debates,conflicts,and contradictions: where dosourcesdisagree?  Pivotal publications:are there any influential theoriesorstudiesthatchangedthe directionof the field?  Gaps: What ismissingfromthe literature?Are there weaknessesthatneedtobe addressed? This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge. Step 4:Outline yourliteraturereview’s structure There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. You should have a rough idea of your strategy before you start writing.
  • 7. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically). Chronological The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred. Thematic If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic. For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access. Methodological If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods, you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:  Look at whatresultshave emergedin qualitativeversusquantitative research  Discusshowthe topic hasbeenapproachedbyempirical versustheoretical scholarship  Divide the literatureintosociological,historical,andcultural sources Theoretical A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.
  • 8. Step 5:Write yourliteraturereview Like any other academic text, your literature review should have an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion. What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review. Introduction The introduction should clearly establish the focusand purpose of the literature review. Dissertation literature review you are writing the literature review as part of your dissertation or thesis, reiterate your central problem or research question and give a brief summary of the scholarly context. You can emphasize the timeliness of the topic (“many recent studies have focused on the problem of x”) or highlight a gap in the literature (“while there has been much research on x, few researchers have taken y into consideration”). Stand-alone literature review you are writing a stand-alone paper, give some background on the topic and its importance, discuss the scope of the literature you will review (for example, the time period of your sources), and state your objective. What new insight will you draw from the literature? Body Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach. As you write, you can follow these tips:  Summarize and synthesize:give anoverview of the mainpointsof eachsource and combine themintoa coherentwhole  Analyze and interpret: don’tjustparaphrase otherresearchers—addyourowninterpretations where possible,discussingthe significanceof findingsinrelationtothe literature asa whole  Criticallyevaluate:mention the strengthsandweaknessesof yoursources  Write in well-structuredparagraphs: use transitions andtopicsentences todraw connections, comparisons,andcontrasts Literaturereviewparagraphexample The example below is taken from the body of a literature review on the relationship between national identity and nature conservation. This paragraph discusses how humanities scholars have approached the concept of wilderness. Early work in environmental humanities tended to take a sharply critical approach to the wilderness, focusing on the cultural construction of supposedly ‘natural’ landscapes. The rise of climate change awareness in the 1980s had been framed by narratives about “the end of nature” (McKibben 1989), in which a once-pristine wilderness is degraded by humans to the point of disappearance. In response to this popular discourse, environmental historian William Cronon critiqued the concept of pure, pristine nature to be preserved from human influence, arguing that
  • 9. ideas like “wilderness” are themselves products of particular human cultures and histories. In his influential essay ‘The Trouble with Wilderness’ (1995), Cronon traces how the ideal of untouched wilderness, anxiety over its loss, and the political will to preserve it has been central to American national identity, entwined with religious motifs and colonial frontier mythologies. Following Cronon, the racial and class politics of wilderness preservation was a theme taken up by several scholars in the late 1990s and early 2000s, who researched the material effects of conservation politics on indigenous and rural Americans (Catton 1997; Spence 1999; Jacoby 2001). The US National Park system became the dominant paradigm for analyzing relations between conservation, nationhood, and nationalism. However, this approach has sometimes led to a narrowly US-centric perspective that fails to engage closely with the meanings and materialities of “wilderness” in different contexts. Recent work has begun to challenge this paradigm and argues for more varied approaches to understanding the socio- political relations between nations and nature. The example combines the thematic and chronological approaches. This section of the literature review focuses on the theme of wilderness, while the paragraph itself is organized chronologically. Conclusion In conclusion, youshould summarize the key findings youhave taken from the literature and emphasize their significance. Dissertation literature review if the literature review is part of your thesis or dissertation, show how your research addresses gaps and contributes new knowledge, or discuss how you have drawn on existing theories and methods to build a framework for your research.Stand-alone literature review if you are writing a stand-alone paper, you can discuss the overall implications of the literature or make suggestions for future research based on the gaps you have identified. When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting it. Our quick guide to proofreading offers some useful tips and tricks!