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Literature Review: Definition, Steps And Example

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How to write Literature Review
 Alice Smith  January 18, 2020  General

Literature Review: Definition, Steps And Example

Writing a literature review is not as simple as reading a creative piece and jotting down your verdict. Instead, it requires you to conduct thorough research on a specific study field. The literature review must be completely devoid of any fillers or jargon. Therefore, you need to make sure the research material is credible enough to form a solid foundation for the rest of your paper. Sounds complicated? Don’t panic; here are some easy steps to help you write a credible literature review stress-free.

But, before that…

You must know what the literature review is exactly.

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What Is A Literature Review?

A literature review is a collection of relevant and credible materials on a specific topic. It is an analytic and descriptive summary of all the published works related to your topic. You need to survey scholarly books, articles and other sources relevant to your field of study. Literature review acknowledges the work of previous researchers and ensures your readers that your work has been fully researched.

What is the purpose of a literature review?

A research paper is considered to be incomplete without a literature review. You may end up losing valuable marks if you don’t include a solid literature review in your document. Do you know why? It’s because the literature review helps your readers understand all the points that you have discussed in the document.

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The four main purposes of a literature review are:

  • It surveys and evaluates the literature in your study field.
  • It uses the information in that literature to form a summary relevant to your work.
  • The review lets you critically analyse the information and identify the gaps present in the current knowledge. You can highlight the limitations of theories and perspectives present in the information that you’ve gathered. Then you can formulate areas for further research.
  • It lets you present the literature in an organised and systematic manner.

Simply put, the literature review lets your professors know that you have an in-depth grasp of your subject. It will also help you understand how your own research fits among the existing researches.

Now that you know the literature review definition, it’s time for you to learn how to write the literature review. Let’s begin then.

How To Write A Literature Review?

The literature review enhances the credibility of your work. It summarises prior research and explains how your work relates to it. In other words, a literature review provides a brief overview of your work. Here’s how you can write a perfect literature review:

  1. Collect and evaluate the literature

You need a clearly defined topic before you start searching for the literature. Have you been asked to write a thesis literature review or dissertation literature review? Then you need to search for the literature related to your research problem or questions.

Have you been asked to write the literature review for a stand-alone assignment? In that case, you need to develop a central question based on your assignment topic. You can use these keywords and citations to search for the relevant literature review:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • JSTOR
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • EBSCO
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • Inspec (physics, computer science and engineering)
  • EconLit (economics)

Filter the best sources for your literature review. Make sure you cite the sources as and when required to avoid plagiarism in your paper.

  1. Find the connections between the sources

You need to identify the connections between your sources to organise the argument and structure of your literature review. Look for the following to figure out the relationships between the sources:

  • Patterns and trends common in all the sources
  • The questions and concepts that recur across the literature
  • Any crucial studies and theories that influenced and changed the direction of a specific field
  • Conflicts and contradictions present in the sources
  • Gaps and weaknesses in the existing literature

Once you get hold of all the points, it will be easier for you to structure the literature review. Then you can highlight how your research will contribute to the existing knowledge.

  1. Structure the literature review

You can use any of these strategies to craft your literature review. Make sure the structure is easily understandable by your readers. The various strategies are:

  • Chronological

Analyse the patterns, gaps and key debates of your sources based on time periods.

  • Thematic

Implement this strategy only if you have found recurring ideas in your sources. Organise the literature review into subsections that discuss different aspects of the topic.

  • Methodological

This strategy is applicable if you use sources that are based on different research methods. In that case, you can compare the results that emerge from the different research approaches.

  • Theoretical

You can use this strategy if you want to write a paper based on a theoretical framework. Discuss various theories, definitions of key concepts and models. You can even combine several theoretical concepts related to your field of work.

  1. Start writing

A literature review should consist of an introduction, a body and a conclusion. It should clearly establish the focus and purpose of your literature review. You should even analyse and interpret all the sources and conclude the paper with a brief summary of your key findings.

What Is The Basic Literature Review Format?

The literature review follows an essay format and consists of an introduction, body and a conclusion. Therefore, it should look something like this:

  • Introduction
  • State the broad topic of your thesis or dissertation
  • Mention all the aspects that you have included and excluded in the work
  • Signal the list of key topics from your sources that you will discuss in the paper.

The introduction is where you need to introduce the topic to your readers simply. Make your readers aware of the sources or researches that you have used to execute the work.

  • Body
  • Analyse and interpret the sources
  • Discuss their limitations relevant to your field of study
  • Show how you can contribute to the field with your own research

This is where you highlight your critical analytical and research abilities. Divide the text into sub-sections to enhance the readability of your literature review.

  • Conclusion
  • Summarise your key findings
  • Do not include any new information
  • Explain the significance of all the sources that you’ve used

The conclusion must be persuasive enough to encourage your readers to go through the rest of your paper. This is the basic literature review format that you must follow. However, the format may change depending on your University guidelines. Have a talk with your professors to make sure you follow the right format.

A Literature Review Sample

Still, finding it difficult to write the literature review? Check out this sample and hopefully, you will be able to write the review in no time.

Several theories have always been proposed to influence human behaviour. The literature covers a wide slew of theories relevant to human behaviour. Despite all the theories, this review will mainly focus on five major themes that recurred throughout the literature reviewed for this paper. The themes are:

  • Impact of rewards
  • Incorporation of self-confidence
  • Importance of internal forces of motivation
  • Autonomy and self-control
  • Narcissism

The literature highlights these themes in a variety of contexts. However, this paper will mainly deal with their impact or application in self-motivation.

Follow these tips and the example to write a perfect review in no time. Do not hesitate to get help from your friends or seniors whenever you get stuck during the process. Good Luck!

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