How to Write a Literature Review
It is a review of existing literature about a particular topic which may be in several forms including books and pamphlets. Some people have a hard time when writing a literature review for their assignments. One is expected to find already existing research about a particular subject after developing a topic for their work.
The Main types of Literature review
The experimental approach involves identifying some of the already existing information about a specific subject and analyzing whether there are any gaps in knowledge in the content. On the other hand, theoretical reviews involve the following steps:
i. Identifying and critically reading the existing literary works in a particular subject matter.
ii. Summarizing and writing the main ideas of a review.
A literature review can either be in a stand-alone form or as part of a research article as explained in the section below:
a) Literature review for research articles.
Every research project begins with an introduction to the topic of the assignment. The aim of having a review in the introductory part is to introduce the audience of the report to the importance of the study. Individuals should conduct an extensive search of literary work in various online platforms. Literature review in a research article should contain the following elements:
• A background to enable readers to understand the topic of a report.
• Recent developments in the field of study which can be organized in various formats to help readers understand how research has evolved.
• Comparing and contrasting the content of different studies about the research topic. The review helps to identify existing gaps in knowledge that should be worked upon during a study.
b) Stand-alone literature reviews.
They are similar to the category described above. The only difference is that they do not contain experimental data. Stand-alone reviews are grouped into two:
The reviews comprise of theoretical discussions about a particular subject matter and conducting a critical analysis of all relevant information. Narrative reviews are written in a qualitative approach. This type of narrative reviews has three components which include an introduction, body, and conclusion.
• Systematic reviews.
This type is mainly used in analyzing some studies and can be either qualitative or quantitative. The technique uses a well-planned method. Researchers are required to focus their attention on a single question and to come up with clear objectives for their study. The main components of the systematic reviews are different from narrative ones. They have an introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections.
Importance of Literature Review
• It helps to identify areas of previous studies.
• Describes the relationships between different sources that have been used in a particular subject.
• Helps in shedding some light on gaps in knowledge in a specific area.
• Gives readers access to various relevant and vital studies about a topic.
• Provides direction for researchers by giving them necessary information for them to compare original research in their field of study.
• Helps to avoid duplication of work that has been completed before about a particular topic.
• Literature reviews highlight some of the key findings in a subject matter.
• It shows methodologies that were used by researchers in their work.
The process of writing literature reviews for both stand-alone and research articles is similar as explained below:
I. Collecting, evaluating, and selecting literary work.
The first step before you start a search for relevant and important literature is to narrow down your research topic. If the review is for a research paper, ensure that the literary work is related to your research objectives and questions. The exercise helps individuals to understand some of the already existing knowledge about a subject matter to make their research work easy.
On the other hand, if the literature review is meant for a stand-alone assignment, you should come up with a question that will guide you when searching for relevant literary work. You should be in a position to answer such as question even before you collect new information. The existing sources of information should help you to answer it.
II. Find connections and themes.
It involves identifying relationships between all the sources of information that you have collected. The exercise helps researchers to have a good structure and content. Identify the following items when reading:
• Identify some of the concepts that are common in all parts of the literature review.
• Conflicts and contradictions in the work.
• Crucial studies that revolutionized the field of study.
• Gaps in knowledge. Evaluate any possibility of weaknesses in literary work.
III. Develop a structure.
Determine the most suitable structure for your literature review. Some researchers prefer using a combination of techniques for organizing their work. However, this depends on the length of the review. The main formats used include thematic, methodological, and theoretical.
IV. Write the literature review.
The structure of this type of work is similar in other academic assignments and consists of an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion. Your instructors will give instructions on the content of each of the sections depending on the objective of an assignment.
• The introduction.
Researchers should explain the primary purpose of their review at this point. If the review is part of a research paper, explain your research questions and reasons why your topic is necessary at that time. Examine whether there are gaps in the literature.
If you are doing a stand-alone literature review, provide background about the research topic and its importance. Explain the scope of the literary work that you will review in your assignment and outline your study objectives.
• The body.
If you are going to write a long body for the review, it is always advisable to divide your work into several sections to make it presentable to the readers. Provide a summary and analysis of the main points of the literature review. Explain the significance of your findings in a certain field of study. The audience would also want to know some of the strengths and weaknesses of the sources used in your literature review. Use transitions to enable readers to develop connections in your content.
If you are writing a review for a research paper, explain how your research has contributed to the gaps in knowledge in a particular field. On the other hand, discuss the impact of literary work and make suggestions for further studies.