A literature review is a part/section of a dissertation or research project. However, sometimes it is also set and assessed as a standalone piece of work. Generally, while writing a dissertation or any research project, the literature review is one of the first tasks that is carried out after deciding on a topic.
The Preliminary Question is “What is A Literature Review”?
Thus, this blog attempts at explaining what is a literature review, its utility as a piece of academic wiring, as well as three very simple tips of managing your literature review.
So join us in the blog below!
What is Literature Review?
A literature review is “a piece of academic writing that demonstrates the knowledge and understanding of the academic literature on a particular topic”. It includes a critical evaluation of the topic, for which it is called ‘literature review’.
A literature review helps in familiarizing and understanding the current research in the particular field prior to initiating a new investigation. Conducting a literature review enables the researcher: (a) to find out what research has already been done, and (b) identify what is unknown within the topic, that is, the research gaps. Reading coupled with critical analysis helps the researcher to refine the topic as well as frame the research question(s).
Thus, literature review is a piece of academic writing that:
Summarizes and analyses the previous research and theories;
Identifies areas of controversy and contested claims; and
Highlights any gaps that may exist in the research till date
What is The Utility of Literature Review?
A literature review servers the following four purposes that speak loud about its utility as a piece of academic writing:
Brings clarity & focus to researcher’s research problem:
The literature review plays an extremely important role in shaping researcher’s research problem. The process of reviewing the literature helps the researcher to understand his/her research subject better, in turn helping to conceptualize the research problem more clearly and precisely; thus, making it more relevant and pertinent to his/her field of enquiry. The review of literature helps the researcher to find out the aspects/areas of the subject that have already been researched and identify the gaps and suggestions for further research given by the previous researchers.
Improves your research methodology:
Going through the literature acquaints the researcher with the various methodologies that have been employed by previous researchers to find answers to the research question(s) that are similar to the researcher. It also helps the researcher to find out if any previous research has been conducted using the procedures and methods similar to his/her; which procedures and methods have worked out well; and what were the problems that were faced by the previous researchers in using a specific procedure and method. On the basis of these observations, the researcher can make better choice of methodologies and procedures for his/her research.
Broadens your knowledge-base in your area of research:
This is probably the most important purpose that the review of literature serves. It broadens the knowledge-base of the researcher in his/her area of research. For conducting an effective research on any topic, firstly it is very important to have wide and elaborate knowledge on the topic. As review of literature makes the researcher read widely around his/her topic to find out the extent of previous researches and the gaps existing in the topic, it broadens his/her knowledge-base in the research topic.
Contextualizes your findings:
It is a comparatively easier task to find answers to the research questions. But what is really difficult is to examine how the findings fit the existing body of knowledge? How does the researcher’s research answers compare with what others have found? What has been his/her contribution to the existing body of knowledge? How do his/her findings differ from others? Thus, undertaking review of literature enables you to compare your findings with those of others and find answer to the aforesaid questions.
How to Manage Your Literature Review?
Below are three simple tips to manage your extensive literature review:
1. Bookmark important paper as soon as you find them!
The very first tip to manage your literature review is to bookmark the important papers no sooner you find them. While searching for literature for your literature review make sure that you immediately save the research papers or articles that can serve your purpose. Your source for gathering literature can be either offline or online. But Careful! While looking for information online make sure you use information from credible sources, say academic papers or renowned journals.
2. Make quick 5 lines summary of selected papers!
The next tip is to make a quick summary of the selected papers. Read each of the sources, and highlight the relevant parts and take quick notes. This will help you understand which paper talks specifically about which aspect of the topic and thus, reduce your work of reading each of them again while jotting down the literature.
3. Do not hurry; collect literature gradually!
The last but the most important tip is do not hurry. Take sufficient time to collect information that is relevant to your topic. Search for more and more literature on your research topic so as to broaden your knowledge-base on your research topic. The more the literature, the more knowledge you will gain on the existing body of knowledge and research gaps, thus being able to better conceptualize your research problem.
Want to enrich your thesis with a powerful literature review?
Let Paper Helper do that for you!