What is a review of the literature?
A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. Occasionally you will be asked to write one as a separate assignment (sometimes in the form of an annotated bibliography—see the bottom of the next page), but more often it is part of the introduction to an essay, research report, or thesis. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries
Besides enlarging your knowledge about the topic, writing a literature review lets you gain and demonstrate skills in two areas
information seeking: the ability to scan the literature efficiently, using manual or computerized methods, to identify a set of useful articles and books critical appraisal: the ability to apply principles of analysis to identify unbiased and valid studies. A literature review must do these things
be organized around and related directly to the thesis or research question you are developing synthesize results into a summary of what is and is not known identify areas of controversy in the literature
formulate questions that need further research
Ask yourself questions like these:
What is the specific thesis, problem, or research question that my literature review helps to define? What type of literature review am I conducting? Am I looking at issues of theory? methodology? policy? quantitative research (e.g. on the effectiveness of a new procedure)? qualitative research (e.g., studies )? What is the scope of my literature review? What types of publications am I using (e.g., journals, books,...
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