• Analyzes a body of literature in order to classify it by themes or categories, rather than simply discussing individual works one after another.
• Presents the research and ideas of the field rather than each individual work or author by itself. A literature review often forms part of a larger research project, such as within a thesis (or major research paper), or it may be an independent written work, such as a synthesis paper.
Purpose of a literature review A literature review situates your topic in relation to previous research and illuminates a spot for your research. It accomplishes several goals: • provides background for your topic using previous research.
• shows you are familiar with previous, relevant research.
• evaluates the depth and breadth of the research in regards to your topic.
• determines remaining questions or aspects of your topic in need of research.
Relationship between a literature review and a research project Academic research at the graduate level is always part of a dialogue among researchers. As a graduate student, you must therefore indicate that you know where your topic is positioned within your field of study. Therefore, a literature review is a key part of most research projects at the graduate level. There is often a reciprocal relationship between a literature review and the research project for which it is written: • A research project is often undertaken in response to a literature review. Doing the literature review for a topic often reveals areas requiring further research. In this way, writing the literature review helps to formulate the research question.
• A literature review helps to establish the validity of a research project by revealing gaps in the
Bibliography: Bell, Judith. Doing Your Research Project: A Guide for First-time Researchers in Education, Health and Social Science. Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open University Press, 2005. Boote, David N. and Penny Beile. “Scholars before researchers: On the centrality of the dissertation literature review in research preparation.” Educational researcher, 34.6 (2005): 3-15. Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. Verma, Gajendra K. and Kanka Mallick. Researching Education: Perspectives and Techniques. London: Falmer Press, 1999. The Writing Center, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Literature Reviews. Chapel Hill, NC. 2005. Available http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/literature_review.html.