The need to uncover what is already known in the body of knowledge prior to initiating any research study should not be underestimated (Hart, 1998). Novice researchers tend to approach the literature review as nothing more than a collection of summaries of papers or an elaborated annotated bibliography of multiple research manuscripts (Webster & Watson, 2002). A meaningful literature review is much more. Hart (1998) defined literature review as “the use of ideas in the literature to justify the particular approach to the topic, the selection of methods, and demonstration that this research contributes something new” (p. 1). J. Shaw (1995) noted that the process of the review should “explain how one piece of research builds on another” (p. 326). Webster and Watson (2002) defined an effective literature review as one that “creates a firm foundation for advancing knowledge. It facilitates theory development, closes areas where a plethora of research exists, and uncovers areas where research is needed” (p. 13). From these definitions it is clear that an effective literature review should include the following characteristics: * Methodologically analyze and synthesize quality literature, * Provide a firm foundation to a research topic,
* Provide a firm foundation to the selection of research methodology, * Demonstrate that the proposed research contributes something new to the overall body of knowledge or advances the research field’s knowledge-base. According to (Richard Nordquist,about.com) literature review is the process of reading, analyzing, evaluating, and summarizing scholarly materials about a specific topic. It is a critical and evaluative account of what has been published on a chosen research topic. A literature review is a text written by someone to consider the critical points of current knowledge including substantive findings, as well as theoretical and methodological contributions to a particular topic. It can also be a “critical analysis of a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles”. A review of literature considers the state and progress of current literature on a given topic or problem by organizing, integrating, and evaluating previously published books and articles. Furthermore, a review of literature is a critical evaluation of material that has already been published. The APA Publication Manual (1994) explains that a review of literature: defines and clarifies the topic or problem; summarizes previous investigations in order to inform the reader of the current state of research; identifies relations, contradictions, gaps, and inconsistencies in the literature; and suggests the next step or steps in addressing the topic or solving the problem. (p. 5). When organizing a review of literature, the goal is to inform the reader about the main trends and patterns in the literature under survey. In short, a literature review is a description of the literature relevant to a particular field or topic. It gives an overview of what has been said, who the key writers are, what are the prevailing theories and hypotheses, what questions are being asked, and what methods and methodologies are appropriate and useful. As such, it is not in itself primary research, but rather it reports on other findings. It is also not an argument for the importance of what topic is being researched on. While it is necessary to explain what the primary purpose of the research is, the reader of a literature review will assume that the need for undertaking the research has already been established. Thus literature review is not a descriptive list of papers or summaries. A literature review is organized around ideas, not the sources themselves as an annotated bibliography would be organized. The researcher should assess previous studies and discuss their strengths and...
References: The literature review should conclude with a full bibliographical list of all the books, journal articles, reports and other media, which were referred to in the work. Regardless of whether the review is part of a course of study or for publication, it is an essential part of the process that all sourced material is acknowledged. This means that every citation in the text must appear in the reference or bibliography and vice versa. The reference list may be a useful source of literature for others who are interested in studying this topic (Coughlan et al, 2007), and, therefore, every effort should be made to ensure it is accurate.
To conclude, literature review is central to the research process and can help refine a research question through determining inconsistencies in a body of knowledge. Similarly, it can help inspire new research innovations and ideas while creating greater understanding about a topic. It can enable a novice researcher to gain insight into suitable designs for a future study, as well as providing information on data collection and analysis tools. Various types of literature reviews may be used depending on the reasons for carrying out the review and the overall aims and objectives of the research.
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