Why write a literature review?
New discoveries don't materialise out of nowhere; they build upon the findings of previous experiments and investigations. A literature review shows how the investigation you are conducting fits with what has gone before and puts it into context. A literature review demonstrates to your reader that you are able to: Understand and critically analyse the background research
Select and source the information that is necessary to develop a context for your research It also:
Shows how your investigation relates to previous research
Reveals the contribution that your investigation makes to this field (fills a gap, or builds on existing research, for instance) Provides evidence that may help explain your findings later
If you are doing a thesis, dissertation, or a long report it is likely that you will need to include a literature review. If you are doing a lab write-up or a shorter report, some background reading may be required to give context to your work, but this is usually included as an analysis in the introduction and discussion sections. back to top
What is a literature review?
A literature review is a select analysis of existing research which is relevant to your topic, showing how it relates to your investigation. It explains and justifies how your investigation may help answer some of the questions or gaps in this area of research. A literature review is not a straightforward summary of everything you have read on the topic and it is not a chronological description of what was discovered in your field. A longer literature review may have headings to help group the relevant research into themes or topics. This gives a focus to your analysis, as you can group similar studies together and compare and contrast their approaches, any weaknesses or strengths in their methods, and their findings. One common way to approach a literature review is to start out broad and then become more specific. Think of it as an...
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