How to Write an Ideal Literature Review
A literature review is much more than any other section of your research paper. This forms the basis of your research. It is a formal piece of writing where you analyze existing theoretical frameworks, principles and assumptions and use this as a basis to shape your approach to the research question.
Curating and drafting a solid literature review section gives your research paper more credibility and makes your research tighter and better focused. But, writing a literature review is a daunting task. It needs to be read comprehensively, plus you have to consider market trends and technical and political changes that tend to change in the blink of an eye.
Therefore, you should know what a good literature review should look like. That is the focus of this guide. We'll explore everything from what a literature review is, how long it should be, the different types of literature reviews, how to write a literature review, and many more.
What is Literature Review?
The literature review format can vary from discipline to discipline and assignment to assignment.
A review may be a self-contained entity – an end in itself – or a preamble and argument for engaging in primary research. Review is a necessary part of grant and research proposals and is often a chapter in the thesis and dissertation.
Generally, the purpose of a review is to critically analyze a section of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification and comparison of prior research studies, literature reviews, and theoretical articles.
What are the different types of literature reviews?
Not all literature reviews are the same. You can choose from several possible approaches. The type of research you conduct will determine how you conduct the study.
There are several types of literature reviews:
This is called an argumentative review when you carefully present literature that supports or counters only a specific argument or premise to establish a point of view.
A scoping review is commonly performed at the beginning of a research proposal, dissertation, or article. It is conducted before research to uncover gaps in the existing body of knowledge and explain why the project should be greenlighted.
It is a literature review focusing on building a comprehensive understanding of a topic by combining the available theoretical framework and empirical evidence.
State-of-the-art reviews are carried out continuously, focusing on the latest research. It describes what is currently known, understood or agreed to about the research topic and highlights where there is still disagreement.
This form includes an overview of existing evidence relating to a formulated research question to identify and critically evaluate relevant research from the studies included in the review, and to collect, report, and analyze data.
This approach delves into the "how" and "what" of the research question - you cannot see the results separately; You should also review the methodology used.
What is the purpose of a literature review?
When writing a thesis, dissertation, or research paper, you must conduct a literature review to ensure your research is relevant to current knowledge. Literature reviews are conducted for the following reasons:
- Demonstrate your understanding of the topic and scholarly context.
- Build a theoretical framework and research approach to your studies.
- Position yourself to other theorists and researchers.
- Demonstrate how your research fills a void or contributes to the debate.
- As a stand-alone task, you may need to prepare a literature review.
How to Write a Literature Review
Step One: Decide on Your Research Areas:
Before you search for articles or books, decide in advance what areas you will research. Then, ensure you only get articles and books in those areas, even if you find interesting books in other areas.
Step Two: Search the Literature:
Make a comprehensive bibliographic search of books and articles in your field. Read abstracts online and download and print articles related to your area of research. Find and refer to relevant books in the library. Set a specific time limit for how long you will search. There should not be more than two or three dedicated sessions.
Step Three: Find relevant passages in your books and articles:
Skim the content of each book and article and look for these five things in particular:
1. Claims, decisions and conclusions about the constructions you are investigating
2. Definition of words
3. Call for follow-up studies relevant to your project
4. The gaps you see in the literature
5. Disagreements about the constructions you are examining
Type the relevant excerpt directly into the Word document when you find any of these five things. Don't summarize because abbreviations take more time than just typing the fraction. Note the author's name and page number after each excerpt. Do this for each article and book that is in your literature stack. When you are done, print out your portions.
Step Four: Code the Literature:
Take out a pair of scissors and cut out each piece. Now, sort the pieces of paper into similar subjects. Understand what the main topics are. Next, place each piece in a themed pile. Make sure each note goes in the pile. If there are fragments that you can't figure out where they are, take them apart and look again at the end to see if you need new categories. When you're finished, place each stack of notes in an envelope labelled with the theme's name.
Step Five: Build Your Conceptual Schema:
Type the name of each of your coded themes in a large font. Take a printout of it and cut the headings into individual slips of paper. Move slips of paper to a table or large workspace and find the best way to organize them. Are there thoughts that go together or that are in dialogue with each other? Are there views that contradict each other? Go around the slips of paper until you devise a way to organize the codes in a way that makes sense. Before you forget or someone cleans your slips of paper, write down the conceptual schema.
Step Six: Start Writing Your Literature Review:
Choose any part of your conceptual schema to get started. You can start anywhere because you already know the order. Find the envelope with those excerpts and put them on the table before you. Next, create a mini-concept schema based on that topic by grouping excerpts that say the same thing. Use that mini-ideological schema to write your literature review based on the pieces in front of you. Don't forget to include citations as you write so it's not apparent who said what. For each section of your literature review, repeat these steps.
Once you have completed these six steps, you will have a literature review draft. The great thing about this process is that it breaks down into manageable steps that seem overwhelming: writing a literature review.
Important things to remember when writing your literature review
As we reach the end of our literature review guide, there are essential aspects that you should remember before you start writing. Let us summarize them as ten essential rules that will play an important role when you are writing a literature review:
- Start by defining your topic and audience.
- Take your time to locate and research the available literature first.
- Don't forget to take notes while researching things.
- Explore similar literature reviews related to your topic.
- Keep things focused but explain related concepts that you find essential.
- Keep your writing critical, and don't forget the structural aspects.
- Provide background information about each entry, if necessary.
- Read other online reviews to find out more.
- Include your research, yet be fair.
- Choose both old and new studies to provide things in a balanced way.
Most importantly, don't forget about the risks of plagiarism and always provide appropriate citations and information to help your readers locate each source. By following these simple rules, you can succeed and write an excellent literature review paper that will stand out from the rest!