A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period.
A literature review can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information. It might give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates. And depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant.
The main focus of an academic research paper is to develop a new argument, and a research paper is likely to contain a literature review as one of its parts. In a research paper, you use the literature as a foundation and as support for a new insight that you contribute. The focus of a literature review, however, is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of others without adding new contributions.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Writing Center
A literature review is an explanation of what has been published on a subject by recognized researchers. Occasionally you will be asked to write one as a separate assignment (sometimes in the form of an annotated bibliography, but more often it is part of the introduction to a research report, essay, thesis or dissertation.)
A literature review can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information
Critical literature reviews help to write your literature review more effectively:
A literature review must do these things:
a. be organized around and related directly to the thesis or research question you are developing
b. synthesize results into a summary of what is and is not known
c. identify areas of controversy in the literature
d. formulate questions that need further research
Before writing literature review ask yourself questions like these:
1. What is the specific thesis, problem, or research question that my review of literature helps to define?
2. 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 )?
3. What is the scope of my literature review? What types of publications am I using (e.g., journals, books, government documents, popular media)? What discipline am I working in (e.g., management, organizational behavior,
4. How good was my information seeking? Has my search been wide enough to ensure I've found all the relevant material? Has it been narrow enough to exclude irrelevant material? Is the number of sources I've used appropriate for the length of my paper?
5. Have I critically analyzed the literature I use? Do I follow through a set of concepts and questions, comparing items to each other in the ways they deal with them? Instead of just listing and summarizing items, do I assess them, discussing strengths and weaknesses?
6. Have I cited and discussed studies contrary to my perspective?
7. Will the reader find my literature review relevant, appropriate, and useful?
Tips on writing a literature review (Hart 1998)
Search for the most recent articles that deal with your topic; many of them will summarize the prior literature in the area, saving you valuable time. Remember to attribute even if you paraphrase!
Literature reviews can be overwhelming. You can't find everything. Just find the literature that gets discussed the most or is most relevant to your topic.
The goal of the literature review is to show that you understand the 'bigger picture' and can put your research and recommendations in context of others working in the field.
Writing Literature Reviews : A Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences by Jose L. Galvan.
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H 61.8 G34 2014