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Literature Research

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Literature Research

Literature reviews are completed by students to learn the proper format for setting up their own research projects. The following is information gleaned on what a literature review is, why it is conducted, and how to understand completing one . Additional information on how to write a review is covered as well.
A literature review surveys scholarly articles, books and other sources relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, and by so doing, providing a description, summary, and critical evaluation of these works. Literature reviews are designed to provide an overview of sources you have explored while researching a particular topic and to demonstrate to your readers how your research fits into the larger field of study. A literature review may consist of simple a summary of key sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis, often within specific conceptual categories.
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 in a way that informs how you are planning to investigate a research problem. The analytical features of a literature review might: * Give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations, * Trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates, * Depending on the situation, evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant, or * Usually in the conclusion of a literature review, identify where gaps exist in how a problem has been researched to date.
The purpose of a literature review is to: * Place each work in the context of its contribution to the understanding of the research problem being studied, * Describe the relationship of each work to the others under consideration, * Identify new ways to interpret, and shed light on any gaps in previous research, * Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous studies, * Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication of effort, * Point the way in fulfilling a need for additional research, and * Locate your own research within the context of existing literature.
To write a good critical review, you will have to engage in the mental processes of analyzing (taking apart) the work--deciding what its major components are and determining how these parts (i.e., paragraphs, sections, or chapters) contribute to the work as a whole.
Analyzing the work will help you focus on how and why the author makes certain points and prevent you from merely summarizing what the author says. Assuming the role of an analytical reader will also help you to determine whether or not the author fulfills the stated purpose of the book or article and enhances your understanding or knowledge of a particular topic. The format of a review of literature may vary from discipline to discipline and from assignment to assignment. A review may be a self-contained unit -- an end in itself -- or a preface to and rationale for engaging in primary research. A review is a required part of grant and research proposals and often a chapter in theses and dissertations.
In the introduction, you should: * Define or identify the general topic, issue, or area of concern, thus providing an appropriate context for reviewing the literature. * Point out overall trends in what has been published about the topic; or conflicts in theory, methodology, evidence, and conclusions; or gaps in research and scholarship; or a single problem or new perspective of immediate interest. * Establish the writer's reason (point of view) for reviewing the literature; explain the criteria to be used in analyzing and comparing literature and the organization of the review (sequence); and, when necessary, state why certain literature is or is not included (scope).
In the body, you should: * Group research studies and other types of literature (reviews, theoretical articles, case studies, etc.) according to common denominators such as qualitative versus quantitative approaches, conclusions of authors, specific purpose or objective, chronology, etc. * Summarize individual studies or articles with as much or as little detail as each merits according to its comparative importance in the literature, remembering that space (length) denotes significance. * Provide the reader with strong "umbrella" sentences at beginnings of paragraphs, "signposts" throughout, and brief "so what" summary sentences at intermediate points in the review to aid in understanding comparisons and analyses.
In the conclusion, you should: * Summarize major contributions of significant studies and articles to the body of knowledge under review, maintaining the focus established in the introduction. * Evaluate the current "state of the art" for the body of knowledge reviewed, pointing out major methodological flaws or gaps in research, inconsistencies in theory and findings, and areas or issues pertinent to future study. * Conclude by providing some insight into the relationship between the central topic of the literature review and a larger area of study such as a discipline, a scientific endeavor, or a profession.

USC Libraries. LibGuides. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper. The Literature Review. Taylor, D. University of Toronto. Writing. The Literature Review: A Few Tips on Conducting It. Retrieved from
The Writing Center. The Writer's Handbook. Writing Book Reviews. Understanding the Assignment. Retrieved from

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