29th June 2017
The aim of a literature review is to show your tutor that you have read, and have a good understanding of the published works in your subject area. The published works can be in any format, including online sources. The literature review has to provide a framework for your further work based on your research objective.
Your literature review should not simply be a summary of other published works, but a critical discussion showing your insight and awareness about the different arguments, theories and approaches. It should be an analysis and synthesis of the relevant published work, linked to your research objective and rationale.
The purpose of the review is:
• To define and limit the research problem.
• To have a historical perspective of your study
• To avoid duplication
• To analyse the various research methods
• To relate the findings of your research to previous knowledge and give suggestions
A literature review should:
• Compare and contrast different authors' opinion on an issue
• Critically analyse the various aspects of the methodology
• Describe areas where there is a disagreement between the authors
• Highlight studies which are exemplary
• Highlight any gaps in research
• Show how your research relates to previous researches
• Show how your research relates to the literature in general
• Conclude by giving a summary of what the literature says
Therefore, a good literature review is a critical analysis of what has been written, identifies any gaps and areas which need further research and also raises questions.
Structure of the literature review
The overall structure of your review will depend largely on your research area. You should group together and compare and contrast the varying opinions of different writers on certain topics in your literature review. You should not just describe what one writer says, and then write a general overview of another writer, and then another, and so on. Your structure should instead be dictated by topic areas and questions to which there are varying approaches and theories. Within each of these sections, you should then discuss what the different literature argues and link it to your research objective.
Linking words are very important when you write a literature review. If you are grouping together similar opinions, you can use words or phrases such as:
similarly, in addition, also, again
More importantly, if there is disagreement, you need to indicate that clearly show your awareness of this by the use of linkers such as:
however, on the other hand, conversely, nevertheless
At the end of the review, you should include a summary of what the literature implies, which again links to your main research question. A good literature review needs a clear line of argument. Make sure that your literature review has a clear, short introduction which gives an outline of the review. There should be a clear link between your arguments and the evidence uncovered in your reading. If appropriate you can use quotations. Also, you should acknowledge opinions which disagree with your thesis. This will make your argument stronger.
The quality of your literature review depends on how well read you are. Before you start reading it will be useful to make a list of the main areas and questions involved, and then read to find out about or answering these. If you are not familiar with this style of writing our academic writing service can help you.
Your review must be written in an academic and formal style. And try to avoid plagiarising your sources. Always separate the opinions in your sources from your own hypothesis and make sure you reference the literature you are referring to consistently.
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