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Introduction to Literature Reviews

Define the Area of Literature Review

  • Typically it is your major or area of interest.
  • In the sciences, a literature review is sometimes called a systematic review, and encompasses a more specific approach that favors data-driven, quantifiable research.
  • In other areas, literature reviews can look at various schools of thought or the development of a particular theoretical viewpoint.

Define the Type of Literature Review

  • —Self contained literature review articles - provide an overview and analysis of current state of research on a topic or question.
  • —An essential chapter of a thesis or dissertation - how your proposed research will contribute to the field.
  • —Part of a research report - included in your finished research, providing context to your work as a contribution to the field.

Purpose of a Literature Review

The purpose of a literature review is to:

  • Provide an overview by reviewing scholarly literature relevant to a topic, what is known about a topic, or knowledge, information, or ideas that have been established on a topic.
  • Identify:
    • areas of study by pointing the way forward for further research
    • areas of agreement and disagreement
    • seminal works and highlight exemplary studies
    • significant personalities and researchers working in the same field
  • Help define or limit your problem, or design your methodology using methods others have used.
  • Justify your research question by explaining how your question fits into the larger picture.
  • Analyze strengths and weakness of previous research.
  • Highlight gaps in research.
  • Avoid unnecessary duplication.