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How to Write a Literature Review
A literature review can be defined as a summary and explanation of the whole and current state of knowledge on a certain topic as found in academic books and journal. In college, there are two types of reviews you might be told to write:
A stand-alone assignment in a course as part of their training in research processes in your discipline.
A review composed as part of an introduction to a longer work (a research report or thesis).
Your review’s focus and viewpoint and the thesis argument you make will be determined by the type of literature review that you’re writing. One approach to understanding the two types above is by going through already published reviews or the initial chapters of theses in your field. Examine the structure of their arguments and take note of the manner in which issues are addressed.
Purpose of a Literature Review
It offers an excellent basis for researchers starting to research a new area by forcing them to summarize, examine, and compare original research in that particular area.
It provides readers with easy access to carry out research on a certain topic by choosing high quality articles that are pertinent, meaningful, and legitimate and then summarizing them into one comprehensive report.
It highlights significant findings.
It points out inconsistencies, gaps, and contradictions in the literature.
Outline of a Literature Review
This section elucidates the focus and establishes the significance of the subject matter. It talks about the kind of work that has been done on the subject and identifies controversies within the field or research done that has raised questions about previous assumptions.
The introduction of a literature review ends with a thesis statement. In a stand-alone review, this thesis statement will summarize and evaluate the state of the art in this field of research. In a review that is an introduction to a thesis or research report, it will propose how the review findings will lead to the research the author intends to carry out. An example of a literature review introduction is:
‘Several theories have been brought forward to elucidate what influences human behavior. Even though the literature covers several such theories, this review will concentrate on five main themes that frequently appear throughout the literature being reviewed; motivation, the increasing significance of internal forces of motivation, self-control and autonomy as sources of motivation, and narcissism as an important element of motivation. Even though the literature presents these themes in various contexts, this paper will mainly concentrate on their application to self-motivation.’
This section, which is mostly divided by subheadings, summarizes and examines the current state of knowledge in the field. It notes main themes, the most significant trends, and findings on which researchers approve or disapprove. In case the review is preliminary to your research project, its objective is to make an argument that will validate your proposed research. Thus, it will talk about only the research leads to your project.
It sums up the evidence presented and shows its importance. If the review is an introduction to your research, it pinpoints gaps and shows how past research leads to your research project and selected methodology. If the review is a stand-alone assignment or a certain course, it should propose any practical applications of the research and also the implications and possibilities for future research. For example:
‘In this chapter, the literature review has focused on experiential observations of trickling filters. At the micro level, oxygen impacts and substrate limitations in the reactions happening within the biofilm have been examined. Trickling filter functioning at the macro level has been considered in terms of state variables like hydraulic rate and packing depth. Significant concepts like liquid residence time, have been introduced and utilized to qualitatively elucidate some features of filter behavior.
It’s important to create a theory for the process to quantify filter behavior. The theory may be a complicated mechanistic model or a simple empirical connection. All trickling filter theories are based on empirical observation. Therefore this chapter offers a basis for the next, whereby the advancement of trickling filter theories is defined, and design equations are examined.”
Steps to Writing a Good Literature Review
Look for a Working Topic
Examine your area of study. Ponder what interests you, and what the ideal ground for study is. Talk to your instructor, brainstorm, and go through recent issues of periodicals in your field.
Review the Literature
Search a computer database using keywords. Make use of at least two databases pertinent to your discipline. Keep in mind that the reference lists of recent articles can lead to important papers. Moreover, ensure that you incorporate studies contrary to your viewpoint.
Focus Your Topic Narrowly
When writing your literature review, mull over the following: What interests you? What interests others? What duration of research will you contemplate?
Select an area of research which is due for a review.
Go Through Selected Articles
What assumptions do most researchers make? Which methodologies do they utilize? Examine and synthesize research findings and conclusions drawn. Take note of the names of experts in your field who are frequently referenced. Moreover, take note of conflicting theories and results.
Organize the Selected Papers by Searching For Patterns and Creating Subtopics
Observe things like findings that are common, important trends in the research, and the most significant theories.
Come Up With a Working Thesis
Compose a one or two statement that summarizes the conclusion you’ve arrived at about the significant trends you see in the research carried out on your subject.
Organize Your Own Paper Based On Findings from Steps 4 And 5
Come up with headings. If your literature review is extensive, look for a large surface and place post-it notes to organize your findings into segments. Move them around if you decide they fit better under various headings, or you need to ascertain new headings.
Compose Your Paper’s Body
Stick to the plan developed above, ensuring that every section links logically to the one before and after, and that you’ve split your sections by themes, not by reporting individual theorists’ work.
Evaluate What You’ve Written
Concentrate on analysis, not description. Examine the topic sentences of every paragraph. If you were to go through these sentences only, would you find that your paper brought forward a vivid position, logically developed from start to finish? For instance, if you find out that every paragraph starts with a researcher’s name, it might portray that rather than examining and comparing the research literature from an analytical viewpoint, you simply have described what research has been done. It’s one of the most common issues with literature reviews by students. If your paper doesn’t seem to be defined a guiding concept or doesn’t analyze the literature critically, you need to create a fresh outline based on what you’ve said in every section and paragraph of your paper.
For instance, take a look at the literature review example apa passages below and note that the first literature review sample (student 1) is just describing the literature and the second literature review example (student 2) takes a more analytical approach by comparing and contrasting:
‘Smith (20000) deduces that personal privacy in their living quarters is the most significant factor in nursing home residents’ view of their autonomy. He proposes that the physical environment in the more public places of the building didn’t impact much on their viewpoints. The layout of the building and the available activities don’t make much difference. Jones and Johnstone claim that the need to have control on one’s environment is a vital need of life (2001), and propose that the approach of most institutions (which is to offer total care), may be as bad as no care at all. If individuals have no choices, they become depressed.’
‘After examining residents and staff from two intermediate care facilities in Calgary, Smith (2000) arrived at the conclusion that barring the amount of personal privacy available to residents, the physical environment of these institutions had nominal if any effect on their views of control. Nonetheless, French (1998) and Haroon (2000) found that the availability of private areas isn’t the sole feature of the physical environment that ascertains residents’ autonomy. Haroon interviewed 11 residents from 32 different nursing homes that have various level of autonomy (2000). It was discovered that physical structures like standardized furniture and heating that couldn’t be regulated individually constrained their feelings of independence. Furthermore, Hope (2002), who cross-examined 225 residents from different nursing homes, validate the claim that characteristics of the institutional environment like location are features that residents have mentioned as being important to their independence.’
Revise and Edit Your Work
After you’ve finished writing your literature review, you need to:
Read your work out loud. You’ll be able to identify better where you have to put punctuation marks to indicate pauses or decisions in sentences or where you’ve made grammatical mistakes.
Ensure that all citations and references are correct (if it’s a literature review apa, make sure the referencing has been done accordingly).
Because the objective of a review is to showcase that the writer is familiar with the crucial professional literature on the selected topic, check to ensure that all the significant, current, and pertinent texts have been covered.
Text ought to be composed in a clear and concise style.
Sentences must flow logically and smoothly.
In the sciences, the use of subheadings to organize the literature review is recommended.
There should be no grammatical or spelling mistakes.
Do not plagiarize by either failing to cite a source or by utilizing words quoted directly from a source (it’s recommended that if you take three or more words straight from a source, you ought to put those words within quotation marks and then cite the page).
The text should not be descriptive in nature or use the language of everyday speech.
Reporting isolated statistical results instead of synthesizing them in chi-squared methods.
Text that doesn’t explain the search procedures that were used in identifying the literature to review.
Having sources in your literature review that don’t relate to the research problem.
Not taking ample time to define and pinpoint the most pertinent primary research studies.
There you have it. The above approaches on how to write a literature review will assist you to come up with the best review. Remember that, even as you consult any example of literature review, don’t plagiarize other peoples’ works. Also, your text should be written vividly and concisely.