Knowledge is dynamic and not constant because we keep learning new things every day and continually unfold new knowledge in all life aspects. Therefore learning is a continuous process. Whether you are starting an undergraduate or dissertation research paper from scratch, you need to base your facts, opinions or hypotheses on existing knowledge. So when you review other people’s literature while writing your dissertation related to your topic, you are crafting a literature review.
Have you ever tried to give your readers the impression that you have an in-depth understanding and comprehension of the research paper you are writing but failed? or have you encountered difficulties in making your readers know that you have profound knowledge of where your research fits into or adds to the preceding knowledge of other scholars and authors’ research knowledge? This article will reveal to you, the purpose of a literature review in all your academic writing, most especially. It’s also the goal of this essay, to examine the importance of a literature review and how you can write a literature review properly.
What is a literature Review?
If you are an undergraduate or a postgraduate student in a university, at some point in your academic program before graduation, you will be required to write a dissertation. And, before writing a dissertation, you will be asked by your supervisor to write a literature review. So as a university or college student, you cannot dodge writing a literature review, because it’s an important component of your dissertation and other academic papers. It’s time to know what a literature review is!
A literature review is academic writing. It is written to ascertain, review and analyze a segment of a published body of knowledge in a summary manner. It’s a review of other people’s published facts that are related to your current research study. A literature review is also a summary of key knowledge ( in findings, facts data) of similar work, showing how it relates to your academic paper.
Providing a critical analysis of any research arguments by other authors or scholars without adding personal contributions to the knowledge or literature can be termed a “literature review”.
When you acknowledge the research work of others, through enumeration, description, summary or evaluation, you are reviewing their knowledge. It’s easy to extract or reference knowledge of previous research on similar topics, but it requires experience and expertise in properly presenting this knowledge because literature review writings follow certain formats and structures. So, the presentation of knowledge is key in writing a literature review.
Most students find it difficult and stressful trying to present their reviewed literature in an appropriate or required format due to a lack of literature review research written skills.
Types or Forms of Literature Review Writing
Literature review writing takes different forms. It can be theoretically, conceptually or empirically written, which are all used in all types of academic research writings. Whether you are writing a journal article, undergraduate research or postgraduate research, you may be required to use all or some of the above-mentioned forms of literature reviews. It all depends on your discipline and the type of research you are writing. So, literature reviews do vary. This is because a literature review for an undergraduate dissertation will not be as comprehensive as that of a master’s or PhD thesis, likewise the literature reviews for a journal article. Of course, a literature review may also vary depending on the requirement or direction of writing by your supervisor, lecturer or research coordinator.
Again, literature reviews can take the form of a narrative or traditional review, annotated bibliographies, systematic, scoping and rapid review. You may be required to affirm all forms of literature reviews ( theoretical, conceptual, empirical) or utilize two among the three, depending on the demands of your research supervisor. So, be acquainted with all the forms of literature reviews.
A theoretical review in a research paper examines other established theories or proponents relating it to a particular study. It’s appropriate and highly recommended that you base your research study on other people’s theories to back up your assertion or findings. The essence is to help you establish a foundation and framework for your study.
Why Literature Review is Important in Your Dissertation
Most students do not know the importance of literature reviews in their dissertation and most times try to avoid or ignore it. You may have asked if a literature review is very necessary and if you can completely write your dissertation without a literature review. Subsequent paragraphs in this essay will answer these questions and others you may have as regards the importance of a literature review.
Literature reviews allow your readers to assess certain sources that you have used in your research study and show your readers that your research findings are valid, relevant and applicable.
With a literature review, you can persuade your readers that all your arguments have bases, and are all justified. If you want to establish a basis for your research and expose any research gap from your research work or that of others, you ought to write a literature review, because this is what literature review does. You cannot write a good undergraduate or postgraduate dissertation without a literature review.
How to Write a Literature Review
Writing a literature review can be stressful if you don’t have prior experience. Yes!, there is always a first time for everything. So, if you are thinking of how to write or you are planning to write a literature review, this segment will be of interest to you. The following key steps will guide you on how to write a literature review.
The first thing you should do is identify the sources you want to review. You need to read through the sources of knowledge you have used. You may need to re-read to get a full understanding and comprehension.
The next step is to examine the gaps in the sources you have used. This is because you want to tell your readers that you are building on existing knowledge and that your research is filling the gap that the other literature hasn’t.
Then, the final stage is where you start writing your reviews based on the information you have gathered and from sources you earlier identified and prepared in the previous steps.
Let’s discuss more on each of the steps highlighted above, to discover more key processes on how to write a literature review.
Step 1: Identifying sources
You must have an idea of what you want to review, and the source you would want to review which relates to your research study. This is because, you cannot review all literature in a piece of academic writing, so there is a need to select the most helpful and relevant sources. You ought to be versatile, making sure all your sources are balanced. You can use the internet, books, and published journals instead of depending on one of those sources mentioned earlier.
The scope and objective of your research will help you select useful sources. It will give you a direction on what you want to do, the problems you are tackling, what your focus on the research is, and the methods you will use to tackle these problems. Therefore, the objective of your research can guide you in identifying and selecting the sources that will suit your research. When you read through an abstract of the previous literature, you can easily find related keywords, variables and methodology that will be useful to your research. And, in the end, you can decide on if the source should be used or not.
The references are another way to easily identify and select useful sources for your research. When you glance through the references part of any source you identify, you will see other sources documented, which you can select.
Step 2: Reading your source
Immediately you are done identifying and appropriately organizing all your sources, you can then begin to read through them. Reading here isn’t glancing or skimming, but reading between lines and taking note of important facts in the sources.
While reading, take note of the general content of the source. In order words, know what the content is about, why the research was carried out, the variables used, hypotheses, the methodology used, including the findings of the study and the conclusion made. Again, you should take note of the arguments in the source and the argumentative stand of the researcher in the source, so you will know the source to concentrate on.
It’s advisable to re-read the source, this time, you are to take note of the critical point of arguments in the source, and analyze these arguments and the general content in the source. This will help you write a more logical review instead of just a summary review. Again, re-reading will help you pick all points of assertions, controversies, and ideas in the source to be able to write a coherent review of the source.
Step 3: Identify and fill gaps in the research
Identification of research gaps is very important in writing a literature review. It’s essential and should be deemed a vital tool in review writing. After reading your sources, you should be able to identify gaps in the sources which your research will fill. Your ability to identify these gaps and fill them appropriately shows that you had carefully read your sources and critically analyzed the arguments in them.
What then is a research gap? A research gap is the presence of a research objective or purpose in a research work that has not been met or achieved. It’s the existence of a research question or problem in a research that has not been answered or solved by the researcher.
Identifying research gaps and filling them keeps your research reviews original and unique. It adds credence to the validity and reliability of your research. It tells your readers that you are not just repeating what other researchers did in their research, rather, you are building upon what they did.
You can identify the gaps in the sources by reading the abstract, summary and recommendations of the research and fill the identified gaps by formulating research questions, and hypotheses, or adding variables to your research that will address these gaps in your research.
Relevance of Literature Review to your Research Dissertation
The following are the relevance or purpose of literature reviews in your undergraduate and postgraduate dissertation. It:
- Helps you point out methods of research that can be applicable and pertinent to your research dissertation.
- Helps you identify and use evidence, data and ideas that are important to your research as well
- Adds credence to the originality, validity, and reliability of your research.
- Helps you analyze your views on certain concepts in your research by comparing them with opposing views from your sources. By doing this, you will better establish your views, based on a foundation that has already been laid.
- Helps you identify vitally and related research works in your discipline, telling your readers how wide you have read and researched on topics in your field of study. It summarizes your level of research competence and the depth of your knowledge regarding your research.
- Helps you and your readers recognize other researchers who conducted research on a similar topic and what their findings were. Based on their findings and conclusion, you can discuss your findings and summarize your research work.
- Helps you identify and fill research gaps in your research work to reveal that your research is built on an establishment of existing knowledge and notions.
- Shows your level of hard work and competency in conducting decent qualitative or quantitative research in your field of study.
- Helps you identify current sources to work, with adequate information that will help you structure the paragraphs of the body of your research work.
- Will expose you to various writing techniques which you can use to structure the body of your arguments in your current study.
- Provides you with more than enough claims to back up your notions and arguments in your research, helping you avoid making baseless claims.
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