A literature review is a research method that comprehensively examines and analyzes the existing body of literature, scholarly articles, books, and other sources related to a particular research topic or question. It serves as a critical summary and synthesis of the current knowledge and research findings in a specific field, allowing researchers to identify gaps, establish context, and understand the evolution of ideas.
Key components of a literature review include:
- Identification of the research topic
- Search and selection of literature
- Critical evaluation of sources
- Synthesis of findings
- Identification of gaps and controversies
- Establishment of context
- Conceptual framework
- Citation and referencing
A literature review serves the following purposes:
- Contextualization: Providing a context for the research by summarizing existing knowledge and research findings
- Identification of gaps: Pointing out areas where additional research is needed and contributing to developing research questions
- Theory development: Assisting in developing theoretical frameworks or conceptual models based on the synthesis of existing literature
- Methodological guidance: Offering insights into research methodologies and approaches used in previous studies
- Preventing redundancy: Ensuring that new research builds upon existing knowledge rather than duplicating previous efforts
- Critical analysis: Facilitating a critical analysis of existing research, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and evaluating the overall quality of the literature
Literature reviews are integral to research projects, theses, dissertations, and scholarly articles. They serve as a foundation for new research endeavors, helping researchers situate their work within the broader academic landscape and contribute meaningfully to the ongoing scholarly conversation.
List of recommended resources #
For a broad overview #
This handout, by The Writing Center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. gives an introduction to the methodology of literature reviews, how it differs from an academic research paper, and what are the steps to be followed before and while writing a literature review.
This blog by Scribbr gives an overview of the purpose of a literature review as well as a step-by-step guide on how to write a literature review, along with a few samples, outlines and templates for the same.
For in depth understanding #
This chapter, by Guy Paré and Spyros Kitsiou in the Handbook of eHealth Evaluation: An Evidence-based Approach, gives an in-depth understanding of the critical role of literature reviews in scholarship. It gives an overview of the process and steps to be followed for writing a literature review.
This book by Diana Ridley provides a step-by-step guide to conducting a literature search and literature review, and guides the reader in how to write up a literature review as part of a PhD thesis or Masters dissertation. Ridley outlines various strategies as well as provides various cases and examples to illustrate her theory.
Case study #
This article by Danielle G. T. Arts, Nicolette F. de Keizer, and Gert-Jan Scheffer presents a literature review and a case study of data quality formed the basis for the development of a framework of procedures for data quality assurance in medical registries.
This paper by Sharan B. Merriam gives a literature review of the case study approach in educational research. It discusses the characteristics of and philosophical assumptions underlying the case study,, the mechanics of conducting a case study and the concerns about validity, reliability, and generalizability in using the case study method.