What is a Literature Review?
A literature review surveys published information (books, scholarly articles, and other documents) relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory. The "literature" of a literature review refers to any collection of materials on a topic.
Sometimes a literature review is a brief summary of those sources, but more commonly it is a summary and a synthesis. A synthesis can be a reorganization of the information to provide a new interpretation, make comparisons between old and new information, or track the intellectual progression of an idea or concept. A literature review can also provide an evaluation of the sources in order to advise readers on their relevance or importance.
Here are a few types of Literature Reviews often used in undergraduate research:
- Narrative Review: Describes what related research has already been conducted and how that research informs the thesis of the paper
- Critical Review: Provides a more detailed examination of the literature that compares and evaluates a number of perspectives.
- Conceptual Review: Groups literature according to concepts, or categories, or themes in order to provide a snapshot of where things are with a particular field of research.
What is the Purpose of a Literature Review?
Generally speaking, a literature provides an overview of the significant literature published on a topic. For researchers of all levels and disciplines, a literature review can:
Some Tips on Recording the Information Found, on Taking Notes etc.:
- It is sometimes sufficient to browse the text quickly. The introduction or conclusion often give a gist of the thesis and main points. Still, often a researcher must read much or all of a work, especially if it is of an authoritative or technical nature.
- Begin with most recent studies and work backwards. A recent article’s list of references or bibliography might provide you with valuable works to consult.
- If the report/article has an abstract, read it first.
- Don’t trust your memory. Record all research. You'll never remember who said what if you neglect to take adequate notes!
- Write down the complete citation for each work. Don't forget the page nos. for later use in the notes and bibliography. For Internet citations, note the URL.
- Avoid "grandfather" citations. Return to original source.
- Write all direct quotations precisely, word-for-word. Use quotation marks. Failure to put a direct text in quotes (or to credit the author) sets the stage for plagiarism.
- Avoid copying too many direct quotations. Most of the review should be primarily in your own words with appropriate documentation of others’ ideas.
- Do not stress just a single source or two. It is usually important in a literature review to provide evidence you consulted and used a wide range of resources.
- For a contentious topic, present the opposing positions. Be objective. Do not overemphasize one side.