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  • Tausif Mulla

How Literature Review Helps in Research

Have you ever been asked to write a literature review but didn't know where to start? In this article, I'm going to talk about the different parts of a literature review and how to write each one. I'll also give you some tips on how to make the process easier.

What is Literature Review?

A literature review is a survey of the different scholarly sources on a specific topic. This can help you to identify different theories that you may want to look into, as well as methods that have been used and potential gaps in the current research.

In other words, quality research is about learning from what others have done before you. The most important part of your research is the literature review, where you learn from others and lay the foundation for your own work.

Easiest way to do literature review

Photo by George Milton on Pexels

There are five steps to writing a literature review.

  1. The first step is to find relevant literature.

  2. The second step is to evaluate the sources.

  3. The third step is to identify themes, debates, and gaps.

  4. The fourth step is to outline the structure.

  5. The fifth step is to write the literature review.

What is the purpose of doing a literature review?

When writing a thesis, dissertation, or research paper, you will likely have to do a literature review. This is a chance to show that you are familiar with the topic, that you have a theoretical framework and methodology, and that your research is significant. You should also show how your research is different from other researchers' work and how it contributes to the scholarly discussion around your topic. Writing literature reviews is an important skill, especially if you want to go to graduate school or pursue a career in research.

 

Example of literature review

Mulla, T. (2022) ‘Assessing the factors influencing the adoption of over-the-top streaming platforms: a literature review from 2007 to 2021’, Telematics and informatics, 69(101797), pp. 1–13. doi: 10.1016/j.tele.2022.101797.

 

Step 1 - You need to find some relevant literature

You need to have a topic before you start looking for literature. If you're writing a dissertation or research paper, you'll search for literature related to your research question.

Example: What is the impact of TikTok videos on body image among Generation Z?

Make a list of keywords

To do a good research project, you need to start by finding good keywords. These are words that help you focus on what you want to learn about. For example, if you're interested in social media, you might want to add keywords like "Facebook," "Instagram," "Twitter," and " Snapchat." Also, related terms, like "body image" and "mental health."

Search for relevant sources

To do research, you need to use keywords to find sources. Useful databases to search for journals and articles include your university's library catalog and databases like Google Scholar.

You can use boolean operators to help find articles that are relevant to your question. When you find a good book or article, you can check the bibliography to find more sources.


Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources

When researching, it's necessary to figure out which sources are most relevant to your question. Not everything you find will be readable, but it's important to evaluate which sources are most important.

In order to do good research, you need to ask questions, understand key concepts, and know about the theories and methods used in your field. You should also read landmark studies and major theories to get a sense of the current thinking in your field. Finally, you need to critically evaluate the research to see its strengths and weaknesses.

Take notes and cite your sources

It is very important to keep track of your sources so you don't plagiarize. An easy way to do this is to make an annotated bibliography, where you write a paragraph about each source summarizing and analyzing it. This will help you remember what you read and save time later.


Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps

To organize your literature review, be sure to understand the connections and relationships between the sources you've read. Look for trends and patterns, themes, debates, conflicts and contradictions, and gaps in the literature. This will help you work out the structure of your review and show how your research will contribute to existing knowledge.

Examples of trends and gaps

There is a lack of good research on how social media affects body image, especially for young women. However, there is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media, so there is a gap that could be filled by more research on platforms like TikTok.


Step 4 - Outline your literature review’s structure

There are different ways to organize a literature review, depending on how long your review is. You can combine several of these strategies. For example, if your review is long, you might organize it thematically, but discuss each theme chronologically.

Chronological

The simplest way to learn about a topic is to trace its development over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid just listing and summarizing sources in order.

You should try to analyze patterns, turning points, and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

Thematic

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you want to learn more about something, it's a good idea to look at lots of different researchers from different disciplines. That's because different kinds of research can give you different insights into a topic. For example, you can compare qualitative and quantitative research, empirical and theoretical scholarship, or sociological, historical, and cultural sources.

Theoretical

A literature review is a review of different books, articles, and other types of writings. It can be used to discuss different theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.


Step 5 - Write your literature review

Introduction

The introduction of a literature review should explain what the review is about.

Tip:

In a nutshell, you should reiterate your central problem or research question, and give a brief summary of the scholarly context. You can emphasize the timeliness of the topic ("Many recent studies have focused on the problem of x"), or highlight a gap in the literature ("While there has been much research on x, few researchers have taken y into consideration").

Body

There are many different ways to write a literature review. You can divide the body into subsections based on the themes, time periods, or methodological approaches that you discuss.

There are some things to remember when writing a research paper. First, summarize and synthesize the main points from each source. Next, analyze and interpret the findings. Finally, critically evaluate the sources. Be sure to write in well-structured paragraphs with transition words and topic sentences.


Conclusion

In conclusion, a literature review is a critical summary of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. This overview provides the reader with an understanding of the major points and key debates surrounding the chosen research topic. When writing a literature review, it is important to remember to use academic sources, such as peer-reviewed journal articles, to support your claims. By taking the time to write a comprehensive and well-organized literature review, you will be demonstrating your knowledge and understanding of the field of study.


FAQ

What is a literature review?

A literature review is a comprehensive overview of all the knowledge available on a certain topic as of a certain date. It includes both primary and secondary sources. A literature review is not an annotated bibliography. This article will explain a literature review and offer insights into the form and construction of a literature review in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

Why do literature review?

A literature review surveys scholarly articles, books, dissertations, conference proceedings, and other resources relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory. It provides context for a researcher's own work. The purpose of a literature review is to:

  • Place each work in the context of its contribution to understanding the research problem being studied.

  • Discuss the controversies and debates surrounding a research area.

  • Outline the current state of knowledge on a topic.

  • Help readers understand your own work within this larger context.