Is your literature review serving the purpose?

Posted 1/18/2019

Literature review

What is a literature review?

A literature review, to put it simply, refers to analyzing the past to prepare for the future. For a research study to be meaningful and useful, it must be cumulative and must build on and learn from prior research on the topic. Hence, it is crucial that you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the existing studies so that you can advance your collective knowledge on the topic of interest.

Reviewing the existing literature will enable you to provide an account of what has been published earlier on a particular topic by various other research scholars. Reviewing and reporting on prior literature is an essential feature of any academic project. In some cases, for example in post graduate research, literature review becomes a project in itself. You conduct a literature review mainly to create familiarity with current thinking and research on a particular topic, and to justify future research into a previously overlooked or understudied area.

Why is it needed?

To represent the foundation for research

A methodological analysis and synthesis of quality literature will create a firm foundation for advancing your knowledge on the research topic. By reviewing the foundational articles (whose authors were the first to discuss about the topic) you can provide a strong foundation for your topic and take your topic in a new direction. Moreover, you can also ensure the validity of your study and the reliability of your results with the help of the literature you reviewed.

To provide a firm foundation for the selection of methodology

Valid research methodologies, approach, goals, and research questions for the proposed study can be identified through a careful literature review. Further, by reviewing what methodologies have been validated previously, you can provide justifications for why the selected approach is considered optimal for your study.

To uncover gaps in the research area

As you summarize, evaluate and compare original research, promising areas for future research can be identified.  Areas where excess research already exists (What is already known?) and where new research is needed (what is needed to be known?) can be identified through an effective literature review.

To demonstrate your skills

Literature review serves as a platform for you to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding about a particular field of study, including the vocabulary, theories, key variables, and phenomenon, and its methods and history. It helps in enlarging your knowledge about the topic while allowing you to demonstrate your skills in areas of critical thinking and information seeking.

To provide justification for the study’s contribution to the current body of knowledge

By reviewing the existing literature, you can provide justification for the potential contributions of your study to the existing body of knowledge (BoK). The contributions of your study to the research field’s knowledge can be supported with the help of your findings from the review.

After gaining a clear understanding about the purpose of literature review, it must be much easier for you to complete the task of conducting literature review for your study. Always keep in mind that a lack of systematic and methodical literature review will hinder the conceptual and theoretical progress of your study.

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