literature review introduction
A literature review is a comprehensive summary of previous research on a topic. The literature review surveys scholarly articles, books, and other sources relevant to a particular area of research. The review should enumerate, describe, summarize, objectively evaluate and clarify this previous research. It should give a theoretical base for the research and help you (the author) determine the nature of your research. The literature review acknowledges the work of previous researchers, and in so doing, assures the reader that your work has been well conceived. It is assumed that by mentioning a previous work in the field of study, that the author has read, evaluated, and assimiliated that work into the work at hand.
A literature review creates a “landscape” for the reader, giving her or him a full understanding of the developments in the field. This landscape informs the reader that the author has indeed assimilated all (or the vast majority of) previous, significant works in the field into her or his research.
Try using a search strategy worksheet to identify key concepts in your research question:
“The literature review chapter in the thesis, then, justifies the proposed research by identifying trends or gaps in the literature, and, by a review of relevant studies, demonstrates that you understand the relevant literature and shows how your study will contribute to that body of knowledge.”
A good starting point is to read some literature reviews in your field and become familiar with the organization and evaluation strategies in them. Here are some ways to find literature reviews:
- Find research or review articles written by faculty in your department, or on your thesis/dissertation committee, to see how they wrote their lit reviews
- Search in ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, which contains full text dissertations and theses in all fields. Do a search for your topic or a related one and read the literature reviews in some of the resulting documents
- Search a journal article database, such as Academic Search Complete, for your topic plus the word “review” to find standalone literature reviews
- Search Google Scholar for your topic plus the word “review” to find standalone literature reviews