First, of all, it is important to make a distinction between a literature review and a book review. The former is essentially about reviewing and analyzing the current state of literature. The task behind reviewing literature is to create a general but comprehensive picture of the current research. It must also involve a critical component, so that the reader can evaluate the strengths and weakness of each piece.
You will have to follow a number of steps to produce a perfect review of literature.
- Formulate the research problem —what is the problem you want to investigate and what are its primary aspects?
- Looking for literature — find enough quality and credible literature to inform your research problem.
- Critical evaluation — determine which sources are best suited to inform your research and practice.
- Analyzing and interpreting the findings – report the results of your literature review in ways that are understandable to the target audience.
A perfect literature review will incorporate the following components:
- A thorough review of the research problem, its context, and the purpose of the literature review as related to the problem of choice;
- A thorough categorization of different sources, depending on the position their authors take, the contribution they provide to the study, and so on;
- A detailed analysis of each work, its benefits and weaknesses, its position and contribution to your study;
- A conclusion explaining which sources are the most relevant in the context of your study and can shape a convincing research argument.
Consider the following areas when analyzing each source:
- Provenance—Does the author report his or her credentials? Can you see that the author is using or not using enough evidence to support his or her claims?
- Objectivity—How objective is the author when making research decisions and judgments? Can you see any signs of prejudice and bias? How does the author handle them?
- Persuasiveness—Do you find the author's argument to be compelling? If not, what could be done about it?
- Value—Do you see how the author's argument contributes to your study or to your field of practice, in general?
Definition and Purpose
Sometimes, you may need to review your literature when writing a thesis or dissertation. Sometimes, you may be asked to conduct a review of literature as a standalone work. Yet, in both cases your mission will be to
- Create a literature and research context for your study or provide your readers with a better understanding of the research subject;
- Review each work and evaluate its contribution to future research and practice;
- Determine if the results of the earlier studies can shed new light on the existing problems;
- Consider disagreements between the claims made by different researchers and offer strategies for mediating them;
- See what researchers before you have done to inform your own study;
- Set the direction for future research.
Remember that a review of literature has nothing to do with primary research.
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