what is a literature review
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.
A good literature review will consist of a summary of key sources, and is analytical and synthesizes information. Usually a literature review is organized, not however a chronological description of discoveries in your field, and explains how your research will address gaps in existing literature on a particular topic.
- identify key information relevant to a topic
- assess the status or quality of existing research
- critically examine support for alternative theories or arguments
- evaluate research methods used in previous studies.