What is a Literature Review?
As an average student tries to determine what is a literature review, it will always depend on the initial topic because one must deal with the various research methods to provide a synthesis of all the information involved. The format will also vary since the purpose may differ as well. It can represent a part of a research project done for a dissertation or act as the chapter or a text passage review. The key point here is the creation of structure and the essential elements of the literature review because it must include evidence.
The literature review definition can be summed up as the secondary analysis of certain information and exploration of statements that have been made by the author. It is even safe to assume that a literature review is an interpretation of things that are already known with an intention to explain why your work represents importance.
How Do You Begin a Review?
The traditional review as such must contain critical elements and focus not on the description but on whether the purpose of the article has been fully met. Then we also have a systematic or conceptual approach with synthesized conceptual information that aims for a clearer understanding of what has been said. A systematic review is more akin to an expert's take on things. Therefore, thinking about how to start a literature review, one must start with a list of key points that must be met. Since there can be traditional and systematic literature reviews, it is crucial to understand the methodology used for the task, which will focus either on a certain notion or the unique thoughts of the review’s author.
Before proceeding with your literature review introduction, identify the scope of reliable sources to work with. Next, develop the main thesis for your review. The introductory paragraph of the review must provide information about the author, list academic credentials, and relevant background that explains the purpose of your research.
If working with a dissertation, your introduction must explain why each source has been chosen. It can be explained as the methodology that was used or the keywords that relate to each source included.
How do you write a traditional literature review?
The traditional (also known as a narrative) literature review represents critical and objective analysis regarding information that is available on a topic. The structure, in most cases, represents a clear theoretical framework. It aims to identify similar or unique patterns and explain the trends met in the list of books or scientific journals.
In terms of how to write a literature review, remember the following components that must be included:
- The purpose of your literature review.
- A general overview of a research subject.
- Methodology or categorization of sources that either support or disapprove a certain position.
- Detailed analysis and discussion of each source peculiarity in terms of importance and the unique elements.
Speaking of the steps that must be taken for the creation of a successful literature review structure, consider the following:
- Start with the definition of your subject and let your target audience see the scope of your review.
- Browse through the existing library catalogue that covers your topic. Do not ignore specific databases and search engines to find the list of sources and publications that cover your field of interest.
- Read and analyse the sources to identify their reliability and see whether they fit your vision and the argumentation that your dissertation, an essay, or any other kind of research work make. If some source does not fit your opinion, it can be used as a counter-argument addition.
- Analyse your findings, sort them according to your methodology or the grading rubric requirements, and add the information of what you have discovered in your conclusion part.
- In most cases, you must follow the classic "Introduction - Thesis - Body Parts (Sources) - Conclusion" pattern that will help to maintain an academic writing structure.
Still, the most challenging part of writing a successful literature review is dealing with the evaluation of sources that shape the core of any literary analysis, be it classic or systematic. In either case, try to determine whether the author has enough credibility by providing short biography and academic credentials.
Next, see if there are any studies done on the subject or evidence that the author turns to as a way to support his or her statements. Finally, if possible, check the bias in each source and check whether the author researches certain things in one direction only or considers the opposite points of view as well. Such an approach will help you to provide a full-bodied analysis of things at play. Most importantly, determine if the sources implemented help to understand the subject in a better way and provide scientific value.
In terms of systematic or non-traditional literature review, one must apply an expert’s knowledge, which must be confirmed with personal publications on the subject or as the past research projects.
What is a Literature Review Template?
While there may be no universal literature review template that would fit each discipline or student’s approach to things, the template, in this particular case, represents an outline with the definition part coming first and the following components:
- Introduction that contains the definition of the topic in question and the thesis proposal
- The list of your intentions must be included as well. State your thesis here and include the main objectives of your research paper.
- The general findings that have been discovered in terms of what sources have been used for each section.
- The main body part
- The chronological or thematic methodology applied to your sources.
- Basic summary of each source and the links. It means writing about the author and listing the publisher’s information just like you would do with a typical Bibliography page.
- Critical analysis. It must provide information about the weak and strong points of each statement made in an article or a book chapter that you have used in your work. Identify why it is important in general terms and which elements make it favourable for your specific research.
- The summary of the key findings in the review.
- The justification or explanation of the research proposal based on the findings.
- Complete information about citations and the references that have been made in the paper.
You can find a literature review example for a certain topic online by adding the words “literature review template” to your initial subject. Consider taking a look at some examples provided by the TemplateLab where they mostly have APA style templates. While there will be certain differences, you can use it as an outline for your future work.
Take your time to study these real-life templates to learn more about requirements, yet always compare them to your university’s grading rubric, which should already serve as guidance for your work. Remember that it must be used only as a reference as done in our example above. Your dissertation’s structure or research project may pose certain differences like sorting of the information according to principles that will not be included in a template. Always consult your academic advisor when in doubt!