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What is a literature review?
A literature review is an overview of a topic. It shows the reader what research has been done on that subject. Unlike an academic research paper, the main focus of a literature review is not to develop a new argument. A literature review can build on an annotated bibliography, but it does more than just summarize each article. A literature review should compare and contrast the ideas each article contains. Moreover, it should also highlight interesting trends and inconsistencies within the research and suggest future research that is needed on the topic.
Reasons for writing a literature review.
A literature review aids the readers to comprehend the historical findings from other authors, its goal, and it gives the reader a template to understand what was going on from the historical to now as well as telling the reader regarding the strengths and weaknesses of studies within the body. Here are the reasons for writing a literature review.
- To distinguish what has been done from what needs to be done
- Discovering important variables relevant to the topic
- Synthesizing and gaining a new perspective
- Identifying relationships between ideas and practice
- Establishing the context of the topic and problem
- Rationalize the significance problem
- Enhancing and acquiring the subject vocabulary
- Understanding the structure of the subject
- Relating ideas and theory to applications
- Identifying the main methodologies and research techniques that have been used
- Placing the research in a historical context to show familiarity with state-of-the-art development
Steps to writing a successful literature review.
- Define the topic or research question.
- Identify the relevant information.
- Conduct the literature research.
- Screen all and exclude the irrelevant studies.
- Examine the relevant studies.
- Extract data and develop graphic organizers.
- Synthesize the findings.
- Design a conclusion and recommendations.
Define the topic or research question
Defining the topic is the first step of writing a literature review. During this step, you should define the specific topic or a clear research question. You should know enough about the topic that you choose to determine whether it is a viable research topic.
Identify the relevant information: Inclusion or exclusion criteria and keywords
After choosing a viable research topic, the next step is identifying relevant information. During this step, the decisions from the researcher are normally made by using the titles and abstracts of the articles. Those with biased information are discarded and those who meet the criteria are included in the review.
Conduct the literature research
During this step, you construct a search strategy and then locate and retrieve relevant articles. In this step, you should follow these guidelines:
- Determine the key concepts from your research question.
- Search for primary sources (original research articles).
- Construct a search strategy – Determine the key terms to use and the databases to search.
- Use search tips(additional) – You can use backward citation searching or forward citation searching.
- Run searches – Keep track of terms you used and the databases you searched.
- Citations – Keep track of citations of articles you will be using in your article.
Screen all and exclude the irrelevant studies
After you have gathered all the information you need, read and classify that is relevant to the research question.
Examine the relevant studies
During this step, you should scrutinize the relevant study. You should consider requesting the other two reviewers to look at your information to ensure consistency of the inclusion with the research question.
Extract data and develop graphic organizers
After you have examined the relevant studies, findings from the studies of a particular field are extracted from the data extraction form which is tabulated data. You should acquire and form visual clarifiers from the tabulated data to facilitate understanding of the similarities and differences between the relevant studies. The graphic organizer has to summarize the importance of the variables extracted from the relevant studies and the relationship of the variables with the studies
Synthesize the findings
If the studies involve quantitative data or include not much quantitative, meta-synthesis is provided in the literature review. Contrarily, if the studies involve sufficient evidence and quantitative data, the meta-analysis is conducted.
Design conclusion and recommendations.
This is the last step of writing a literature review. During this stage, you should draw a conclusion from the findings of both secondary and primary research. The conclusion should express the annotation and cover the strengths and weaknesses of the studies in the particular research. After drawing the conclusion, you should then provide the potential impact of the conducted research.