Writing a literature review: getting it together
A literature review makes statements about the areas and problems already studied by other researchers in your proposed area of study.
What is a literaturereview?.
A literature review answers these questions: What research did this researcher carry out? What was the outcome of this research?.
A literature review evaluates books and journal articles already published on the topic that you propose to study further.
It is often part of your introduction. It sets out the main points, findings and evaluations researchers have already made in your proposed area of study.
The review examines literature previously written on your topic – usually in chronological order. It is a historical record of previous research anddetails when the research was carried out, what the research found and evaluates the findings. The review also comments on the journal article’s strengths and weaknesses.
To save time and energy, it is important to focus on articles published in your particular area of study.
What does a literaturereview do?
• It provides a time-line of events and allows readers to find out what has already been written on your topic of interest.
• It provides a ‘starting point’ for your own research.
• It supplies you, and your reader, with a summary of previous research, directly related to your own proposed work, complete with its strengths and weaknesses.
• It operates as a guide and/or a mind map for your own work.
• It provides an overall picture of what research has been previously undertaken and where the future may lie.
• It allows you to research, examine, analyse and evaluate the research undertaken by experts in your field in order to fill in the gaps or discrepancies found in their work.
Above all, a literature review gives the writer direction.
Quick tips on reviewing literature:
• Scan the journal article abstract to see if it is relevant to your work. Make a note of the findings and conclusions.
• If the article is relevant, critically analyse, evaluate and document the findings in a few short sentences.
Write in date order with the oldest research first: For example:
• In 1990, Smith (1992) found that…
• In 1996, Williams discovered …
• Since 2003, Roberts (2003) and Mazza (2004) have found that … and agreed that the situation impacts on…
When you reach the most up-to-date research, and the closest to beginning your own research, you will need a lead-in sentence to connect the old with the new.
It is imperative that a lead-in sentence connects past findings with your own proposed line of research.
This lead-in connecting sentence is followed by a specific proposition or thesis statement. The lead-in sentence acts as a separation point between the old research and the new. The proposition focuses the reader on the future.
Possible lead-in sentences:
• Therefore, it can be seen that this study
• It can be argued/seen that research in the area of does not consider issues such as …..
• Consequently, further research is needed in the areas of. ….
This statement must be very clear as it sets out the direction your thesis will take. Specify your topic argument, what you propose to do, and why, so you and your reader will know exactly what will be argued.
Think of your work as two inverted triangles with a lead-in sentence connecting the two.
lead in sentence
The first triangle illustrates others’ researched work and findings – a lead-in sentence ties their work with yours – and the second triangle demonstrates your further research and analytical work on the topic.
The review is then complete: past, present and future come together as a seamless whole.