How to Write a Good Literature Review
Literature review, usually the second chapter of the research paper, is the part of your research paper that involves review of various literatures – books, journals, articles and other materials on a particular topic of interest or research to have a vast, up to date and proper knowledge of that area of study and then carefully analyse these information in respect to the research topic or interest being studied. It is mainly to give s proper evaluation of materials that you’ve read through, critically weighing their arguments without adding new knowledge to the authors’ contributions. By doing a good literature research, your reader is able to see that you have done a good research about the topic of interest and will know that you are well acquainted with how resources are relevant to the research problem. It is important that you know the proper structure and points to consider when preparing your literature review. You must give the needed time essential for you to carry out adequate literature review. The essentials discussed in this article ‘how to write a literature review’ will serve as a good help in preparing a good literature review for your research work.
Choose your sources
Since literature review is all about reading and critically appraising past literature in your research area, then it is important to properly choose your sources carefully. First of all you might need to clarify from your supervisor about which type of literatures you are supposed to gather and use for your review and how many would be appropriate, this will in a way serve to guide you when searching for materials. When trying to choose or identify the good sources for materials, there are certain things you should consider.
Assess your sources
You should consider things like what information you are researching to find out, your intended methodology, what area of the research you want to solve, and whether you are intending to carry out qualitative or quantitative studies or a mixture of the two types. Those are some of the things you should put into consideration in knowing what paper you are to pick or not. One other way you can use to easily judge literatures is to go through their abstracts as this is a way of quickly knowing what the paper is about. You could check the introduction and conclusions too. You should consider if the method the authors of the literatures used to collect and analyse their data is right for their research and consider if the paper is of any value adding contribution to your comprehension of the research. Be sure that the author is not biased in the presentation of his work. Put into consideration the strengths and weakness of the author’s work.
Begin to read
You should begin to read your sources, you can first scan through the literatures to have a general idea of what they are saying, then you can go with the relevant ones and begin to read more intently. Make sure you read about all the important and major findings in your field or area of research interest. As you read through the literatures ensure that you keep track of the citations for every relevant paper you read. You should also take notes as you read through the materials, make sure that you read and do a critical reading of the literatures to notice the knowledge gap in their researches and this will give you an idea of what direction to set your focus on. Be on the look out for the aspects of the research that still need to be investigated from those literatures you are reviewing. As you read, ensure you engage your mind in the process, you can ask questions, make personal comments, not that you are changing what the authors said but making intelligent comments based on what you have read.
Organise your work
To be able to organise your literature review, you need to be able to see how the materials you read are connected and related so you can know how to review them in an organised manner. You can look out for connections in terms of arguments, trends over time, reoccurring themes or knowledge gaps that need to be filled?
Begin to write
As you begin to write, it is important that you follow the basic structure to put your literature review together. Three basic parts, the introduction, body and conclusion.
Introduction: This should briefly give a quick idea of the interest of the review, areas to be touched on and arguments to be made.
Body: The body of your literature review should be an elaborate discussion of all the sources that you’ve picked to read and review. In writing the body of your work, you have to choose which style is most suitable for you to properly appraise the various literatures you’re reviewing. You can organise your review using any of these approaches – methodological, chronological, thematic or theoretical.
The methodological approach is based on methods that are employed by different researchers in their works, it may be that you choose to compare between different methods used to approach the research in various literatures you are reviewing.
The chronological approach is to follow the advancement of the topic with time, that is using time as the reference to monitor how the findings are made on the topic, using this method you should ensure that you are not just listing and briefing about the developments, but do some analysis of patterns you notice, give your interpretation of the advancements.
The thematic approach involves that you have found some frequent or reoccurring themes in the literatures of the previous researches and you are then going to organise your literature review into subsections based on the themes you’ve identified.
The theoretical approach to organising your literature review is to employ the literature review to talk about different theories, models and meaning of key concepts.
Ensure that you write the paragraphs of the body consistent with academic style.
The conclusion should simply give a summary of the major things you found out in your literature review and talking about the relevance of those findings.
The following are important points to consider when writing your literature review:
Don’t lose your voice
Though you are reviewing and discussing about what other researchers found out, they all have their own voices, you have yours, so maintain your voice while writing the reviews.
Make do with samples
This is a very important one, for you to be able to get acquainted with the way to organise your literature review, go through literature reviews that have been done in your field and area of research.
Don’t allow the topic to become complex, narrow down your research as much as possible and maintain focus.
Use up-to-date papers
Especially when you are in the sciences, make sure that the literatures you are using are current ones. Whichever area of research that you might be working on, ensure that you use the appropriate literatures.
Avoid too many quotes
While it is true that literature review is about what others have done, you should not quote a very long part of an author’s work as to replace using your own words to paraphrase and cite as appropriate when you paraphrase.
Be careful when paraphrasing
It is important for you to take care while trying to put the words of the authors of the literatures in your own words, so that you do not in the process change the meaning of what they put down.
Have a list
You can decide to create a list of all the literatures you are using, you can even have them in a folder or use an application like Mendeley to store your literatures for easy citation.
Ensure that you cite every source that you take information from.