example of literature review

example of literature review

The Importance of Literature Review in Research

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1. Introduction

Writing a literature review is an essential component of a dissertation study. It is generally a reprise of a few important works, but more importantly, it gives the author a chance to express anything they may feel need to be said with regard to the subject in question. It allows the author to provide that information to someone else so as to help them with what they are doing; whether that be constructing, assessing, critiquing, or simply understanding. A well-written review provides a reader with a cogent comparison of different studies and sources, relating to one another in a way that upholds the topic at hand, is persuasive, and provides answers to questions that the reader may have for furthering the study. An author must maintain a balance of providing insight from different sources while also expressing their own point of view. It is at times a difficult task when trying to decipher if it is best to write what the author thinks or what the author has read. It is important to write in such a manner where it clearly represents the information found, while also trying to incorporate different ways the research could be continued or what the author would like to uncover from the topic.

2. Purpose of Literature Review

A literature review should try to answer the following questions: 1. ‘What is already known about the topic?’ This will involve reading everything that is relevant, including academic and trade literature, and ‘grey literature’ such as press releases, reports, and government documents. 2. ‘What do we know about the specific research question?’ To do this researchers will often review research about the research problem, including research using similar methods to their own. 3. ‘What is the relationship between the specific research question and the already known information about this topic?’ For example, a research question focusing on how the spread of HIV can be slowed using new antiretroviral drugs might be compared to an already proven method of preventing the spread of HIV with these drugs.

3. Methods of Conducting a Literature Review

There is a wide variety of formats for conducting a literature review. These include, but are not limited to: books, e-books, academic journals, newspapers, magazines, web-based resources, and other media. My first and foremost method is to utilize the internet. As of 2010, over 6.9 billion people worldwide use the internet. With such an expansive usage, the likelihood that information on any given topic is available through the internet is quite high. Furthermore, there are many scholarly articles and research documents available through the internet that would previously have been more difficult to obtain were they not available electronically. In a study of stroke patients that I conducted for Vancouver Hospital and Health Sciences Centre, I found that I was able to access all of the necessary information from my home computer. As a volunteer, my resources were limited, but through the internet, I was able to obtain all of the information needed for the study. This method is very cost-effective and efficient and can be performed with relative ease. An additional asset is that, if one is persistent, a great deal of information can be found exclusively through the internet.

4. Benefits of Literature Review

Discovering important variables relevant to the topic. This might not be so easy if you take off on your research aimlessly. Reviewing the literature enables you to identify the variables that were used in previous studies, and exactly how these were operationalized. In other words, it will help you to understand how other researchers have set about their work. This is often a critical exercise; there may be a perfectly good construct, which has been measured using an inappropriate method. Discovering this would be vital to the foundation of your own research. The very nature of an academic literature review, and the process of formulating a research question, implies that you are attempting to change in some way. It is as if, doing the review moves you subconsciously, to a point of pre-understanding. This is good, because it shows that the process of reviewing the literature is not a mechanical task, but one which requires insight and an understanding of differing scholarly opinions. This is a skill that will stand you in good stead for a career in academia, or any work that involves continued research and learning. Therefore, it is possible that at the end of your review you will be much surer of the research question and hypothesis that you will bring to your research. This is a good thing.

5. Conclusion

Literature review is a very important part of any research, and is the element that is often the most overlooked. In its essence, a literature review is a critical evaluation of material that has already been published. This might include scholarly journal articles, textbooks, government reports, educational or psychological theories, or evaluative reports. In addition to being a great source for ideas, a literature review can be an evaluative analysis of the material and provide the reader with an assessment of the valuable works and the works that are not so valuable. A literature review can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis. An organizational pattern is a plan for the article that is based on the methods the author(s) used. These methods will usually inform the thesis, so a literature review will often build to explaining how the previous sources inform the thesis. Summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information. It might give a new interpretation of the old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates. And also it might provide the reader with an idea where the field will go now.

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