examples of literature reviews

examples of literature reviews

The Art of Crafting a Comprehensive Literature Review

1. Introduction to Literature Reviews

Unsatisfactorily brief scoping of literature, as happens with “scoping reviews,” is less critical, and there are an additional 23 research synthesis methods discussed by Bond. With such a variance of terms, we have elected to use “review” as an umbrella term that encompasses all of the genres within the group.

Non-quantitative research syntheses include those mentioned above plus a number of new and unique types of work such as realist reviews. While critical and broad reviews do not have a unique type of name, reviews based on some type of interpretive epistemology are distinguished from reviews based on the positivist epistemology, and the distinction is evident in that adding the descriptive qualifier, “interpretive descriptive review.”

Although the early systematic reviews were literature reviews (in that they considered all of the evidence available at the time), the more modern use of the term “publication type of literature review” signifies a review of the same publications as those referred to in a systematic review, but using different methods. The methods of a non-systematic review or non-systematic literature review are not derived from systematic methods. In this book, they are generally based on expert opinion, and they are not necessarily limited in scope; therefore, we chose the term “broad review.”

We present our literature review, with apologies to the skeptics of the world, as a prologue to these ongoing debates that center on a huge range of understandings of what reviews mean and how we should conduct, document, and communicate them – just as our expectations of what papers are or should be is another lively public debate!

In response to a request from a famously international journal, we have attempted to bring together some of the key threads on how to conduct, document, and communicate a good review. This is because literature reviews mean different things to different editors. What passes for a literature review in Northern Europe does not have the same meaning as what is expected in Australia, the Americas, or New Zealand. While each geography will be different, there are also many areas where several countries will agree.

Literature reviews can be a daunting task in academic life for both newbies and experienced academics alike. Despite being one of the first types of review to be developed and used, the literature and the processes for conducting, documenting, and communicating reviews can be many and often inconsistent.

2. Key Components of a Literature Review

The introduction starts with the broad interest in a research question, presents background over the question at issue, and provides the significance of the specific research issue. Significance may explain why a research question is worthy of study. The literature review does not have to cover every piece of research on a subject. It can be as certain or selective as you feel is most applicable to answer your research question. Data you supply in the introduction and thesis statement should be connected to information offered in the body of the review. The introduction also explains where and how the information that provides the topic of the study fits in the broader field or in the academic discussion.

Identifying the components of the literature review is very important if you want to understand how to do one. The components include: Introduction; Thesis statement; Current state of knowledge; What is the specific thesis, problem, or research question?; Why is the research/scholarship important?; How will your research/scholarship develop or test our understanding of the subject?; Approach or perspective; How will your research/scholarship be useful to the scholarly community?; Sum up the topic where your research/scholarship will fit; Present each main theme accurately; Combine similar themes; Compare differences of opinion; Conclusion; Identify knowledge gaps; Present other people’s literature reviews. It is important to identify what other literature exists about these variables and how your research complements it. This also lets other people know what your contribution will be. At the end of the review, go back to the beginning to see how the perspective is tied together.

3. Methods for Conducting a Literature Review

Selecting the appropriate method in which to conduct a literature review is the first and perhaps the most important step in the collaborative process of incorporating contributions of previously reported research. Trying to organize and present the massive and intense features of literature in a systematic manner requires an open, inquisitive mind and a creative spirit. A literature review that is a platform for documenting relationships, themes, divergence, and debates lays the foundation for the development of theory and provides support for the selection of data collection and analysis methods. After the data has been collected, the literature review serves to place the analysis results within the context of other studies within the field. The results of the analysis and synthesis of the literature review, in conjunction with what was accomplished with the research study, form the beginning backdrop for presenting the arguments and discussion found within the discussion and conclusion sections.

In the realms of knowledge, regardless of discipline or area of specialty, mastering how to properly document the relationships and connections, as well as the relevance and contribution that publications and the information presented within them make to advance theory and practice, provides one of the best platforms for cementing a credible place within the realm of a specific research area. At the heart of a successful academic experience across undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs is the proper development of the literature review.

4. Common Pitfalls to Avoid in Literature Reviews

The most common pitfalls. In creating a literature review, the most common pitfall is perhaps the same as that for any academic writing. People are so excited about the fantastic ideas and insights they wish to disseminate, they hope to close on a neat package of an article by compiling anything that is related to their study sample, or their topic, and they hope to do it fast as, after all, they have greater priority demands such as other more appealing and interesting research projects and deadlines, grading, family functions, errands, emergencies, and other urgent pressures. The interested and motivated audience becomes increasingly less enthusiastic. Data collection and analysis require a substantial investment of time, usually more than initially expected. To meet deadlines and overcome crises, authors rush through their written work. In reviewing the literature, they overlook pertinent references or look hastily at various kinds of poorly related sources such as outdated textbooks, careless gray literature, conference presentations, blogs, forum discussions, various “white papers,” and policy reports without comprehensive details about their research designs, and the extent of previous exposure and exploration of topics and issues.

To ensure that an author’s literature review is truly comprehensive, it is wise to locate multiple search terms in subject headings, titles, abstracts, or as full-text, among various other strategies to maximize the effectiveness of database queries. Appropriate search techniques also include “hand searching,” i.e., the manual perusal of tables of content in journals and textbooks from the reference lists of relevant articles, to identify other references that might be especially potent and relevant. Despite such directly observable recommendations, as grad students, researchers, and scholars, we suggest that authors, like people everywhere, you are only human with limited time, energy, and financial support for any research endeavor.

5. Best Practices for Writing an Effective Literature Review

Finish the LR Section. One of the things that a LR needs to do is to be comprehensive. A comprehensive LR describes both the state of the field in the academic literature and the pervasiveness of the topic in the world beyond the academy. That is, the LR has to fully lead up to the research question. This can be your “hook” for getting your readers to understand the importance of doing the research and how it informs the broader area of science. For if the LR is worth including in the paper, it is worth fully developing the idea in the paper. And if it is worth that, then it is worth fully describing the idea in the LR section. With the first few paragraphs of the LR, the writer sets the tone for the rest of their paper. And if the writing in the LR is coherent, this sets in the reader’s mind a frame for the rest of the paper which makes it easier to follow the research paper’s main argument. The research question should then flow naturally from the LR’s lead-up to the question. If effective, the LR presented in the section above should fully expose the writer’s thinking, demonstrating both why the topic is worth studying and showing what other scholars have said about the topic. Throughout the first section, it should be clear what the writer’s thinking is, how the research question is naturally asked, and what the relevance of the research question is to the broader topic area. This breed of LR requires a coherent set of descriptions, interpretations, arguments, and counter-arguments. It should frequently be framed in the history of research in the subject term at hand. For, to write good literature, you need to understand the literature at the conceptual level. The substantive focus can be relatively short but it also must be fully informed.

In many of the social sciences, researchers do not typically focus only on the communication of their findings in written form; rather, they typically have to include a significant literature review in the written report of their findings. This literature review serves two important functions: introducing the readers of the written document to the discipline/category under examination and placing the research which follows within the relevant academic framework. Writing an effective literature review (LR) is of paramount importance in communicating the results of qualitative communication research. This chapter uses Controversy Mapping as both a case in point and as an example on how to write an effective LR. A number of best practices are suggested, and several examples are supplied so that the reader will gain an understanding of what a good LR in qualitative communication research looks like, and how to write it.

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