how long should a literature review be

how long should a literature review be

The Importance of a Comprehensive Literature Review

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1. The Purpose of a Literature Review

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project. The review helps the researcher become more knowledgeable in the area and to make decisions about which data will best serve the research and will provide the bigger picture. It better defines the problem, question or hypothesis of the planned research, helping the researcher specify a precise research question or set of questions that the research must answer. This process of the review on the front end of the research can save much time and effort later, resolving potential disagreements among team members or evading false starts on the project. This often results in the rewritten or revised research question so that it is more specific and well understood. Finally, this can lead to a new question or questions that the research must answer, which is different from the original question.

A literature review is an objective, thorough summary and critical analysis of the relevant available research and non-patent literature on the topic being studied (Hart, 1998). The review must identify what is already known about the topic and provide a rationale for the proposed research by demonstrating knowledge of the subject. It is important to establish the distinction between a literature review and other types of reports (e.g., Goldberg, 1968). A literature review is different from an article review or an annotated bibliography in that it provides an overview of the topic, discusses the work already completed or the work currently in progress, highlights what the authors feel is inadequately addressed or what has been omitted and provides direction for future research. Often, the completed work does not accurately fulfill this objective (Randolph, 2009; Perry, 2010). A literature review is also different from other types of reports (e.g., empirical reports), as the authors do not report any specific or original data. A well-done literature review starts with a good research question (e.g., Inoue et al., 2010), provides a clear indication of each included study’s methods and findings, and reports these in an effective, efficient manner without any unnecessary data.

2. Determining the Length of a Literature Review

The length of a good literature review is debatable and something which will depend on the amount of research that has gone into the literature, how many papers there are in the subject area, the researcher’s own practice and level of writing, and the knowledge of their audience. In the sections outlined above, there are several key themes that this paper is in some way derivative of, all contributing to a detailed investigation into a specific subject area. This demonstrates, through a critical analysis, a synthesis of these ideas and is based on past results and projects a piece of primary research. If a piece of research has already been thorough, then a good literature review is all that will be needed to fulfill the aims. However, it is equally advisable to continue a good literature review throughout the time it takes to complete the research in the event that one forgets the initial purpose and so that in the case of a modern subject that is constantly changing, there is a need for research in progress. If one is writing an investigation or exploration of a particular idea, then it is only necessary to find and evaluate the ideas relative to the idea in question. It is only essential to research until the point that there are no new ideas current to that pattern. This should result in a piece specific to a concept or theme with very little overlapping the exact requirements of a literature review. Step by step instructions are also another derivative of the research which generally require less research to be considered fact. A relatively modern and has low volume research in the subject area, for example, a piece on climate change and the requirement for future change in process and implementation will only need to evaluate climate change and future plans. It needn’t look at the overall idea of step by step instructions. A piece of research may also be a research of an area, and how the researcher has already evaluated and decided to write an analysis of the area. A study should be conducted culminating in an evaluative piece. Whichever the case may be, the type and the amount of earlier research will be the main factor in determining how much will need to be written. High work quality and level of writing is also an important factor. A good piece of research on a complex subject by an experienced writer will note a greater volume of literature than low-quality research, and it is a subsequent of the improvement of writing skills. This is the reason why many part-time students will note the so-called “dipped” into their old C. This is due to a big difference in skills compared to the time when writing was no problem at all. A poor writer will almost certainly write a poor literature review, which may cost the review its quality due to writing, not necessarily the knowledge of the subject. Finally, the knowledge of the audience must be considered. If the piece is high-level research for an informed audience, then a broad literature review of high-level material is necessary. The same applies to low-level research for a low-level audience. In the goal to bring new ideas and formulate them into some solution, it is essential to do something in the event that it may not be until graduation and others that have, with what sort of future and the thing that has been tried and tested to no avail.

3. Factors Influencing the Length of a Literature Review

A literature review may stand alone as an individual document in which the history of a specific topic is reported, what has been done with that history analyzed, meaning of events and competing arguments clarified, and what future research suggests is explained. It may also be part of a much larger report. A literature review generally has an organizational pattern and combines summary and synthesis. Often it assesses the sources cited in the paper you included and tells of a need for future research. There is no definite and certain answer to how long a literature review should be. It may range anywhere from a one-paragraph scolding of a situation to a complex and detailed history. In an academic article, in preparing a grant proposal for research, or in preparing a thesis or dissertation, how is one to decide the proper scope of a literature review? What factors go into an effective literature review, as well as the length of it? It appears that the answer to these questions is combined, in part, to the basic concept of a literature review.

4. Guidelines for an Effective Literature Review

One thing is to be understood clearly that what you are writing is not a descriptive essay. It is explaining and making a point that is to be proved about your literature. Your literature is to be used to make this point. Because of this, it is done many times that more than one piece of literature is explained at once. This can be done in several manners. A paragraph can be written on the comparison and a paragraph on the contrast. A paragraph can be totally about one piece of literature. In order to tie the ideas together, repeat what is similar about the pieces of literature and what is different. It is good to use terminology from the introduction to reinforce the points. This helps in the overall coherence of your essay. If you apply these ideas that are explained above, you can use them to greatly influence your overall essay and are of best use to literature review writing papers.

5. Conclusion: Striking the Right Balance

The ultimate value of a literature review is to uncover, interpret and disseminate key knowledge and to raise controversies, all of which requires sustained thinking about causal connections between the research studies. This effort to think through the meaning of the research evidence is essential to an evidence-based practice initiative. Stepped in between overgeneralizing and overinterpreting is a dearth of systematic reviews which fail to reach any adequate interpretation because research is not sufficiently pieced together to reveal a clear answer to a question or because the reviewer lacks the creativity and energy to theorize about why research findings are the way they are. On issues where the research is abundant, complex and sometimes contradictory, the best work is a clear and honest statement of when and why the evidence is mixed and a prescient agenda to help move the field beyond the muddled findings.

The balance between overgeneralizing and overinterpreting is difficult but crucial. The review should not overgeneralize because doing so effectively reduces the vast context of a specific initiative to the limited contents of a single study. A series of loosely connected studies with no unifying theme may necessitate a review that is a serial listing of the studies with little attempt to integrate and interpret them. This type of review is at the opposite extreme from the review that has a focused topic but fails to theorize about why certain studies are connected or what the temporal sequence of the research suggests about the cause and effect in the area. In the former case, a great opportunity has been missed to move the area cumulatively forward. In the latter case, the initiative to build a cumulative knowledge base has not been matched by the methodologically rigorous review necessary to understand what has and has not been accomplished.

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