the literature review example for research proposal

the literature review example for research proposal

The Importance of Literature Review in Research Proposal

1. Introduction

It is crucial to understand what a proper literature review is for a research project. The main aim of a literature review is to analyze and discuss the published information on a specific topic in order to provide the reader with an up-to-date understanding of the topic. This should be a critical evaluation and you should try to offer an explanation as to why you do or do not believe the article is of high quality. This can often be the most time-consuming part of the review due to the copious amount of articles published on the topic over time. This stage is important to convince the reader that you are knowledgeable in the topic and that the research is valid. A literature review is of great value to the researcher in defining a problem statement, where the researcher will be able to identify gaps or conflicts in a body of knowledge; the literature review will shed light on how this statement has been arrived at. This, in turn, will set the right direction for the research and its findings.

2. Purpose of the Literature Review

The main purpose of literature review is to convey to the readers about the work already done and the knowledge and ideas that have been already established on the topic. That means, it forms the very basis of your research, establishing the fact that your work will be original and innovative. By doing an extensive literature review, you can situate your work in the context of general knowledge and formulate questions or problems that have not been answered adequately in the past. It provides evidence that you are aware of how your research fits into the overall subject. A literature review provides a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the major research already done on the topic keeping in mind the research questions. This is important since it provides the readers with all the knowledge on the topic and how it is being talked about. While doing it, you are exposed to a research idea which is similar to yours and might have a little alteration which yields high relevance in your research. By knowing about such ideas, you might want to modify your research question or problem and redo the literature review on the newly formulated question. So this keeps your research on the right track avoiding the many deviations it might take. Systematic literature reviews can be such a practical demonstration. Finally, it shows that you are capable of critical thinking as well as breaking down a topic into a significant amount of detail. This is crucial in conveying to the readers that your research has solid foundations.

3. Methodology for Conducting the Literature Review

Using the most common example of a textbook, the researcher will have the advantage of familiarity and mostly the library will have a lot of textbooks on a variety of topics. Textbooks can easily provide relevant information on the topic but sometimes the data will be quite old and it may be difficult to find specific information. Journals are the most informative source of recent years but the articles are quite specific and too concise, and there is a possibility that the researcher can deviate from his topic. A secondary source of information is periodicals but it may be time-consuming. For most topics, the internet is the most simple and fastest source of information, although the reliability is to be assessed. The primary source of information can be an interview or a person having knowledge on the topic, like for the above example, the social worker working for HIV/AIDS or any official person in the South African Ministry for Child Health.

The second stage is to select the best methodology for conducting the literature. Before doing the research topic, each researcher must be aware of the different sources of information available and also factors that may affect in choosing the best possible methodology of literature review.

The literature review should start with an introduction to the topic of research, followed by some background information, thus justifying the topic. For example, if the research topic is to examine the impact of HIV/AIDS on child nutrition in South Africa, the researcher will have to provide some information on HIV/AIDS and also the situation of child nutrition in South Africa. This will not only help in familiarizing with the research topic but also will give clarity on the related and irrelevant topics to be discussed. This section can be written in the beginning of the surveys and articles comprising the information already available. It may also be in printed word like audio and video. Statistics, historical research, and theories quite often give the benefit to know the prevalence of a problem and its impact, whereas literature of arts and humanities can also provide help in identifying the concerns of societies.

4. Key Findings from the Literature Review

(iv) The association of the content within the literature review and the research is sometimes very weak. This is very important. Let’s say there is a study on the factors affecting study habits. For the literature review, the researcher should pick a topic related to study habits and the factors involved, for example, stress. Then, the literature review for that study must be about the effect of stress on students’ performance. So, it should be something like cascading down the factors to the problem intended to be solved. After that, the researcher will need to make a comparison on the information obtained for his study and make a conclusion that there is a gap where his research should be carried out.

(iii) The length of the literature review is also an issue. While there is no specific guideline on how lengthy a literature review should be, assuming that 40% of the total number of pages for the research proposal is dedicated to the literature review is too much.

(ii) Researchers are not putting references in the proposal. This is where they forget that whatever information they develop should provide the base for their research, and that information must come from evidence that already exists. So, references and a proper literature review are the evidence that the researcher should provide to make sure that his research is progressing in the right direction.

(i) Although the title of some work indicates the use of the literature review, there is no separate section which shows that they do not realize the difference between the literature review and introduction.

In this section, based on the analysis conducted on 40 research proposals, the following are the key findings.

5. Conclusion and Implications

A literature review is an essential part of a PhD or any proposal. The principal aim of the literature review is to demonstrate the underlying purpose of your proposal. This means that you are not just simply describing your topic. Despite its name, a literature review is not simply a review of what other scholars have said about your topic. You need to use it to explain the aim of your research project and what it will contribute to the field. It is not useful to simply say that your topic is an important area to research. You need to demonstrate why that is the case. A good way of doing this is to look for key publications and future research projects where research in this area is identified as being ‘necessary’. By explaining how your research is positioned against this idea you can go a long way to demonstrating your research is valuable. Another key purpose of the literature review is that it will help you to avoid a research project which is what we call ‘more of the same’ or reinventing the wheel. Undertaking research that has already been done is a waste of time and effort and a waste of money if the research is being funded. By examining what has been done in your topic area you will already be able to make more focused research questions and have a set of key words readily in mind when starting to search for your research papers. This will greatly help you when seeking to access the articles through online databases. Finally, a literature review will help you to identify gaps in the research area and show how your research is linked to the work of previous researchers. This is a key point that will help to convince funders that your research has a good chance of being successful and not being something of a shot in the dark. A research project which is conducted with a well thought out idea and clear methodology is more likely to be funded.

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