A literature review is a survey of publications that have been written about a particular topic, theory, or research question. It may provide the background for larger work, or it may stand on its own. Much more than a simple list of sources, an effective literature review analyzes and synthesizes information about key themes or issues.
|Book Review||Annotated Bibliography||Literature Review|
|Analyzes and evaluates a||Summarizes relevant sources||Surveys relevant literature|
|particular book.||and explains the significance||to determine what is known|
|of that source to the research||and not known about a|
1. To discover what has been written about a topic already
3. To develop a body of knowledge about a topic
4. To understand the relationship between the various contributions, identify and (if possible) resolve contradictions, and determine gaps or unanswered questions
1. Research – to discover what has been written about the topic
2. Critical Appraisal – to evaluate the literature, determine the relationship between the sources and ascertain what has been done published
3. Writing – to explain what you have found
Focus your topic: A literature review aims to cover the research on a given topic. If the topic is too large, there will be too much material to cover it adequately.
Read with a purpose: Although you will need to briefly summarize sources, a good literature review requires that you isolate key themes or issues related to your own research interests and synthesize the information.
For each book or article consider:
Credentials: Is the author an expert?
Argument/Evidence: Does the evidence support the conclusion? Is the argument or evidence complete?
When comparing sources, consider:
Conclusions: Does all research arrive at the same conclusion or are there differing opinions? What evidence or reasoning are the differences based on?
Gaps or omissions: What questions are raised by the literature?
The introduction should identify your topic, some discussion of the significance of that topic and a thesis statement that outlines what conclusion you will draw from your analysis and synthesis of the literature.
In the body, discuss and assess the research according to specific organizational principles (see examples below), rather than addressing each source separately. Most, if not all, paragraphs should discuss more than one source at a time. Avoid addressing your sources alphabetically as this does not assist in developing the themes or key issues central to your review.
|Principle||When to Use||Example|
|-When explaining key themes or issues relevant to the topic
-This is the most common way to organize literature reviews.
|A literature review of 31 relevant articles published between January 1999 and March 2004 identified 12 categories of neighborhood characteristics relevant to maternal and child health: income/wealth, employment, family structure, population composition, housing, mobility, education, occupation, social resources, violence and crime, deviant behavior and physical conditions.
The conclusion should provide a summary of YOUR findings from the literature review. Explain what your analysis of the material leads you to conclude about the overall state of the literature, what it provides and where it is lacking. You can also provide suggestions for future research or explain how your future research will fill the gaps in the existing body of work on that topic.
© Allyson Skene.