Literature Reviews

A literature review is an evaluation of the current literature on a specific topic that is being researched. The literature review should describe, summarize, and clarify the literature being reviewed. A literature review should be more than just writing about the current literature on a topic. It should give information that can be read, analyzed, and evaluated. The purpose of a literature review is to find literature on a topic and do a careful evaluation of it. It is important to use the most recent information available. The literature review should provide a context for the research such as for a dissertation. It should show how the research supports the thesis of a research project. A literature review surveys scholarly journal articles, books, dissertations, and relevant websites. The literature review should have a conclusion presenting an argument about the importance of the literature review.

A literature review is not the same as book review. It is an evaluation of the literature on some specific topic that is researched. It can survey books, scholarly articles, dissertations, and other sources that are relevant to the particular area. The main goal of literature review paper is to provide a review of significant literature on the chosen topic.

The development of literature review has four main states:

- Problem formulation explains the topic or field that is explored and provides its component issues.

- Literature search includes finding materials relevant to the examined subject.

- Data evaluation allows determining the literature that makes a major contribution to the understanding of the subject.

- Analysis and interpretation include the discussion of the findings and conclusions of relevant literature.

A literature review should include the following elements:

- An overview of the examined topic, theory of issue, together with the objectives of the review that is made;

- Division of works under consideration into categories (for example some of the works support a particular idea and some are against it);

- Justification if the works are similar or what are their differences;

- Conclusions about the works that are the best in explanation of their argument, are most convincing of their ideas, and contribute the most to the understanding and improvement of their research area.

The length of a literature review can be different depending on its purpose and audience. If it is a dissertation, so the review can be about 20 pages, and if it is for an assignment, its length can be just a few pages.

A literature review can be organized and structured in different way. The most frequently used ways are thematically and chronologically.

Using a thematic review, the author groups and discusses the sources according to the themes or topics they discuss. Such method is considered to be a stronger one organizationally. By grouping topics of research together, the writer demonstrates the types of topics that are significant for the research.

Using a chronological review, the author groups and discusses the sources in order of their publication. He pays attention to the changes in research in the chosen field over the time. Such method is usually used for papers that focus on research methodology, historicogeographical papers or other works where time is an important factor.

Regardless the chosen method, the writer in each section of the review should demonstrate how the research relates to other studies and discuss how it relates to his own work.