A literature review is a part of any research paper. It refers to the inclusive and condensed overview of a particular topic’s known knowledge. After selecting your research paper’s topic, the first thing you do is to look at the previous studies done on this topic and how they are related to your research paper. Therefore, a literature review is the backbone of a research paper.
A research paper is an academic piece of writing where a student analyzes and interprets an argument founded on broad and in-depth research. Similar to academic essays but longer, they are designed to assess your writing skills and research skills. When you write a research paper, your instructor expects to see three things:
- A demonstration of knowledge
- The use of a variety of sources
- Contribution to your area of study
So what purpose does a literature review serve in your research paper?
- It places the referenced studies and their contributions in context to your research paper’s topic.
- Details the relationship of the works used in your paper.
- To find out new ways to interpret previous research studies.
- Highlight any gaps that exist in the literature.
- To reconcile previous and seemingly contradictory studies.
- Identify areas of prior knowledge and avoid duplication
- And most importantly, to pinpoint your own research within the context of existing literature.
Types of literature reviews
Literature reviews aim to provide a synopsis and synthesis of relevant sources that you have explored in the course of writing your paper. Depending on the type of your research paper, there are several approaches that you can choose from:
- Argumentative review
This type of literature review solely deals with argumentative papers to support or disprove an argument or a theoretical problem already demonstrated in the literature. The purpose of this review is to develop a point of view that is contrarian in nature. This type of approach is particularly common in social sciences, which is critical to discourse.
- Integrative review
Integrated reviews are considered a form of research on their own. The reason is that they assess and synthesize illustrative literature on a topic in an integrated manner. This literature review includes all studies addressing similar and/or related research problems or hypotheses. This is the most common review in social sciences, and it should be clear and rigorous.
- Historical review
Very few things can be viewed without taking history into account. Historical literature reviews aim at investigating research through a period in time by starting with the first time phenomena, issue, event, or situation that emerged in literature and then chronologically following its evolution with your topic/subject over time. This literature review’s objective is threefold: to view research in a historical context, demonstrate knowledge on research developments, and identify directions for future research.
- Methodological review
This review does not focus on the findings but on how these findings came to be. Methodological reviews look at research approaches and data collection, analysis techniques, sampling, interviewing, data collection, and data analysis. This review is highly informative on the ethical issues you should consider when pursuing your own research.
- Systematic review
Systematic reviews comprise an overview of present literature relevant to a boldly mapped out research question. This literature review uses specified and standardized methods to find and evaluate relevant research; and gather, report, and examine data from studies in the review. The purpose of systematic reviews is to assess and sum up all the research about one research problem. This review is used mostly by those examining previous studies in clinical medicine and related health fields.
- Theoretical review
Theoretical reviews examine a theory’s body of work regarding a phenomenon, event, issue, or concept—the purpose of this type of literature review, already existing theories, and the relationship between them. Theoretical reviews are also essential in determining the levels in which these theories have been investigated and developing new hypotheses to be appraised in the future. They are useful in revealing the inadequacies of existing theories in dealing with or explaining unfolding research problems
Literature review writing tips
When writing your research paper literature review, keep the following in mind:
- Use evidence: When highlighting different points and ideas in your literature review, back them up with relevant sources (citations). This not only increases your paper’s validity but prevents plagiarism. Plagiarism refers to stealing or copying another person’s intellectual property and presenting it as your own.
- Be particular: In each of your paper’s sources, select only the most important points. These points should be directly related to your topic and thesis statement.
- Sparingly use quotes: Use quotes only when necessary for example, when emphasizing a point. Paraphrase instead of using extensive quotes in your paper.
- Keep your own voice: Yes, the literature review contains other people’s ideas, but that does not mean your voice should not be seen or heard. Your voice should be prominent throughout your literature review and research paper.
- Paraphrase cautiously: When paraphrasing, ensure that the meaning of the author’s ideas, opinions, and information remains. It is very easy for these things to get lost or jumbled up during the paraphrasing process.
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