A good literature review is an essential component of any study or research project. Your experiment and discovery of new concepts and theories is incomplete if it hasn’t taken into account existing findings and theories.
Literature review essentially involves reading through past research papers and scholarly articles on a particular topic and getting an idea of what the current and latest understanding is on that matter. This helps in determining newer research methods to work on,further address unanswered questions, or identify new avenues of research that the previous articles may have missed.
Writing a research review is a detailed and structured process. It requires extensive background knowledge, delicate analysis of existing discussions on the topic, and an emphasis on the reliability of sources and references.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind while working on a literature review:
- Keep your search for articles broad and extensive. While you may have narrowed down on a specific topic for your own research, make sure that you do not excessively narrow down your search for literature as well. It helps to have a lot of different viewpoints and perspectives of a single topic to look at before you start off with your own project. When it comes to searching for scholarly literature, there are various online sites such as jstor.org, Google Scholar, etc. where you can find a wide range of scholarly material.
- Try to choose literature that is as relevant to your areas as possible. Recent research articles are usually more preferred and relevant than older ones. For instance, if your chosen topic is climate change, you want to look up climate change essays as well as global warming research papers. Timeliness and relevance is particularly applicable to scientific and medical fields, where there are always new developments and discoveries.
- Identify the keywords and important points in the article. When going through literature, pay attention to what the writer is trying to say, what their analysis and viewpoint is, and what the crux of their perspective is. Only then can you come up with opinions or views of your own.
- Focus on a particular theme or topic. After you understand the key points of the articles and the opinions of previous scholars, try to develop your own central research question or topic around which your review is based. Even if you’re doing just a literature review and not a whole research, you need to have a central viewpoint or focus based on which you write your analysis. You need to craft a strong argument in defense of or opposing your central issue.
- Don’t just summarize. Your literature review should add value to the research or article and not just be a summary of its contents. Therefore, make sure that you include your own thoughts and opinions on the subject and back it up with solid facts and strong arguments.
- Use a structural order in which you present all the literature. Organize all of the reviews in a specific pattern or order, whether it is chronological, methodical, thematic, or alphabetical. If you’re doing a research project of your own, you can even arrange them in order of relevance to your own topic, placing the most relevant one first and the least relevant at the end.
- Include data and facts in your writing. Don’t rely only on analytics and secondary data to put your point across. Make sure you also use primary sources and research results to back up your views and opinions.
- Pay attention to articles that are opposed to your viewpoint. Don’t just pick out literature that is convenient for you and your research that reiterates what you want to say. Try to find other research articles that put forth different interpretations and analysis, and then explain and defend your point by detailing why you don’t agree with them.
- Consult your mentor or your professor for help and advice. If you’re having trouble finding the right articles or can’t seem to understand one that you’ve already found, ask your professor for help. They can give you good tips and guide you to credible sources and literature that could be helpful for your study.
If done properly, your literature review should demonstrate how well read and familiar you are with past research and knowledge on your chosen topic. A good literature review should also emphasize how you built on this past experience and knowledge as well as reaffirm and strongly put your own points across. What other tips do you have for a good literature review? Share them with us in the comments below.