A literature review is:
- a summary and evaluation of the significant research and/or theory published on a topic;
- organized in a way that analyzes, integrates, and shows the relationship between research studies, as well as the way each has contributed to an understanding of the topic;
- not just an annotated bibliography.
The purpose of a literature review is to:
- provide an overview of relevant literature, research, and methodology in an area of study;
- explore relationships among the prior research;
- evaluate the prior research;
- identify gaps and discrepancies in the literature;
- identify areas of controversy in the literature;
- make an argument for why further study of your research question is important to a field.
Benefits to the researcher:
- establishing context and significance of the problem
- discovering appropriate subject vocabulary
- identifying methodologies
- identifying what has been researched and where gaps may be found – underused methodologies, designs, populations
- focusing research topic
Evaluate your articles by asking yourself some of these questions:
- What is the methodology?
- What is the quality of the findings or conclusions?
- What are the article’s major strengths and weaknesses?
- What beliefs are expressed/is there an ideological stance?
- Can the results be generalized?
- How does this fit in and compare with other articles I have read?