Writing a Literature Review

literature search

A literature review is a comprehensive discussion pertaining to the overall overview or current progress of a particular topic. The review covers scholarly articles, books, reports, theses, magazines and etc. A literature review is not limited to when you want to write a thesis, research journal, and research proposal. The purpose of the review could be for finding a gap for future work, enhance understanding, or keeping track of recent progress. For this post, we are going to focus on a review for research purposes.

Things to do before writing a literature review

Once you decided on a research topic, the next step is to do is a literature review. At least you need to understand the general background of the research. Since it is necessary for you to outline the introduction and propose the most appropriate solution to the problem. Before we begin in-depth on how to write a literature review, you must decide the following;

  • Research topic
  • Problem statement or research question
  • Scope of research

The research topic, problem statement, and scope of research shall determine the direction of your review. Particularly, you need to limit your review within a certain scope. Without it, your review might go broadened. Avoid reading something not related to your research topic.


A literature search using keywords and keyphrases

The first step of a research study is the literature search. This process can be time-consuming. Use keywords and key phrases during the literature search to keep your focus on a specific research topic.

In my opinion, google scholar and google book are the best places to start your literature search. Google book does give a snippet views of the book. If you are lucky, you get to read the information you need for free. But if you have access to paid databases such as Scopus or Elsevier you may get better reading materials.

Build the structure of the literature review

The literature review must be organized properly. You can segregate the section based on the keywords or keyphrases as a guide. Then developed the content in much more detail by creating the sub-section.

Alternatively, draw a mind map to capture the subtopic encompasses your research topic. Of course, limit it within your defined scope. Once done, convert it to a table of content for your literature review.

Once you have decided on the sections and subsections, start doing the review section-by-section.

Ending the review

The final section of the review should answer the main purpose of the review. If you are trying to find a research gap, disclose the gap you found during the review. Tells what is lacking or how should it be addressed. If the purpose of the review is to gain insight into the future direction, give your opinion on what should be done in the future.

A literature review is the most tiring part to be written in a thesis or research paper. It should be done starting at the beginning of the research until its completion and not reserve for last.