A literature review is an in-depth overview of existing research, theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches on a particular topic. It incorporates both published and unpublished documents, books, peer-reviewed articles, journal papers, monographs, dissertations and other sources to identify key themes and arguments which contribute to the discussion surrounding the topic being researched. Through synthesising all of these sources a comprehensive picture emerges of what has been said around a certain topic area. It can often act as a precursor to further research or be used in its own right to explore current debates within an area as well as possible new directions for further investigation.
What is a literature review and how you can use it as a research method?
The purpose of writing a literature review is threefold; firstly it provides useful information about the scope of existing knowledge on your chosen subject matter by summarising the range of literature that’s currently available; secondly it contributes your own individual insights into this body of material by critically analysing its content through applying evaluation criteria; finally it helps establish clarity around any potential gaps or inconsistencies in relation to what has already been studied about this field thereby providing impetus for any future work you may wish to undertake on that particular subject.
Literature reviews are also useful when conducting scientific research because they provide valuable background information which can be helpful in informing decisions made throughout the whole process from initial hypothesis generation through data collection and analysis right into interpretation and final reporting stages. They help inform researchers which methods have been previously successful with similar questions so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time – saving money and resources while still producing high quality results effectively. Literature reviews can even be seen as an ongoing part of any research project since researchers should continuously read new material related to their field as it becomes available so they remain up-to-date on latest theories or developments that might impact their work going forward.
In terms of how one would actually go about researching using a literature review method there are several approaches one could take depending upon the nature and scope of the project at hand. For example if you were looking at exploring correlations between two variables across different countries then searching various databases such as Google Scholar or Pubmed might yield some potentially relevant studies that could be included in your review along with any book chapters/articles/dissertations you find relevant too (with credit given where appropriate). You could also look at reference lists within studies already found during searches just mentioned which may direct you towards further reading materials not yet uncovered during yours original search strategy – enabling you include wider variety ideas/perspectives within your exploration (otherwise known ‘snowballing’). Lastly create an annotated bibliography detailing key points from each document so those reading over your summary will know exactly where evidence for current claims come from thus strengthening overall credibility associated with findings reported therein