How to Write a Literature Review for Research Paper

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The thought of writing a literature review paper often leaves many researchers struggling. This is mostly because a literature review is an overview of all the comprehensible data that is available on a specific topic to date. The first step taken even before starting the writing process is to go through all the available researches that have made on the same topic before. This lets the researcher understand the perspective of those before him/her and compose the new research that is based upon the contexts, relevance, and background of those previous researches. This makes sure that the new research consists of all the previous data as well as the difference that is needed to be made at that time.

Types of literature review

Literature reviews can be broadly categorized as experimental and theoretical types. Researches that fall under the category of experimental type are the ones that are created after surveying all the data and information that is available on its topic to date and then filling its gaps by critically analyzing the existing data. This makes it an experiment performed on information. The extensiveness of a review depends on the precision and systematic form with which a research project is carried out. Thus, making it an essential part of the research.

Whereas, a theoretical literature review usually involves two steps:

  1. Performing a critical analysis on the existing literature of the topic, commonly referred to as experimental literature review.
  2. Making sure to pen down and summarise properly the gist of your review, often referred to as a theoretical review. Literature review could be a part of a dissertation or research article and a stand-alone literature review. Let us look at this in more detail.

Literature reviews for dissertation/research article

The introduction is the beginning point of every research report, thesis, research article’s topic. This acts as the commencement of the literature review for the article. A review aims to introduce its readers to the topic of the research as well as make them understand the importance of conducting it. A literature review should be based upon the keyword of that topic, these relevant keywords can be found on online database platforms such as Google Scholar, PubMed, etc. After the gathering of the required relevant data, it should be organized in the way specified below

  1. Mentioning the background literature about the research topic in order to introduce the readers to the topic’s field of study.
  2. Progress on the research topic has been made recently. Along with the display of the previous studies in chronological order. This will allow you to thoroughly describe and showcase the evolution of knowledge that has been made in the field of study of that topic throughout the years.
  3. The review should consist of the different studies’ knowledge so that the display of its comparison and contrast can be made. Controversial aspects often tend to ease the process of identifying the gaps in the previous studies. Identifying these gaps is necessary for defining and highlighting the problem statement and its significance along with the necessity for it to be discussed and targeted in the research
  4. After defining the problem statement, the strengths and the pitfalls of the other studies should also be targeted so that a solution can become the outcome of this whole process. This makes it an important reason for defining the need and novelty of the research.

A literature review is not just a recounted summary of all the existing information on its topic. It is a critical and analytical summary of the previous researches. It discusses the importance of the previous studies as well as the gaps and the loopholes that those studies consisted of and how those gaps can be fulfilled with your research.

Stand-alone literature reviews

Another rarer type of literature review is the stand-alone one. They are distinctions in themselves as they are based on any kind of previous experimented data.

They can be divided into two types, that are narrative reviews and systematic reviews.

  1.  Narrative reviews

Narrative reviews are the theoretical discussions that are made on a topic based on critical analysis of the repetitive relevant information. They are highly qualitative in nature and follow up on the nature of review sections of larger articles.

Narrative reviews are usually organized as follows:

The introduction establishes the context of the field of research that has led to its topic of review to be chosen for the research.

The body usually consists of the description of the different themes that fall under the main topic and get divided into consecutive subheadings. This section mainly targets the gaps that are not properly addressed in the previous studies by critically analyzing them.

Conclusions. This sections’ content caries from every research article and narrative review. The conclusion from the critical analysis of all the current studies is stated in this section along with the avenue that this conclusion provides for the commencement of your research. The author needs to fulfill this section with critical interpretation such that the review will add value to the topic’s existing literature and information. This section should consist of the ideas/hypotheses that can explain or point out its existing discrepancies as well as provides solutions to fill these gaps or loopholes.

  1.  Systematic reviews

Meanwhile, a systematic review follows a methodology that is well planned to define the qualitative and quantitative aspects of a defined number of targeted studies. The question addressed in this kind of review is quite thought upon with a proper strategy and is worked upon in a systematic specified manner, unlike narrative reviews. The organizing pattern of the systematic reviews and the narrative reviews slightly differ in themselves. The details of its difference are mentioned below:

Introduction: Systematic reviews start off by raising the defined research questions based upon the samples and research outcomes to be studied.

Methods (only for systematic reviews):  It starts by narrowing down the literature according to the comprehensive methodology. The usual method is to set the inclusion/exclusion criteria based upon its research question and the databases. The samples studies are then analyzed after getting shortlisted.

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