Writing a literature review, which requires a detailed analysis of existing data, is often a challenging task. This guide addresses possible difficulties and provides advice to facilitate the process of writing this type of document. It discusses the aim of the literature review, presents its types and their features, and focuses on the structure and writing style presented in a satisfactory review. The paper also provides recommendations for writing and organizing ideas and raises awareness of mistakes to avoid.
Importance of Literature Review
A literature review presents a summary of the available information about a problem. A good literature review serves the purpose of providing an interpretation of the knowledge on the topic, outlining major ideas and debates, evaluating sources, and identifying gaps in the existing studies. This vital tool can help to create a context for research, provide a path for additional investigation in the field, and describe general ideas on the issue. Moreover, it may resolve conflict between contradictory viewpoints and provide an explanation for the arguments.
Types of Literature Review
The purpose of the study will determine which of several categories of literature reviews to use. Types include:
- Systematic review: presents an overview of the evidence related to the research problem following standardized methods. Here, the aim is to summarize, document, and analyze existing literature on an issue from a scientific point of view. Thus, this type of review can be used for narrow questions and is usually applied in the field of clinical medicine.
- Argumentative review: involves choosing literature to support or disprove an idea, assumption, or problem. The goal here is to create a selection of sources presenting a certain viewpoint. The potential for bias is a limitation of this approach.
- Integrative review: provides analysis, synthesis, and critique of relevant literature on the topic. It allows development of new approaches and perspectives on a problem and considers all existing viewpoints.
- Historical review: focuses on studies within a particular time period, discussing the state of phenomena at a certain point and analyzing the progression of the topic.
- Methodological review: aims to provide a perspective on an issue from various viewpoints, reviewing the processes of sampling, interviewing, and data analysis as well as the qualitative and quantitative approaches used in the studies. This type of literature review focuses on the methodology of the research.
- Theoretical review: presents an examination of theories and concepts related to a problem. The goal is to summarize existing approaches and links between them as well as to develop a hypothesis based on the findings.
Structure and Writing Style of Literature Review
Structure and Features
A literature review should be well-organized, following a particular structure. First, it should identify the subject under consideration and the objectives of the analysis. Second, it should divide included works into categories such as those that support the argument and those presenting a different viewpoint as well as studies that suggest an entirely different approach to the research question. Third, it is vital to include an evaluation explaining the differences and similarities between the selected works. Finally, a literature review should incorporate a summary that outlines the papers presenting the strongest arguments and provides valuable insight about the topic. It is also necessary to ensure that the analysis of each study includes a critical evaluation of evidence as well as authors’ methodology, bias, objectives, and conclusions.
Developing the Literature Review
Four stages of development are involved in writing a literature review. First, formulate a problem and consider the related issues. Second, perform a search of the existing literature to ensure that the question is researchable and that enough data can be found for evaluation. Third, analyze the findings and identify the sources that can contribute to the research. Finally, interpret and discuss the results of the literature review. It is essential to consider the following issues before conducting a study:
- Clarify the number and type of sources with the professor, being sure to establish the type of literature review to be performed.
- Establish a narrow topic to reduce difficulty in choosing sources for the review. For example, outline possible questions prior to the review to identify which will be more suitable for evaluation.
- Ensure that the sources are current; this constraint is particularly significant in the fields of medicine and other sciences where new discoveries may contradict earlier findings. For some disciplines, however, information from classical works may also be applicable. Aim to understand which sources are the most appropriate for the topic and research purposes.
A literature review can be organized in several ways, including:
- By date of publication. This approach may be used for studies concentrating on methods and viewpoints that change with time.
- Chronologically. This organizational scheme is the most appropriate for cases where a trend in the findings can be observed. For example, if the study presents a continuous analysis of the outcomes of American politics, it may be feasible to organize the sources chronologically.
- Based on conceptual categories. This is similar to the previous approach but concentrates on developing themes related to particular issues rather than a chronological order of events.
- Based on the research methods used by the authors.
After selecting an organizational method, be sure to add the necessary sections. For example, chronological order may require dividing the information based on significant periods, while it may be crucial to include subtopics for selected conceptual categories. Potential additional sections include:
- General information
- Background of the problem
- Inclusion criteria and selection methods
- Standards of presentation
- Questions for further research
Tips for Writing a Literature Review
While working on a literature review, consider the following significant points. First, support the presented ideas with evidence to show that they are valid. Properly cite and format information while making sure the facts are precisely stated. Second, be selective and choose sources that feature significant, reliable data. Literature providing additional information that is not important to the study may be included in a section listing further readings. Third, avoid using extensive quotations; authors should base a study primarily on their opinions rather than other authors’ ideas. When paraphrasing, ensure that the information is presented accurately. Finally, include summaries throughout the paper to synthesize the acquired data.
Mistakes to Avoid
In creating a literature review and searching for information, a process that requires much time and effort, it is helpful to be aware of common mistakes in order to avoid them. These include:
- Using sources not directly related to the research question
- Dedicating insufficient time to identifying the most appropriate studies for evaluating and developing a complex research problem
- Including secondary sources compared to using relevant primary data
- Omitting information about the inclusion criteria and the search procedures implemented in choosing literature for the review
- Accepting all findings as valid without critically evaluating them
- Not considering research design as an aspect that may affect outcomes
- Only referring to those results that support the author’s viewpoint and considering alternative opinions wrong
This guide discusses many aspects to consider when writing a literature review, including its purpose, the type and reliability of sources, organization, and the way to handle other authors’ presentations. It is necessary to perform detailed research on an issue before conducting a literature review to ensure that it adequately features all existing viewpoints and approaches. Moreover, writers should avoid excluding sources that do not support their opinion, introducing bias into their study. A good literature review is a well-structured summary of available information on a problem that is appropriately organized and reliable, includes citations, and synthesizes information to reveal insights about the issue.