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Hints and Tips for Writing the Literature Review

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May 8, 2008   #1
The literature review has become a more and more common task assigned university students over recent years. As such, students are seeking out as much information as possible on the subject. The following contains a variety of hints and tips that will allow students a better understanding of what the literature review is, what it should contain, and how it should benefit their subsequent research.

The Literature Review Defined: What is it and why are students required to do one? The literature is exactly what one would expect from its title - it is a review of a collection of previously published literature on a specific topic or topics. The literature review is often required of students as they undertake research into a particular topic in order to determine whether or not their specific research topic has already been undertaken. Generally speaking, the literature review summarizes and condenses an extensive amount of material. In addition, the review allows the student to organize a vast amount of information into a pattern that is meaningful to his or her research purposes, and will allow the student to draw his or her own conclusions about the nature of that information.

Objectives of the Literature Review: What should students strive for?
When a student is performing his or her literature review, perusing all that information, having a specific objective(s) in mind is very important. Without a specific objective(s) in mind, students can end up spinning their wheels, not accomplishing much. The following are common objectives for a literature review; students should choose the objective(s) that best correspond with their particular research goals.

1.Summarize Information - As stated above, the main objective of the literature review is to summarize previously released research information. While not all the objectives on this list apply to every literature review, this is one objective that every student should strive for when reviewing literature.

2.Compare Findings and Results - The literature review allows students to compare the results from a wide variety of published research. The rates of similarity or discrepancy in research findings can go a long way in helping the student to understand how his or her research may unfold in the future.

3.Compare Research Methods - The literature review also allows students to evaluate the different research methods used among those that have previously studied their topic of interest. Weighing the pros and cons of those research methods enables students to choose the method that best suits them.

4.Identify Untapped Areas of Research - By thoroughly organizing and reviewing an extensive collection of research material, a student performing a literature review will be able to identify areas that have not been addressed, or addressed poorly, by the literature that is currently available. In addition, if a student does happen to discover that his or her research topic has been previously undertaken, this will allow the student to more easily choose a secondary topic.

5.Identify Major Research Studies - Not all research studies are created equal. The literature review allows students to recognize which particular studies have been the most important to the furthering of knowledge in their particular research area.

6.To Better Understand the Relevance of Your Upcoming Research - If the student's upcoming research has proven to be untapped, the literature review will allow the student to better understand where his or her findings will fit into the system of knowledge on that particular subject.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are a multitude of other reasons and objectives for completing a literature review. However, these are the most common objectives for university students, and they can provide students with the basis for the effecting of a thorough literature review.


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