Review of Literature
In many long scholarly documents such as dissertations, theses, and journal articles, it is common to include a section that presents an overview of existing research on the topic of the document. This section presents a survey (review) of research (literature); thus, it is known as a review of literature, or a literature review. Reviews of literature are intended to provide a reader with background information about previous scholarly investigations on a specific topic. This is done both to inform and to point out areas in the literature that need further development. Often, exploring just such an area will be the object of the writer's own research.
A review of literature is essentially a series of summaries that explain the objectives, processes, and findings of a variety of research studies related to the writer's own topic. These summaries are organized in such a way that studies that focus on similar subjects or have similar findings are grouped together. Thus, reviews of literature are organized by study focuses and findings.
The research necessary to assemble a comprehensive review of literature on a single topic takes significant time and effort. Reviews of literature are not simply articles that report selectively on important studies. Reviews of literature are intended to address all studies that are relevant to the writer's particular topic, which requires the writer to find and read all of these studies. Though this may seem daunting, topics requiring literature reviews are so specific and specialized that the most difficult process is not reading all the research, but finding it.
A review of literature must be written in very straightforward language. The writing style appropriate for literature reviews actually resembles the type of writing used for a report more than the type of writing typically found in a research paper or academic article. This is because a review of literature is intended to be an unbiased summary rather than a discussion. The writer should actually avoid including any commentary or analysis in the review.
Because reviews of literature are reports of secondary research, they will be rich in quotations, paraphrases, and citations. Anytime a research study is mentioned, it must be given proper credit with a citation. The type of citation will depend on the style sheet the writer is using, but it will always include a mention of the author's name and, if it is a quotation, the inclusion of the page number on which the quote can be found.
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