Literature review and its role in research

Literature review and its role in research

Literature review






Most writers consider a literature review to be a mere formality or as routine work but it has an essential role within research. Literature review encompasses undertaking incisive surveys on published literature around a particular topic. The goal of the review may be to familiarize with existing studies, a critical evaluation of a school of thought, or appraising and evaluating such literature. Understanding the essential role of literature review and the approaches towards its presentation can help improve an individual’s writing process.

Literature reviews

A literature review is a survey that brings together scholarly material with the aim of discussing it within the context of a particular topic. The implication is that a review has to involve a collection and synthesis of various studies.


What is literature review explain its importance and role in research?


The role of literature review

  1. Assessing the state of research in a particular area

Considering that literature review largely occurs within the context of a research study, the author has to search for relevant information to gain knowledge on the existing issue. From this perspective, the focus is on familiarizing oneself with the topic under investigation. The existence of a well-researched literature review becomes proof that the author has knowledge of the theory and methodology of the related research topic. A deep understanding of the topic and studies prevents a researcher from replicating the same research.

  1. Identifying experts within a particular field

On undertaking a literature review, the researcher gains insight into which researchers have had a significant contribution to the topic. Knowledge of experts within a specific field is important since the writer can use sources from such individuals to inform his paper. Using sources from renowned experts implies that there is some level of credibility in the arguments used to inform the research paper. As such, engaging in a literature review is important as it illuminates the credible sources that the author can rely on and hence access to high-level evidence.

  1. Identifying key areas that need further research

Another important role of the literature review is to shed light on the key areas that require further research. The review involves not only a compilation of different sources but also their evaluation and analysis to determine the areas covered. By gaining insight into the existing research within a particular area, the researcher can identify gaps that he can direct his/her research towards addressing. Such an area of the literature review is important based on the fact that researchers need not just replicate studies but advance the subject by engaging in further inquiry. The literature review provides the basis for identifying gaps that a researcher can address in his/her paper.

  1. Insight into research and experimental techniques

Through the evaluation and critical analysis of existing studies, a researcher gains insight into some of the methodological approaches applied in past studies. The review of studies provides a perspective into some of the beneficial approaches that can further develop a topic. On the other hand, one can opt to pursue a different angle than the one predominantly used in the existing studies. The implication is that a literature review is necessary in learning about important concepts, experimental techniques, and research methods used in the particular field


How to undertake a literature review

Prior to engaging in a literature review, the writer should be wary of the reasons behind each analysis. Three different types of reviews exist and an author has to know what he intends to pursue. The three literature reviews include;

Applied– is mostly applicable in businesses, professional environments, and government institutions. Applied reviews are fact-finding missions such as can be used to inform policy or gain information about the viability of a particular project based on similar initiatives in the past.

Simple– it usually involves a brief overview of a topic and relies mostly on popular sources. It is often the beginning of a research process.

Academic– such a review can be stand-alone or part of an academic paper. It requires accuracy, the use of high-quality sources, quality analysis, objectivity, and the use of critical insight. A summary of the information helps develop a conceptual framework.

In completing a literature review, the researcher can follow several steps that include;

  1. Choosing the topic- it should be concise but not too limited.
  2. Framing the research questions- they act as a guide to ensure that the researcher sticks to the topic.
  3. Deciding on the sources- the researcher has to identify the sources that will inform the review. High-level evidence sources should be used wherever possible.
  4. Reviewing and analyzing the literature- following the collection of sources, the researcher explores and appraises them to come up with a plausible conclusion.

Literature reviews are important components of any research paper and should be treated as such. There is a need to move beyond the view of such an area as just a formality and towards using appropriate approaches that satisfy the demand of literature review. Essentially, following the above steps will yield a concise review that provides direction on other areas of the particular study.


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