September 5, 2020

How to Write a Literature Review

Write a Literature Review


A literature review assesses the scholarly articles, books, and any other particular sources that may be pertinent in relation to a specific area of research, issue or theory. With the help of such assessments the literature review provides a summary, description, as well as critical evaluation of such works in connection to the research question that is being investigated. Literature reviews are intended to provide a synopsis of the sources that one has explored while investigating a specific topic. Literature reviews are also intended to prove to the readers how the research fits inside a greater field of study.

Importance of a Good Literature Review

According to, “A literature review may consist of simply a summary of key sources, but in the social sciences, a literature review usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis, often within specific conceptual categories. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information in a way that informs how you are planning to investigate a research problem.” The analytical facets regarding a literature review might:

  • Provide a new understanding of the old material or associate new with the old understandings.
  • Trace the scholarly and intellectual development of the field, comprising major debates.
  • Contingent to the situation, assess the sources and direct the reader regarding the most important research.
  • Generally in conclusion of any literature review, recognize where gaps may exist regarding the manner in which a specific problem has been investigated to date.

The purpose of a literature review is to:

  • Place a particular work in the setting of its input to comprehending the research problem that is being studied.
  • Define the relation of each particular work to the other individuals under consideration.
  • Recognize new ways for interpreting prior research.
  • Disclose any gap, which may exist in the particular literature.
  • Resolve the conflicts among the apparently contradictory earlier studies.
  • Recognize areas regarding prior scholarship for preventing duplication of effort.
  • Direct the way in satisfying a necessity for additional research.
  • Locate the research inside the setting of the existing literature.

Types of Literature Reviews

As per, “It is important to think of knowledge in a given field as consisting of three layers. First, there are the primary studies that researchers conduct and publish. Second are the reviews of those studies that summarize and offer new interpretations built from and often extending beyond the primary studies. Third, there are the perceptions, conclusions, opinion, and interpretations that are shared informally that become part of the lore of field.”

While composing a particular literature review, it is imperative to note that it is generally the third layer regarding knowledge, which is quoted as ‘true’ even when it repeatedly has only a slack and loose relation with the primary studies as well as secondary literature reviews.

Argumentative Review

This particular form scrutinizes literature selectively for supporting or refuting any particular argument, intensely rooted assumption, or any philosophical problem that has already been established in the specific literature. The purpose or goal is to cultivate a specific body of literature that institutes a contrarian perspective. Provided the value-laden facet of certain social science investigation [e.g., immigration control; educational reform], argumentative and confrontational approaches regarding the analysis of the literature can be a genuine and vital form of a discourse. However, it must be noted that they may also introduce the problems of the bias when they forward a kind of summary claims that are found in the systematic reviews.

Integrative Review

Considered a kind of research, which critiques, reviews and creates representative literature regarding a topic in a cohesive manner such that the fresh and new perspectives and frameworks regarding the topic are produced. The body of the literature encompasses all the studies that address identical or related hypotheses or the research problems. A good integrative review fulfills the same standards as the primary research concerning rigor, clarity, and replication. It is considered to be the most usual kind of review regarding the social sciences.

Historical Review

According to, “Historical literature reviews focus on examining research throughout a period of time, often starting with the first time an issue, concept, theory, phenomena emerged in the literature, then tracing its evolution within the scholarship of a discipline. The purpose is to place research in a historical context to show familiarity with state-of-the-art developments and to identify the likely directions for future research.”

Methodological Review

As per, “A review does not always focus on what someone said [findings], but how they came about saying what they say [method of analysis]. Reviewing methods of analysis provides a framework of understanding at different levels [i.e. those of theory, substantive fields, research approaches, and data collection and analysis techniques], how researchers draw upon a wide variety of knowledge ranging from the conceptual level to practical documents for use in fieldwork in the areas of ontological and epistemological consideration, quantitative and qualitative integration, sampling, interviewing, data collection, and data analysis. This approach helps highlight ethical issues which you should be aware of and consider as you go through your own study.”

Systematic Review

This kind consists of a particular overview of the existing evidence relevant to an evidently articulated research question that utilizes standardized and pre-specified methods for identifying and critically appraising important research, and for collecting, reporting, and analyzing data from studies that are encompassed in the review. The main goal is to purposely document, critically assess, and summarize methodically all the research regarding an evidently demarcated research problem. Naturally it emphases on a very particular empirical question, frequently posed in a specific cause-and-effect kind, like ‘To what extent does A contribute to B?’

Theoretical Review

As per, “The purpose of this form is to examine the corpus of theory that has accumulated in regard to an issue, concept, theory, phenomena. The theoretical literature review helps to establish what theories already exist, the relationships between them, to what degree the existing theories have been investigated, and to develop new hypotheses to be tested. Often this form is used to help establish a lack of appropriate theories or reveal that current theories are inadequate for explaining new or emerging research problems. The unit of analysis can focus on a theoretical concept or a whole theory or framework.”

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Bella Phillips

Bella Phillips is an essay writer at who is associated with the company for the past six years. She has finished her master's degree from the University of South West England and has served as a guest lecturer at several colleges.

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