A literature review surveys scholarly articles, books, dissertations, conference proceedings and other resources which are relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory and provides context for a dissertation by identifying past research.
Research tells a story and the existing literature helps us identify where we are in the story currently. It is up to those writing a dissertation to continue that story with new research and new perspectives but they must first be familiar with the story before they can move forward. Greenfield, T. Research methods for postgraduates. London: Arnold. For information related to your specialty, contact your subject librarian. The content will look slightly different in each case, but the process of conducting a literature review follows the same steps.
Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic. If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions. If you are writing a literature review as a stand-alone assignment, you will have to choose a focus and develop a central question to direct your search.
Unlike a dissertation research question, this question has to be answerable without collecting original data. You should be able to answer it based only on a review of existing publications. Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. You can add to this list if you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.
Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:. Read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources. To identify the most important publications on your topic, take note of recurring citations.
If the same authors, books or articles keep appearing in your reading, make sure to seek them out. Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words and awkward phrasing. See editing example. Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.
You can find out how many times an article has been cited on Google Scholar — a high citation count means the article has been influential in the field, and should certainly be included in your literature review. The scope of your review will depend on your topic and discipline: in the sciences you usually only review recent literature, but in the humanities you might take a long historical perspective for example, to trace how a concept has changed in meaning over time.
As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review. It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism. It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source.
This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process. Want to check your literature review for plagiarism? Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:. This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and if applicable show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge. There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review.
You should have a rough idea of your strategy before you start writing. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically.
The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.
If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic. For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.
If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:. A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.
You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research. Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion. What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections.
You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach. Example of a paragraph in a literature review Body image issues have been widely associated with social media usage, particularly in young women. The relation between media depictions and body image concerns is well-established; a meta-analysis by Grabe, Ward and Hyde concluded that exposure to mass media is linked to body image dissatisfaction among women.
London: Arnold. For information related to your specialty, contact your subject librarian. University of Michigan Library Research Guides. Ask a Librarian. For graduate students interested in first steps to consider when starting a literature review for their dissertation. What is a Literature Review? Purpose of a Literature Review Identifies gaps in current knowledge Helps you to avoid reinventing the wheel by discovering the research already conducted on a topic Sets the background on what has been explored on a topic so far Increases your breadth of knowledge in your area of research Helps you identify seminal works in your area Allows you to provide the intellectual context for your work and position your research with other, related research Provides you with opposing viewpoints Helps you to discover research methods which may be applicable to your work Greenfield, T.
For example:. A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.
Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion. What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.
Example of a paragraph in a literature review Body image issues have been widely associated with social media usage, particularly in young women. The relation between media depictions and body image concerns is well-established; a meta-analysis by Grabe, Ward and Hyde concluded that exposure to mass media is linked to body image dissatisfaction among women. However, in an era of rapidly changing digital technologies, the mass media paradigm is no longer adequate for understanding how people engage with images, and the findings of older studies like this one may not be generalizable to younger generations.
In light of this changing landscape, researchers have become increasingly interested in the specific effects of social media. Perloff theorizes that the interactive aspects of social media may influence its impact on body image, and mentions that young women are among the most active social media users. Across these studies, there is consistent evidence that body image issues are influenced not by social media usage in general, but by engagement with the visual and interactive aspects of these platforms.
Nonetheless, there is a lack of robust research on more highly visual social media HVSM such as Instagram and Snapchat that have gained more recent popularity among younger generations. In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance. Not a language expert? This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review. A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources such as books, journal articles, and theses related to a specific topic or research question.
It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge. There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:. Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute. The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation.
After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology. Have a language expert improve your writing. Check your paper for plagiarism in 10 minutes.
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Body image issues have been widely associated with social media usage, particularly in young women. What is a literature review? What is the purpose of a literature review? Where does the literature review go in a dissertation?
Is this article helpful? Shona McCombes Shona has a bachelor's and two master's degrees, so she's an expert at writing a great thesis. She has also worked as an editor and teacher, working with students at all different levels to improve their academic writing. Other students also liked. Developing your theoretical framework In the theoretical framework, you define key concepts and discuss relevant theories, showing how your research fits in with established ideas.
How to write a research methodology The methodology lets readers assess the reliability of your research. Describe what you did and show how your methods match your aims. How to write a research proposal A research proposal aims to show why your project is worthwhile. It should explain the context, objectives and methods of your research.
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