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The literature review

Chapters 4, 5, 7, 14 & 29

Page 89

Review the main ideas and research relating to your area of interest. However, you should do more than simply summarize the relevant literature:

  • You should, where appropriate, be critical in your approach
  • You should use your review of the literature as a means of showing why your research questions are important
  • Bear in mind that you will want to return to the literature you examine in the discussion of your findings and conclusion
  • Do not try to get everything you read into a literature review. Trying to force everything you have read into your review (because of all the hard work involved in uncovering and reading the material) is not going to help you
  • Bear in mind that you not should stop reading the literature once you begin designing your research, as new ideas might be published
  • See pages 147 & 152 on reviewing the literature in writing up quantitative and qualitative research (also see Thinking deeply 4.1)

Reasons for Writing a Literature Review (Tips and skills page 98)

  1. You need to know what is already known in connection with your research area because you do not want to be accused of reinventing the wheel.
  2. You can learn from other researchers' mistakes and avoid making the same ones.
  3. You can learn about different theoretical and methodological approaches to your research area.
  4. It may help you to develop an analytic framework.
  5. It may lead you to consider the inclusion of variables in your research that you might not otherwise have thought about.
  6. It may suggest further research questions for you.
  7. It will help with the interpretation of your findings.
  8. It gives you some pegs on which to hang your findings.
  9. It is expected!

To see video clips of students talking about their experience of writing a literature review, click here

Web links: - guide to Writing a Literature Review from the Wesleyan University Library