In essence, a literature review identifies, evaluates and synthesises the relevant literature within a particular field of research.
It illuminates how knowledge has evolved within the field, highlighting what has already been done, what is generally accepted, what is emerging and what is the current state of thinking on the topic.
In the following sections, you will find additional information and advice for writing a literature review within specific disciplinary areas.
Practice-based research often leads to the production of a creative artifact, a body of work or a performance, as well as an accompanying exegetical text.
Conducting a literature review is an ongoing, non-linear, and iterative process.“Your literature review will inform your question, theory, and methods, and your question, theory, and methods will help set the parameters of your literature review.
This is a cyclical process.” (O’Leary 2010, p.83)It is usually one of the first tasks that graduate research students undertake, and one of the last to be completed.In addition, within research-based texts such as a Doctoral thesis, a literature review identifies a research gap (i.e.unexplored or under-researched areas) and articulates how a particular research project addresses this gap.A successful scientific literature review will not only identify the current gap in knowledge, but also position your own research project as a viable way of addressing it.You thus need to build a solid argument to convince the reader thatyour theoretical and methodological approach is likely to result in a worthwhile contribution to knowledge.For an example of this singular focus (in this case, Protestant), see, Peter J.Thuesen, In scientific and technical disciplines, including medicine and health sciences, the literature review is often more narrowly framed around a specific discipline or research area than in the humanities.Literature refers to a collection of published information/materials on a particular area of research or topic, such as books and journal articles of academic value.However, your literature review does not need to be inclusive of every article and book that has been written on your topic because that will be too broad.This is a cyclical, iterative process in that you will return to find and read more sources and incorporate them into your synthesis.While many of the general considerations outlined in this module are pertinent to all research, there are some particular things to consider when writing a literature review within your discipline.