How does one conduct a literature review?

Expert Answers
thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A literature review is a summary of findings from previous studies that relate to the topic under study. It involves the discussion of published information from reliable sources. The literature review section of a study is aimed at tracing the progress within the subject area, as it pertains to the development of new knowledge, confirmation or disputing of theories developed by previous research studies.

Since the researcher is required to ensure that only significant works are reviewed, it is thus important to narrow down the collection by using the research problem or objective as a guide. This is important because the study’s results and findings will go to confirm or dispute the information presented in the literature review.

It is also important to include information that may advance conflicting theories or findings. This is because it is the researcher’s responsibility to seek out the facts and put such controversial information to test in their own studies.

The following steps should help in the development of a literature review:

  1. Background information- This introduces the topic of discussion and concepts that relate to the subject of the study.
  2. Body- This is the actual discussion of previous findings and studies around the subject. It includes a discussion of findings that are in line or contrary to the study’s perspective. Evidence must also be provided to support the discussions.
  3. Conclusion- This step determines how the study should progress in light of the published studies discussed. It also includes a summary of the information reviewed but without reflecting the researcher’s opinions.

It is also important to note that some studies require that only the most recent information be reviewed because of the dynamic nature of the field and what the study seeks to achieve.