Review of Literature Definition

Purpose of Review of Literature

A review of literature is often a crucial part of the research process. It provides an overview and summary of what has been written about a topic to provide context for the researcher. The purpose of this post is to discuss the purpose of a review of the literature.

What is Reviewing?

Reviewing is an integral part of academic writing (and non-academic writing, too, for that matter). Many academic subjects, such as literature, and the sciences, require reviews in assignment submissions.

This is because reviews are an easy way to summarize or highlight what has already been written on a topic – providing you with research study material for your own paper.

Reviews can be either systematic or unsystematic. To write a systematic review, you must follow a specific process. This ensures that all of the relevant literature on a topic has been included in the study.

The systematic review method can be arduous, but the rewards are many! For this reason, some students have begun using unsystematic “mini-reviews” as an easy substitute for writing their essays or working on their assignments.

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What is a Review of Literature?

Review of Literature is defined as an overview and analysis of scholarly articles, books, or other sources for a particular topic. 

How to Review Literature?

There are two main approaches to reviewing articles.

  • The first is the traditional approach. This essentially involves summarizing an article and then offering a critical analysis of it.

For example, you might choose to highlight what you think are the strengths or weaknesses of each argument, discuss its implications or relevance as it relates to your topic or offer suggestions for further research.

  • The second approach is generally preferred by researchers because it is more objective. This approach involves analyzing the methods used and then summarizing the results of each article. Commonly, for this approach, you would include a table or chart with your findings.

Purpose of a Literature Review

The purpose of conducting literature is to;

  • Find gaps in the current state of knowledge and also determine if prior research supports your initial hypothesis
  • Give you a good understanding of the relevant literature on your topic
  • Help refine ideas and concepts
  • Identify critical references for your research
  • For you to standardize and organize your thoughts during the writing process.

How to Approach Literature Reviews?

Putting it simply, you need to:

1. Understand what is required of your assignment for literature review, and make sure you follow those instructions.

2. Locate journal articles and any other materials that are relevant to the topic you have been given

3. Summarize these articles (while being objective)

4. Analyze these summaries about your own research question or hypothesis, and discuss their significance.

5. Conclude the literature review by summarizing your analysis and restating your own research question/hypothesis.

Types of Literature Review

The different types of literature review. We’ll mention a few of them;

1) The extensive literature review

This type of review is characterized by the author’s statement of his problem in a direct manner and by its thoroughness since it includes most, if not all, previous scientific studies on the subject.

This kind of review may include speculation on the possible relationships between variables that empirical evidence may not support.

2) The selective literature review

This type of review focuses on a limited number of articles relevant to the author’s problem. This kind of review is usually based on published data, and it does not include speculation about possible relationships among variables.

3) Theoretical Literature Review

This type of literature review entails discussing and analyzing theories, models, or research studies that are relevant to a particular topic. The aim is to discuss what has already been said about your topic and how this relates to your current research questions/hypothesis.

For example, in a theoretical literature review, you might discuss the strengths and weaknesses of two theories (while also linking this to your own research questions/hypothesis).

4) Systematic Literature Review

A systematic literature review follows a specific process. This means you will have to follow several steps to complete the study.

For example, in a systematic literature review, you would have to:

  • Define your specific topic
  • Determine which databases or search engines are most appropriate for locating articles
  • Identify keywords and phrases that will help you find relevant articles
  • Search the database/s
  • Create an inventory of articles
  • Exclude irrelevant articles from your inventory
  • Analyze the relevant articles to understand how they relate to one another
  • Synthesize the findings and make an argument about these findings based on what you have read
  • Write a summary statement (conclusion).

What is the Importance of Literature Review?

A good literature review forms a good foundation for further research by taking advantage of all previously conducted studies/ existing literature. It also offers many benefits that make it worth doing in the first place.

  • It allows researchers to become aware of any new trends
  • The literature review can be used to prepare for empirical studies
  • Another importance of literature review is that it helps improve the quality of a research proposal by providing an outline of all previous studies that can be used in the proposed research. In addition, it gives a working bibliography which can be used to locate studies relevant to a topic.
  • It helps establish whether there is any new research that has not yet been conducted. It is often done before empirical research because it allows for identifying gaps in previous literature, which can then be filled by future research.
  • It makes the research process easier by providing a foundation for further research and allowing one to take advantage of all previously conducted studies.
  • It paves the way for future research by allowing researchers to become aware of any new trends and by providing a working bibliography that can be used to locate studies relevant to a topic. It also prevents duplication of research.
  • Provide readers with an objective understanding of what has already been published on the subject at hand. In other words, this is the area where previous studies are either supported or discarded based on their validity, strengths and weaknesses. References from the analyzed publications should be given so that interested readers can read them themselves for further study.
  • The other importance of literature review is that it exposes students to various aspects of a particular subject area before investing time and resources in conducting their research.
  • It helps improve the quality of academic research since it identifies limitations in previous studies, which could lead to new ideas from other researchers that would otherwise have been overlooked during the initial stages of an investigation. In this sense, literature reviews can help generate new ideas for research that can eventually become the foundation of other related publications.
  • Literature reviews are essential in overall academic development since they allow students to get involved with their chosen subject area earlier.

Students can gain a better understanding of it before participating actively in research projects. However, this depends on how well an individual student performs in literature reviews.

If students find it challenging to understand and critique previous research, they may not carry out their study on the subject area effectively.

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Writing Tips

While writing a literature review can be challenging, specific steps can make the process easier. A few tips related to conducting and writing up the results of your review are outlined below:

1. Maintain focus while writing by writing a detailed outline of what you want to cover.

2. Organize your paper into sections by using subheadings to make it easier for the reader to follow along and understand the reasoning behind your ideas.

3. Use descriptive and vivid language to help convey thoughts.  Avoid jargon or excessive technical words unless you are sure your audience will understand what is said.

4. Consider using tables and figures to summarize information or results of studies. This can be a valuable tool for drawing attention to critical points.

5. Have someone read your paper and give you feedback before submitting it. This will help you make changes if needed.

Similarities and Differences between a Literature Review and Research Paper

  • They both have the same objective – to analyze all the essential information provided by other scholars to contribute something new or further develop previous theories.
  • A literature review is briefer than a research article since it usually has a descriptive character.
  • The structure of both papers is different. A research paper consists of several sections, while a literature review is presented in one section only. Moreover, it doesn’t contain references and examples provided by other sources. It sets out the author’s point of view on the chosen topic.

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The Seven Steps Literature Review-Quick Review

It is pretty easy to write a literature review because it usually consists of several steps: 1) Introduction, 2) Statement of Problem, 3) Significance, 4) Research Questions or Hypothesis, 5) Methodology, 6) Findings, 7) Discussion.

Common Features in Literature Review

The following are some of the common features that exist in literature reviews:

  • Keep track of all the studies performed on a specific topic during an investigation. It is essential to cite references correctly.

This will allow researchers in the future to have access to your sources of information. It will also help you determine whether to include particular studies in your literature reviews.

  • If there are too many sources to cite, write the key points from each study instead of copying large chunks of text into the review.

Make sure that references are not duplicated among different review sections, even if they come from the same source. Avoid mentioning the same studies in each section within the review, as this will make it appear that there are more information sources present in the literature.

Common Problems Associated with Literature Review

  • Using the same studies repeatedly across different sections or using plagiarized material
  • It is essential to make sure that all studies selected for the literature review have been performed on a particular topic. Otherwise, you will be writing about irrelevant research and not providing a comprehensive overview of what has already been done.

What are the Disadvantages Associated with Literature Review?

  • It may take a long time to complete a literature review because of the sheer volume of studies that have already been conducted.
  • It can be challenging to keep track of all sources, which may result in plagiarism.
  • There is a risk of bias where some studies with contrasting results are often left out.

How is a Research Review Different from a Literature Review?

A research review is a type of critical literature review that critically evaluates published studies. It has more in-depth discussions than an ordinary literature review. It often contains the author’s thoughts on how future research can further expand upon specific topics.

Methods of Conducting a Library Research Review

Five Methods of Conducting a Library Research Review:

1. The Keyword Search Approach: searching library catalogs and databases with key words that reflect the topic in question.

2. The Bibliography Approach. This is a systematic and updated listing of relevant publications, either organized by subject or in chronological order. It allows the researcher to identify what has already been done on the topic or in related areas.

3. The Citation Search Approach: using indexes such as SCOPUS, Web of Science, and Google Scholar Metrics, which are used to highlight citations.

4. The Content Approach. This is a review that assesses the value of publications based on their contents and themes;

5. The Framing Approach. This is the process of defining the boundaries or limitations of the topic. It begins with identifying the aim(s), research question(s), and hypothesis and ends with reviewing the literature.

Effects of a Library Research Project

Three Effects of Reviewing Literature:

1.         Literature search is time consuming;

2.         Detecting errors in information sources is more straightforward; and,

3.       There is an increased risk of plagiarism.

Tips for Future Researchers who Perform Library Research Reviews

Four Tips for Reviewing Literature:

1.   Read widely and deeply

2.  Read the source, not just the citation

3.  Think of how you can use sources and what is essential to your own research, then organize them accordingly

4.  Keep track of information and cross-reference it as you work (applying principles of database management can help).  


Literature Review is the “bridge” that links existing knowledge to the topic of your current study. It is essential because it allows you to find existing knowledge about your topic and presents the information in a new way.

It can be used to prepare for empirical studies and improve the quality of a research proposal by providing an outline of all previous studies that can be used in the proposed research. Moreover, it helps establish whether there is any new research that has not yet been conducted.

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