For any scholar, presenting new ideas, theories, and findings is the basic purpose of crafting a research paper. Yet, novel concepts must be validated and supported by a demonstrated understanding and assessment of literature on your research topic: a literature review. It provides readers with an overview of the specific topic your writing about and expounding from.
What’s more, your review of the literature serves as a wide-ranging survey on the most impactful and relevant books, articles, and other sources, which affords you a legitimate platform on which you can present your core argument.
The Basic Elements
Generally, the review should identify key pieces of literature within the scope of your paper’s topic. By explaining each source, evaluating, and clarifying important details, you will lay the theoretical groundwork that supports your own research. First, identify the sources that you will evaluate. There should be a common theme among them, but most importantly, they should present ideas that allow you to substantively interject with your own research. Then, three parts of a thorough literature review are required: description, summary, and critical evaluation.
Its Principal Role
By including these essential elements of the literature review, it will effectively situate each discussed work within the context of the research topic. Ideally, the explanations and descriptions will then illustrate the relationship of each source in comparison to its counterparts. You will need to offer fresh interpretations and emphasize and assess works analogous to your own research. Your aim of the literature review is to place your research paper within the context of similar literature. Additionally, your assessment of the literature will provide your distinct perspective as the author. This readies the basic purpose of a literature review: providing an overview of research that will serve as a springboard for your own ideas, theories, and research. The complete review will demonstrate that you are on par with proven experts and scholars in your topic area, and you can then more legitimately synthesize—expand on, identify gaps, and/or make a counter-argument.
Preparing Your Audience
Like anything you write, composition with your audience in mind is key. In the case of writing a literature review, you’re essentially doing the background research for the reader. Yet, to the extent that you should spell-out the basics of your research topic depends on your target audience. Are your readers well-versed scholars, new researchers, or somewhere in the middle? You don’t want to waste their time by detailing general knowledge, but you also want to make sure that, following the review, the reader is prepared to fully comprehend your own findings. If the principal role of the literature review is to lay the groundwork for your own ideas, then our advice is to ensure that the groundwork is concise, yet methodically written.
Likewise, literature reviews are beneficial because they act as an immediate and accessible guide to the particular topic that you’ve been immersed in as a scholar. For both academics and professionals interested in applying your original ideas, the review will showcase past research and important work that they may be unaware of. Also, if you explicitly structure your paper with a literature review that complements your own research, not only will your text be presented in an articulate and informative manner, but also your readers will know almost exactly what to expect.
Perhaps one of the most evident perks of crafting a thorough literature review is the fact that you will establish your credibility with the reader, and in doing so, you become an authority on the topic. Think about it; scholars will be scarcely convinced if you fail to demonstrate that you’re knowledgeable and qualified to contribute to the general academic conversation. Be careful not to write the review as if you’re biased in favor of certain arguments over others, especially because the basis of good and trustworthy research is the consideration of varying theoretical perspectives. In other words, your literature review should offer a critical analysis that examines every viewpoint and reasoning. In doing so, you will also capture the attention of several researchers whom may have otherwise seen your paper as yet another contribution aligned with disparate theories.
Crafting a meticulous and in-depth literature review is vital to any scholarly publication. It’s simply due diligence, effectively detailing relevant works of literature and proving to the reader that you’re an authority on the topic. Despite how exhausting writing a literature review can be, it’s a necessary chore because your research paper will never even be considered as a pioneering work if it’s lacking a proper assessment of existing research.
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