Literature review

Why write a literature review?

New discoveries don’t materialise out of nowhere; they build upon the findings of previous experiments and investigations. A literature review shows how the investigation you are conducting fits with what has gone before and puts it into context.

A literature review demonstrates to your reader that you are able to:

  • Understand and critically analyse the background research
  • Select and source the information that is necessary to develop a context for your research

It also:

  • Shows how your investigation relates to previous research
  • Reveals the contribution that your investigation makes to this field (fills a gap, or builds on existing research, for instance)
  • Provides evidence that may help explain your findings later

If you are doing a thesis, dissertation, or a long report it is likely that you will need to include a literature review. If you are doing a lab write-up or a shorter report, some background reading may be required to give context to your work, but this is usually included as an analysis in the introduction and discussion sections.

Sources:

http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/studyadvice/StudyResources/Essays/sta-startinglitreview.aspx

http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/literature-reviews/

http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/specific-types-of-writing/literature-review

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