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
- 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.