Literature Review is the critical evaluation of prior
research that is relevant to your research studies.
The review of related literature involves
systematically identifying, locating, and analyzing
documents pertaining to the research problem.
The major purpose of reviewing the literature is to
identify information that already exists about your
The literature review can point out research
strategies, procedures, and instruments that have and
have not been found to be productive in
investigating your research problem.
A smaller, well-organized review is preferred
to a review containing many studies that are
less related to your research problem.
Heavily researched areas usually provide
enough references directly related to a
problem to eliminate the need for reporting
less-related or secondary studies. Little
researched problems usually require review
of any study related in some meaningful way
so that the researcher may develop a logical
framework and rationale for the study.
Qualitative researchers are more likely to construct
the review after starting their study, whereas
quantitative researchers are more likely to construct
the review prior to starting their study.
The qualitative research review of related literature
may demonstrate the underlying assumptions behind
the research questions, convince proposal reviewers
that the researcher is knowledgeable about
intellectual traditions, provide the researcher with an
opportunity to identify any gaps in the body of
literature and how the proposed study may
contribute to the existing body of knowledge, and
help the qualitative researcher to refine research
How to Review Literature?
Identifying Keywords: Most sources have an alphabetical
subject index or a thesaurus to help you locate information
on your research problem. In addition, most databases
generate subject headings or descriptors with the search
results. Maintaining a list of keywords should guide your
Identifying Your Sources: A good way to start a review of
related literature is with a narrow search of pertinent
educational encyclopedias, handbooks, and annual reviews
found in libraries. These resources provide broad overviews
of issues in various subject areas. Consult with the subject
librarian who specializes in your discipline to learn what
sources are available and how to access and retrieve needed
Most libraries use an online catalog system as
well as collective catalogs to access materials
from other libraries. You should familiarize
yourself with your library, the library
website, and the resources available within
and beyond your library.
An article or report written by the person who
conducted the study is a primary source.
A brief description of a study written by
someone other than the original researcher is
a secondary source.
Primary sources are preferred in the review.
Internet search tools and resources continue to
develop to include more primary sources and
background information. Good research goes
beyond simply googling a problem to searching
Google Scholar, Google Books, YouTube EDU,
blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, discussion groups, and
Evaluating Your Sources: It is important to
evaluate all literature sources by determining the
following: What is the problem statement of the
study? Is the study relevant given your research
interests? Who or what are the sample groups
studied? Where was the study published? When was
the study conducted? How was study conducted?
Summarizing your sources: Summarize and classify your
sources on the basis of quality, relevance, accuracy and
importance to your work.
The main advantage of beginning with the latest references
on your research problem is that the most recent studies are
likely to have profited from previous research. References in
recent studies often contain references to previous studies
you have not yet identified.
For each source work, list the complete bibliographic record,
including author's name, date of publication, title, journal
name or book title, volume number, issue number, page
numbers, and library call number. Briefly list main ideas. Put
quotation marks around quotes taken from the source, and
include page numbers.
Organizing the Literature Review
Describing and reporting research call for a specialized style
of writing. Technical writing requires documenting facts and
substantiating opinions, clarifying definitions and using them
consistently, using an accepted style manual, and starting
sections with an introduction and ending them with a brief
When organizing a review, make an outline; sort references
by problem; analyze the similarities and differences between
references in a given subheading; give a meaningful
overview in which you discuss references least related to the
problem first; and conclude with a brief summary of the
literature and its implications.
Characteristics of Effective Literature Reviews
Outlining important research trends
Assessing the strengths and
weaknesses of existing research
Establishing a need for current and/or
future research projects
Principles of literature review
Do not be biased (it’s not persuasive)
Present both sides of an argument and
show why your side is more important
Mix argument with explanations
Write at the level of your audience
Move from general to specific
Process for writing Lit: Review
Make YOUR rough argument
Read 3 or 4 key texts of relevance
Remake YOUR rough argument
Identify points needing support
Find references covering those points
Match references to YOUR argument
Revise your argument if necessary
What should you write?
the accepted facts in the area
the popular opinion
the main variables
the relationship between concepts and
shortcomings in the existing findings
limitations in the methods used in the
the relevance of your research
suggestions for further research in the area.
A Good Literature Review is:
Focused - The topic should be narrow. You
should only present ideas and only report on
studies that are closely related to topic.
Concise - Ideas should be presented
economically. Don’t take any more space
than you need to present your ideas.
Logical - The flow within and among
paragraphs should be a smooth, logical
progression from one idea to the next
Developed - Don’t leave the story half told.
Integrative - Your paper should stress how
the ideas in the studies are related. Focus on
the big picture. What commonality do all the
studies share? How are some studies
different than others? Your paper should
stress how all the studies reviewed contribute
to your topic.
Current - Your review should focus on work
being done on the cutting edge of your topic.
Elements of LR
Literature reviews should comprise the following elements:
An overview of the subject, issue or theory under
objectives of the literature review
Division of works under review into categories (e.g. those
in support of a particular position, those against, and those
offering alternative theses entirely)
Explanation of how each work is similar to and how it
varies from the others
Conclusions as to which pieces are best considered in their
argument, are most convincing of their opinions, and
make the greatest contribution to the understanding and
development of their area of research
Make sure your literature review have an academic
and professional appearance. Here are some points
to make the look of your report appealing to the
White space: leave space between sections,
especially from the abstract. This gives an
Headings/sub-headings: these help to separate
Text boxes: you can use these for quotations or
paraphrasing to separate them from the rest of your
text. It is also pleasing to the eye.
Graphics: centre your graphics, such as
diagrams or tables, to have space around
them. Try not to bury graphics in your text.
Pagination: you can number pages or
sections or both, but the important thing to
do is to be consistent. The cover page
normally is not numbered. The content page
and abstract page usually have a separate
numbering system to the body of your
Create a balance between direct quotation
(citation) and paraphrasing.
Avoid too much direct quoting.
The verb tense chosen depends on your
When you are citing a specific author's findings,
use the past tense: (found, demonstrated);
When you are writing about an accepted fact, use
the present tense: (demonstrates, finds); and
When you are citing several authors or making a
general statement, use the present perfect tense:
(have shown, have found, little research has been
– Prensky (2004) argues that mobile phones have become
a part of most students’ identities.
– Mobile phones have become a part of most students’
identities (Prensky, 2004).
Rough rule: 80+% of citations should be clause-
Sentence-initial citations are used mainly for in-
depth explanations of theory
Have I fulfilled the purpose of the
Is it written at a level appropriate to its
Are its facts correct?
Is all the information included relevant?
Are the layout and presentation easy on
Is the language clear, concise and
What is the scope of my literature review?
How good was my information seeking?
Has my search been wide enough to ensure
I've found all the relevant material?
Has it been narrow enough to exclude
Is the number of sources I've used
appropriate for the length of my paper?
Does the abstract summarizes the entire
Does the introduction adequately
introduce the topic?
Is the body organized logically?
Have I acknowledged all sources of
information through correct referencing?
Have I checked spelling, grammar and
Have I carefully proof-read the final draft?
Lectures of Dr. Arshad at I.E.R session 2012
Galvan, J. (2006). Writing literature reviews: a guide for
students of the behavioral sciences ( 3rd ed.). Glendale, CA:
American Psychological Association
(APA)(1994).Publication manual of the American
Psychological Association (Fourth edition). Washington,
Centre of Advanced Study in Education (1999-
2000).Research Methodology, Vadodara : The
M.S.University of Baroda..
Cohen, L. and Manion, L.(1989). Research methods in
education, 3rd edition. London: Croom Helm.
Krathwohl, D. R. (1988). How to prepare a research