What is a literature review?
A literature review is a summary of the current state of knowledge on a certain topic or field and/or what theories/arguments exist in relation to that topic or field.
What do we mean by literature? In a literature review, the literature usually consists of scholarly material that comes from:
- journal articles
- government documents
- and more
Purpose of a Literature Review
So, why do a literature review? The purpose of a literature review is to:
- help you understand the current state of the researcher/knowledge on your topic
- show your reader how your topic adds to the current research/knowledge on your topic
- help you show how your research compares to other research on your topic
- describe trends and themes in the current research on your topic
- introduce the theoretical foundation for your topic/field
- identify gaps in the research
- show how the research in your topic has changed over time
- point the way for further research
What should be included in a literature review?
One of the hardest parts about a literature review is determining the scope of your literature review. That is: What will you include in your literature review? This is one of the reasons having a specific enough research question is very important: it can help you set the scope of your literature review.
You'll want to think of the literature you should include in your literature review as a sort of pyramid.
- Grounding your literature review will be the theoretical foundations and most important works in your topic
- Next, you will explore other literature that are related to your research that can help you provide context and history for your topic
- Then, you will look at literature that is most like yours. This can help you compare your research to other research like it.
- Finally, you will show how your research fits into the current state of the literature.
Examples of Literature Reviews
The scope of a literature review will depend on your topic, but the following are examples of what might be covered in a literature review.
A literature review on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution could cover:
- how the vaccine was created and approved
- what types of people/areas are receiving the vaccine
- issues/successes with distribution
- different theories on who should receive vaccines in what order
- peoples' hesitation or interest in receiving the vaccine
- how the COVID-19 vaccine distribution compares to other vaccines created under similar circumstances
A literature review on the federal government's role in regulating power grids could cover:
- the history of regulations in this industry
- theories on whether or not the federal government should regulate power companies
- how the federal government has regulated like industries
- explorations of the success/failure of previous regulations