How to Write the Literature Review
Literature Review: What to Write and How
Literature review appears after the introduction in the research paper/thesis. A critical part of the research document, the literature review highlights the concepts and how they may be related with each other. The purpose of the literature review is to help the researcher to build on the work of others and to make informed decisions during the various stages of the research project.
A review of the literature identifies and highlights relevant themes and documents significant findings, frameworks, and/or instruments from earlier research that will serve as the foundation for the current project. Documenting the literature review is important to convince the reader that the researcher is knowledgeable about the problem area and has done the preliminary homework that is necessary to conduct the research.
The literature review section of a research paper shall have the following sub-section. Each of these subsection with examples are discussed in detail in the course.
Independent/Individual Discussion on Variables
How to write when developing framework to establish relationships
Individual Discussion on Variables
The literature review shall start with the discussion on the variables individually. For instance if you are assessing the impact of Leadership on Project Success. First you should separately discuss both Leadership and Project Success. Following shall make be part of your review when discussing the variables individually.
- The concept of the variable
- Is there any conceptualization of the variable in the area of your study (for Instance Higher Education)
- How the definitions evolved, changed over time
- What are the key facets/traits/characteristics that emerge from the definitions?
- What conceptualization/operational definition are you using in your study? Does conceptualization reflect in instrument/measurement. Why use a conceptualization, is it very close to your area of study?
- What do these definitions agree on?
- What does the variable do for the organizations – How it facilitates their working (Discuss in general and also in particular to your industry scope)
- Why studying the concept is important in your field of study? Discuss the general consequences (If it’s a predictor variable) – If it is a criterion, why studying the antecedents is important in your field of study.
- Status of literature on the variable in the field of study (Is it limited. What are its limitations?)
The concept of the variable (Definitions)
The scholar shall start with the conceptualization of the variable. If you are writing a paper one or two definitions are enough. But if you are writing a thesis you may add more definition. But just adding the definitions is not enough. One shall also see how these definitions are related, do they have any thing in common, do they contradict each other.
Is there any conceptualization of the variable in the area of your study (for Instance Higher Education)
If the study is focused on a particular area for example Higher Education, then it is recommended that the scholar shall provide the conceptualization of the variable in that particular area.
How the definitions evolved, changed over time
Although, one may not be able to put in the evolution of the concept in a research paper unless the paper is a review, this should be papert of the thesis as there is more word space in the thesis.
What are the key facets/traits/characteristics that emerge from the definitions
The scholars can also explain the key facets of the concept. This is particularly important if the scholar is writing a thesis. Or otherwise in case of paper the focus is on examination of individual dimensions of the concept.
What conceptualization/operational definition are you using in your study? Does conceptualization reflects in instrument/measurement. Why use a particular conceptualization, is it very close to your area of study?
Operationalization of the concept is critical to research papers. The scholar shall clearly identify the definition that is being used in the study. This also guides the measurement of the concept in the study.
What does the variable do for the organizations – How it facilitates their working (Discuss in general and also in particular to your industry scope)
Moving forward, it is important that the scholar shall clearly explain why it the concept important for the industry/organizations. The scholar shall discuss the important of the variable in general plus also why the concept could be important for the area under study.
Why studying the concept is important in your field of study?
If the scholar has chosen a particular field/area of study (for instance Higher Education), discuss the general consequences (If it’s a predictor variable) – If it is a criterion, why studying the antecedents is important in your field of study. Provide examples if possible
Status of literature on the variable in the field of study (Is it limited. What are its limitations?)
The scholar shall clearly elaborate the current status of the literature on the concept. This will help further highlight the need to study the concept.
How to Write When Developing Framework to Establish Relationships
After the individual discussion on the variables in the study, the next step is to develop a theoretical framework and establish the relationship between the variables in the study. To do so, following guidelines shall be followed when writing the literature review to build the relationship between the study variable.
- Has previous studies linked the two concepts? If yes what were their findings
- Are the variables in any way linked to each other?
- Were the findings of the previous studies unanimous? On the other hand, contradictory?
- Why studying the linkage between variables is significant/Important (In general) and in your area/field of study.
- How the independent variable affects/influences/impacts the dependent variable
- Do the dimensions/traits of independent variable link to the dependent variable
- Use theory to develop linkages
- Your literature should not look like annotated bibliography, but rather a story where ideas/concepts are linked
- Try using latest references wherever possible in particular when highlighting the importance of the concept/its value/its benefits.
Has previous studies linked the two concepts? If yes what were their findings
When developing a relationship between the two variables, the first this a scholar shall do is identify if there has been any previous research linking the two variables. if there is, what were the results. However, there may be times when one is linking two concepts that have not been studied before, in this case one way is to identify the a theory that can help explain the relationship between two variables. To see how it is done, kindly refer to the end of this section, Use theory to develop the linkage
Were the findings of the previous studies unanimous? On the other hand, contradictory?
It is important that the scholar(s) review the existing research in great depth to identify if in previous research there are any contradictory findings. Any contradictions in existing research shall also be reported.
Why studying the linkage between variables is significant/Important (In general) and in your area/field of study
The scholar(s) shall clearly elaborate on the importance and need for the study, this should be done both in general and if there is a specific field or focus (like education or banks), then the relationship and its importance shall be discussed in the study setting.
How the independent variable affects/influences/impacts the dependent variable
The literature review shall clearly elaborate on how the independent variables affects the dependent variable. This can be done by explaining what leads to variance in the dependent variable because of the independent variable.
Using Theory to develop the linkage
Last but very important, the theory that you have mentioned in the introduction of your study that would help explain the underlying mechanism shall be utilized to develop the linkage between the variables.