what is the purpose of a literature search
A literature review is a comprehensive summary of previous research on a topic. The literature review surveys scholarly articles, books, and other sources relevant to a particular area of research. The review should enumerate, describe, summarize, objectively evaluate and clarify this previous research. It should give a theoretical base for the research and help you (the author) determine the nature of your research. The literature review acknowledges the work of previous researchers, and in so doing, assures the reader that your work has been well conceived. It is assumed that by mentioning a previous work in the field of study, that the author has read, evaluated, and assimiliated that work into the work at hand.
A literature review creates a “landscape” for the reader, giving her or him a full understanding of the developments in the field. This landscape informs the reader that the author has indeed assimilated all (or the vast majority of) previous, significant works in the field into her or his research.
The purpose of a literature review is to:
- Provide foundation of knowledge on topic
- Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication and give credit to other researchers
- Identify inconstancies: gaps in research, conflicts in previous studies, open questions left from other research
- Identify need for additional research (justifying your research)
- Identify the relationship of works in context of its contribution to the topic and to other works
- Place your own research within the context of existing literature making a case for why further study is needed.
Use this guide to work your way through the all the stages of the literature searching process.
For background reading or an introduction to a subject, you can do a shorter and more basic Library search.
A review of the literature is a compilation of the research that has been published on a topic by recognized scholars and researchers. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic and what their strengths and weaknesses might be.
Step 2: Identify the keywords and phrases that describe your topic by making a list of possible synonyms.