Learn How to Write a Research Paper Literature Review: Simple Steps

How to Write a Research Paper Literature Review

There are several ways to prepare for academic work. Literature review, however, is one of the best known and most used methods, regardless of the area of ​​study. Conducted through many hours of research and reading, it uses the studies developed by other authors on a given theme. In today’s post, we have more information about the literature review. First, we present the definition of this research method. Then we talk about its importance, the types of revision and the step-by-step to make yours.

What is Literature Review in a Research Paper?

According to the dictionary, revise means looking again, making an inspection. That is, it is not just about visualizing something. But to look at processes critically and analytically. In this way, dialogues can be established with the research work itself.

From this definition, we can see that a literature review is not a simple bibliography survey. To carry out a review, it is necessary to analyze ideas, methods, and other details of scientific production. Thus, the survey is the first phase of a good review. In other words, the literature review has a summary aspect. When conducting a literature review, the authors who have worked on a particular subject are reviewed. Therefore, the information produced on the topic in that area of ​​studies is listed and discussed.

Why Literature Review is important in a Research Paper?

Knowledge is, its essence, historical and social. In other words, it is historical because new knowledge arises from the deepening of previous knowledge. And it is social because knowledge is an essentially collective construction. So, looking at what was previously developed is essential. It is not possible to carry out academic work without looking at the contributions of authors who came before. It doesn’t matter if the research is a dissertation, thesis, or another type of academic text.

Therefore, reviewing the literature is to seek, analyze, and describe the body of knowledge to find an answer (or a direction) to a specific question. Therefore, the literature review has two purposes:

  • Contextualize the problem within existing academic studies; and
  • Analyze the possibilities of research and reflection in the consulted literature.

But it is also worth remembering that the literature review is also essential for the researcher himself. It is through surveying, reading, and writing about the works that have already been done that the researcher increases his knowledge about the chosen theme. The more the researcher knows his topic, the more he will have his research objectives. This will improve the quality of the work.

It is in the literature review that the researcher understands the best paths to follow in his research. If other authors have already followed similar paths or if his proposal is unprecedented. Thus, the objectives of the research itself are more clearly established or even change completely. Therefore, the literature review has the potential to optimize the research performed.

Types of Literature Review

There are several ways to review a theme. Thus, there are two types of literature review: narrative and systematic. These two types differ by their purpose.

  • Narrative review

The purpose of a narrative review is to map. By mapping the literature, it is possible to establish connections with previous productions, creating a history of the study of that theme. In this way, the theory merges with the context in which it was developed. This makes the narrative review a broader type of study, where the recurring themes of a subject are identified. Thus, making it possible to point out new perspectives within the theme. It is the type of literature review mostly used and it is adequate for the theoretical foundation of academic works.

However, it is important to note that because the mapping does not intend to locate all the literature on the subject. It is a selection that is defined both by the possibilities of searching the bibliography and by the criteria that the researcher decides to apply when choosing texts.

  • Thematic review

On the other hand, a thematic review is defined as a study designed to answer a specific question through systematic methods. It evaluates the studies selected in the literature for their quality and themes.

As a result, it is an original type of study, since methodological rigor is used to elaborate analysis and synthesis of the selected studies. Thus, in the thematic review, there is an effort to address the published literature in its entirety. Therefore, it is configured as a more robust study, with a large number of results that help explain the different types of studies carried out on a theme.

Step-by-Step of a Literature Review

Like any other academic method, the literature review has specific steps and procedures. To carry out a good review, it is important to pay attention to these steps and maintain a minimum organization. That is why we have separated a step-by-step with all the stages of a literary review. Regardless of whether it is narrative, systematic, or integrative, it is possible to apply this script.

 1. Choose your Research Topic

Every academic investigation begins with the choice and delimitation of a research topic. To do this, reflect on your interests. But be sure to also consider the challenges that certain topics may present, such as a lack of a bibliography, or materials needed for research. The relevance of the topic today and the time and energy invested also deserve consideration.

2. Define the Research Problem and Goal Setting

After choosing a topic, it’s time to define the problem that will be the center of your investigation. The research problem is a question (still) unanswered or a gap identified in the studies carried out on the topic. Along with it, it is necessary to list the general and specific objectives of the research.

3. Perform a Bibliographic Survey of Potentially Eligible Studies

It is at this step that the literature review begins. It’s time to do a general search on your chosen topic. Visit your university’s library, as well as digital repositories from other universities. Search magazines and other types of print or digital publications as well. The important thing about this precious survey is to observe the diversity of materials, either in their perspective on the theme or in their format.

 4. Assess the Eligibility of Pre-selected Studies

After making your first survey, evaluate what will be used in your work. It is normal that at this moment, you realize that a good part of the titles you selected does not fit well in your proposal. But the idea is precisely this: do filtering and keep only the relevant titles for study.

And this filtering is done by reading the abstracts of the selected works.

5. Perform the Reading and Critical Evaluation of the Selected Studies

This is the most laborious but most important step in a literature review. It’s time to read the selected titles critically and carefully.

Critical reading is the moment when the methodological quality of the study is assessed. When the relevant data is also extracted, and a comparative analysis is made on the readings.

A very good strategy for reading and compiling this information is to file. List important points for your study in standardized forms. Add a topic to include citations that can be included in the text directly or indirectly. So, you can refer to them whenever you need them when writing your text, making the work more practical and dynamic.

Below, we have created a script that can help you to make a thorough reading of the texts and prepare complete files. This script is designed in the form of questions that can be answered in a simple or in-depth way. That way, you can adapt it to the type of research you are doing.

  • What is the author’s object of investigation?
  • Did he clearly define his research problem in the text?
  • Could the problem be addressed effectively from another perspective?
  • Does the author make an assessment of the literature regarding the problem?
  • And yet, does it include positions contrary to yours for analysis?
  • How does the author structure his argument?
  • How does the collected data present?
  • What were the results of the research?
  • What are the author’s conclusions about his findings?

6. Structure your Conclusion and Write!

Through the analysis of the selected bibliography, you will be able to make comparisons, identify controversies, and point out areas that have not yet been investigated on the topic. After that, it is time to pass all this information to the page of your research.