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23 OCTOBER 2008

What is a literature review?

"A literature review is the review of a collection of published research relevant to a research question. All good research and writing is guided by a review of the relevant literature.
...

the purpose of the literature review remains the same. It is an essential test of the research question against that which is already known about the subject.

The literature review reveals whether or not a research question has already been answered by someone else. If it has, often the question needs to be changed or modified, so that an original contribution to the research is made.

What are some tips for literature review research?

Focus the search.
Having the research question written down, and on hand, can prevent inefficient wandering into research areas unrelated to the subject.

When to narrow the search.
If too many citations appear for a question then it is too broad, and a more focused question needs to be asked.

When to broaden the search.
If few citations appear for a question, then the topic is too narrow. Perhaps the question needs to be broadened.

Conduct a systematic search.
If little research has been done in an area, then a systematic search is necessary. One option is journals that print abstracts in a subject area which can provide an overview of the scope of the available literature. Other options are a general source, such as a book, or a specific source, such as a research paper, which can provide a starting point and a list of references to begin investigating.

Take thorough notes.
Taking thorough notes saves research time, as references can be quickly accessed again. (Suggestion: open a document in WordPad (Windows) or SimpleText (Macintosh) while running a computer search, and toggle back and forth between the search screen and document to record findings)."
(Union Institute & University)

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Simon Perkins
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