The phrase ‘review of literature’ consist of two words- Review and Literature. The
word ‘literature’ conveyed a different meaning from the traditional meaning. It is used with
reference to the languages. It includes subject content: prose, poetry, dramas, novels stories
etc. In research methodology, the term literature refers to the knowledge of a particular area
of investigation of any discipline which includes theoretical, practical and its research studies.
The term ‘review’ means to organize the knowledge of the specific area of research to evolve
an edifice of knowledge to show that his study would be an addition to this field. The task of
review of literature is highly creative and tedious because the researcher has to synthesize the
available knowledge of the field in a unique way to provide the rationale for his study.
A literature review is an evaluative report of information found in the literature related
to your selected area of study. The review should describe summaries, evaluate and clarify
this literature. It should give a theoretical base for the research and help you (the author)
determine the nature of your research.
A literature review is a written summary of journal articles, books, and other
documents that describes the past and current state of information on the topic of your
research study. It also organizes the literature into subtopics, and documents the need for a
proposed study. In the most rigorous form of research, educators base this review mainly on
research reported in journal articles. A good review, however, might also contain other
information drawn from conference papers, books, and government documents. In composing
a literature review, you may cite articles that are both quantitative and qualitative studies.
Regardless of the sources of information, all researchers conduct a literature review as a step
in the research process.
Why is this review necessary? Many reasons exist. You conduct a literature review to
document how your study adds to the existing literature. A study will not add to the literature
if it duplicates research already available. Like Maria, you conduct a literature review to
convince your graduate committee that you know the literature on your topic and that you can
summarize it. You also complete a literature review to provide evidence that educators need
your study. You may base this need on learning new ideas, sharing the latest findings with
others (like Teacher and her school committee), or identifying practices that might improve
learning in your classroom. Conducting a literature review also builds your research skills of
using the library and being an investigator who follows leads in the literature, all useful
experiences to have as a researcher. Reading the literature also helps you learn how other
educators compose their research studies and helps you find useful examples and models in
the literature for your own research. By conducting a literature search using computer
databases, you develop skills in locating needed materials in a timely manner.
Need of Literature Review
One of the early steps in planning a research work is to review research done. It is very
essential for every investigator to up-to date in his information about the literature. It avoids
the replication of the study of findings. It provides as a source of the problem of study, an
analogy may be drawn for identifying and selecting his own problem of research.
Purpose of Literature Review
• To provide a context for the research.
• To justify the research.
• To ensure the research hasn't been done before (or if it is repeated, that it is marked as
a "replication study").
• To show where the research fits into the existing body of knowledge.
• To enable the researcher to learn from previous theory on the subject.
• To illustrate how the subject has been studied previously
• To highlight faults in previous research
• To outline gaps in previous research
• To show that the work is adding to the understanding and knowledge of the field
• To help refine, refocus or even change the topic.
Difference between Quantitative Literature and Qualitative Literature
How the review of the literature is used tends to differ between quantitative and qualitative
research. Three primary differences: the amount of literature cited at the beginning of the
study, the use it serves at the beginning, and its use at the end of a study.
In a quantitative study, researchers discuss the literature extensively at the beginning of a
study (see Deslandes & Bertrand, 2005). This serves two major purposes: it justifies the
importance of the research problem, and it provides a rationale for (and foreshadows) the
purpose of the study and research questions or hypotheses. In many quantitative studies, the
authors include the literature in a separate section titled “Review of the Literature” to
highlight the important role it plays. The authors also incorporate the literature into the end of
the study, comparing the results with prior predictions or expectations made at the beginning
of the study.
In a qualitative study, the literature serves a slightly different purpose. Similar to quantitative
research, the authors mention the literature at the beginning of the study to document or
justify the importance of the research problem (Shelden et al., 2010). However, authors do
not typically discuss the literature extensively at the beginning of a study. This allows the
views of the participants to emerge without being constrained by the views of others from the
literature. In some qualitative studies, researchers use the literature to support the findings.
Nevertheless, in many qualitative projects, researchers often cite the literature at the end of
the study as a contrast or comparison with the major findings in the study. In qualitative
inquiry, researchers do not make predictions about findings. They are more interested in
whether the findings of a study support or modify existing ideas and practices advanced in
the literature—for example, expand on the understanding of trust as mentioned in the
introduction to the mothers’ trust in principals’ qualitative study ( al., 2010).
Steps for Conducting Literature Review
Regardless of whether the study is quantitative or qualitative, common steps can be used
to conduct a literature review. Knowing these steps helps you read and understand a research
study. If you conduct your own research study, knowing the steps in the process will give you
a place to start and the ability to recognize when you have successfully completed the review.
Although conducting a literature review follows no prescribed path, if you plan to design
and conduct a study, you will typically go through five interrelated steps. If you are simply
looking for literature on a topic for your own personal use or for some practical application
(such as for Maria’s school committee), only the first four steps will apply. However,
learning all five steps will provide a sense of how researchers proceed in reviewing the
literature. These steps are:
1. Identify key terms to use in your search for literature.
2. Locate literature about a topic by consulting several types of materials and databases,
including those available at an academic library and on the Internet.
3. Critically evaluate and select the literature for your review.
4. Organize the literature you have selected by abstracting or taking notes on the literature
and developing a visual diagram of it.
5. Write a literature review that reports summaries of the literature for inclusion in your
research report.
Steps in Developing Literature Review
 Selecting the topic
 Setting the topic in context
 Looking at information sources
 Using information sources
 Getting the information
 Organizing information (information management)
 Printing the literature review
Types of Information Sources
• Books: Use Library Search to find which books are held in the Library
• Journals –scholarly/popular: Use Library Search to find journal articles held in the
Library. To search for journal articles on a specific topic use a Library database.
• Research papers: These can be found in many areas including the Library Search,
databases and on the university and government web sites.
• Theses/Dissertations: Refer to the Finding Theses page for more information/
• Conference proceedings: These can be found by searching the Library Search,
databases as well as the professional association website
• Web sites (URLs): Search subject directories and use meta-search engines as part of
your internet search processes.
• Government documents: The best starting point for government documents are
government websites. For further information have a look at our Finding Government
Information guide.
• Legislation: Refer to the Law LibGuide.
• Standards: Refer to the Standards LibGuide.
• Statistics: Refer to the Statistics LibGuide for a list of the types and sources of
• Bibliographies: Bibliographies and references found in information sources often
prove useful when looking for further information.
• Newspapers: Refer to the Library’s Finding Newspaper Articles guide.
• Encyclopedias/ Dictionaries: Print encyclopedias and dictionaries are kept on the
library shelves. Use Library Search to locate them, or browse the shelves. The Library
also subscribes to an online database of reference works, Oxford Reference Online
• Databases: A database is a collection of information which can be searched. Some
databases cover a single subject or discipline area, others are multidisciplinary.
Types of information and information sources that are in databases are:
 scholarly journal articles
 trade journal articles
 magazine articles
 newspaper articles
 e-books
 images
 maps
 standards
 patents
 statistics
 company and industry information
How to write Literature Review
1. Find a Working Topic: Look at your septic area of study. Think about what interests you,
and what fertile ground for study is. Talk to your professor, brainstorm, and read lecture notes
and recent issues of periodicals in the field.
2. Review the Literature: Using keywords search a computer database. It is best to use at
least two databases relevant to your discipline. Remember that the reference lists of recent
articles and reviews can lead to valuable papers .Make certain that you also include any
studies contrary to your point of view.
3. Focus Your Topic narrowly and Select Papers Accordingly: Consider the following
• What interests you?
• What interests others?
• What time span of research will you consider?
• Choose an area of research that is due for a review.
4. Read the Selected Articles Thoroughly and Evaluate Them: Consider the following
• What assumptions do most/some researchers seem to be making?
• What methodologies do they use? What testing procedures, subjects, material tested?
• Evaluate and synthesize the research findings and conclusions drawn
• Note experts in the field: names/labs that are frequently referenced
• Note conflicting theories, results, and methodologies.
• Watch for popularity of theories and how this has/has not changed over time.
5. Organize the Selected Papers By Looking For Patterns and By Developing Subtopics
Note things such as:
• Findings that are common/contested
• Two or three important trends in the research
• The most influential theories.
6. Develop a Working Thesis: Write a one or two sentence statement summarizing the
conclusion you have reached about the major trends and developments you see in the
research that has been done on your subject.
7. Organize Your Own Paper Based on the Findings from Steps 4 & 5: Develop
headings/subheadings. If your literature review is extensive, find a large table surface, and on
it place post-it notes or filing cards to organize all your findings into categories. Move them
around if you decide that (a) they fit better under different headings, or (b) you need to
establish new topic headings.
8. Write the Body of the Paper: Follow the plan you have developed above, making certain
that each section links logically to the one before and after, and that you have divided your
sections by themes or subtopics, not by reporting the work of individual theorists or
9. Look at What You Have Written: Focus On Analysis, Not Description
A literature review is more than the search for information, and goes beyond being a
descriptive annotated bibliography. All works included in the review must be read, evaluated
and analyzed. Relationships between the literatures must also be identified and articulated, in
relation to your field of research. Literature review is essential for research design, it avoid
duplication in research and provide platform for relay research.