Literature reviews are the first step in any scholarly activity project. Literature reviews allow you to gain a solid foundation on what has already been done on the topic, what gaps there are in the literature (which help you develop your specific question) and permit you to place the project and question in context.
Literature reviews ask: What do we know, or not know, about this particular issue/ topic/ subject?
How well you answer this question depends upon:
- the effectiveness of your search for information
- the quality & reliability of the sources you choose
- your ability to synthesize the sources you select
Literature reviews require “re-viewing” what credible scholars in the field have said, done, and found in order to help you:
- Identify what is currently known in your area of interest
- Establish an empirical/ theoretical/ foundation for your research
- Identify potential gaps in knowledge that you might fill
- Develop viable research questions and hypotheses
- Decide upon the scope of your research
- Demonstrate the importance of your research to the field
A literature review is not a descriptive summary of what you found. All works included in the review must be read, evaluated, and analyzed, and synthesized, meaning that relationships between the works must also be discussed.