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The Literature Review: 2. Why Do a Literature Review?

This guide provides an introduction to the conduct and organization of a literature review

1. Reasons for Doing a Literature Review

  • Class assignment
  • Thesis for a master's degree
  • Foundation for a doctoral dissertation

2. Purposes of a Literature Review

Hart (1998) identifies the following purposes, which are not ranked in order of importance, since no one purpose is seen as being of greater significance than another:

  1. distinguishing what has been done from what needs to be done;
  2. discovering important variables relevant to the topic;
  3. synthesizing and gaining a new perspective;
  4. identifying relationships between ideas and practice;
  5. establishing the context of the topic or problem;
  6. rationalizing the significance of the problem;
  7. enhancing and acquiring the subject vocabulary;
  8. understanding the structure of the subject;
  9. relating ideas and theory to applications;
  10. identifying the main methodologies and research techniques that have been used;
  11. placing the research in a historical context to show familiarlity with state-of-the-art developments.

   (Hart, 1998, p. 27)

3. Components of a Literature Review

1. Problem formulation

  • What is the topic being examined?
  • What are the component issues?

2. Literature search

  • To identify materials relevant to the topic

3. Data evaluation

  • To identify which literature makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the topic

4. Analysis and interpretation

  • Discussion of the findings and conclusions of pertinent literature