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A literature review critically evaluates existing research on a particular topic. It draws on primary and secondary sources to provide an overview of the current state of knowledge about a topic. A literature review is often used to inform the design of a research project or study.
The following are different types of literature reviews:
A systematic review follows a formal protocol that helps ensure that the search for relevant studies is comprehensive, that studies are selected unbiasedly, and that data are extracted reliably. Systematic reviews follow a detailed, reproducible methodology that allows for detailed descriptions of every stage in the process.
A meta-analysis is a statistical analysis combining results from independent studies to estimate overall effects more precisely than any individual study can.
A meta-analysis aims to identify patterns across multiple studies and determine whether they can be attributed to chance or some other factor.
A survey literature review summarizes previous research on a specific topic. This can help you get an overview of the current state of knowledge on your case and identify gaps.
This is usually the first section of a research paper or dissertation. It summarizes the current state of knowledge in the field, introducing essential concepts and explaining how they relate.
It can also include a discussion of gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed by further research—this will help set up your project to address some of these issues.
An empirical review aims to identify patterns and trends within the existing literature, often using quantitative methods such as meta-analysis or content analysis.
Practical considerations can also be qualitative – for example, if you want to analyze whether there are any differences between male and female attitudes towards climate change mitigation policies, this could be done using qualitative methods such as interviews or focus groups.
The problem-oriented literature review focuses on a specific problem from the researcher’s point of view. It is intended to inform the research process by providing an overview of previous research on a particular topic. The researcher should provide an in-depth discussion of earlier studies, including their findings, limitations, and implications for further investigation.
The policy-oriented literature review focuses on a policy issue or question that is important to the researcher. It may be used to inform policymakers about the current state of knowledge on a topic or to help them identify gaps in existing knowledge that need to be addressed through new research.
Problem-oriented literature reviews should be written using the following steps:
Define the problem statement clearly, so that it is understandable by both experts and laypeople alike.
Identify all relevant concepts and terminology related to your research area/topic. For example, if you were writing about the effects of drugs on behavior, you would need to define all terms related to drug use, like withdrawal symptoms, and terms related to behavior, like aggression.
Search relevant databases using keywords that identify concepts and terminology relevant to your study but have not yet been identified by others conducting similar studies on similar topics.
When searching these databases, you should look for articles that address your specific research questions, for example, how does marijuana affect aggression?
There are many different approaches to writing literature reviews. Make sure that you’re familiar with the format that your professor expects. You can experiment with traditional and more modern review styles, but always be sure that your analysis is in-depth and analytical. And above all else, be sure to reference any sources thoroughly.