Literature Reviews are a specific kind of writing assignment that uses critical thinking and analytical skills to create connections between different sources. They are not a simple review of a piece of literature, but rather a comprehensive overview of the research currently available on a topic. Literature Reviews examine several types of sources, though your instructor may have their own requirements regarding the sources you should use.
It can be overwhelming to think about all of the various points of view, approaches, and research represented in the literature. Think about the literature as an on-going conversation. Your job in a literature review is to document this conversation so that you can explain it to someone else who may not have a background in your research area. When reading the literature, make note of concepts, theories, and names of people who occur often- this usually means these are key concepts or players in the conversation you're studying. Visually, this conversation can look like a web, where you have major ideas and scholars who write works that are then responded to by other researchers. You'll start to notice relationships, similarities, differences, and gaps in knowledge among these researchers. Those connections are what your literature review is all about.
1. Establish your topic and scope.
Limit your topic to a specific area in order to make it easier to research. Remember, broad topics are harder to research and write about. Will you limit your topic by time period? By region? By company? By industry? By trend?
2. Find the research.
Make a plan for your research and start! Your plan could be a simple sheet of paper with ideas for various sources. Think about looking in the research databases for journal articles, the library and the consortium for books, professional associations for white papers, etc.
3. Organize your discoveries.
Keep notes as you read about the works individually and the relationships between them, then organize them to help with writing later. Use a source tracker chart or a concept map to help with this. Save your sources in an easily accessible manner, such as with Google Drive, a memory stick, or with a research account like Zotero. Keep a document of citations for your sources correctly formatted in APA to use in your paper, and just in case you need to find your articles again.
The literature refers to the body of research that exists on any given topic. Several sources make up the literature, and can include:
Use the Research Tracker provided by your professor to help keep all of your information and sources straight. This will help you when you're ready to write.