A lit review, or a review of the literature, is a critical analysis of the existing body of scholarship on a particular topic. The literature review does in part summarize, but more importantly compares, contrasts, analyzes, explores relationships and connections, and synthesizes.
It can be a stand-alone article, a selective introduction to an article length paper, or serve as a comprehensive introduction to a more in-depth research paper, thesis, or dissertation.
What is the purpose of a literature review?
The lit review can:
This allows you to:
Some questions to ask of the literature you are reviewing
Literature reviews may be selective or comprehensive, however most JSOU assignments will require a brief lit review that serves as an overview which sets the stage for your research paper. To achieve this you will need to be selective in the number of sources you include.
Begin broad and narrow your focus. A good comprehensive understanding is vital, but from there you will need to home in on those articles and books which most directly relate to the well-defined research question you intend to address.
The importance of currency (or timeliness) can vary by discipline and the parameters of your assignment/research goal. Keeping apprised of the most current research findings is particularly important in the sciences and medicine, while the social sciences and humanities may benefit from a longer, more historically inclusive approach. Regardless of discipline however, it is always wise to keep current in your field of expertise.
There are several types of lit reviews. However, this guide addresses the narrative or traditional review as it is the one required in JSOU courses.
The narrative or traditional literature review provides summary, critique, and draws conclusions about a body of literature on a particular topic. These are common in academic assignments as it is beneficial in getting an overview of existing knowledge, highlighting inconsistencies or gaps, and bringing to light new research possibilities. This can also be a helpful exercise in focusing a topic and refining your research question.
Pautasso M (2013) Ten simple rules for writing a literature review. PLoS Comput Biol, 9(7): e1003149. Retrieved from http://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003149