Tips for your Literature Review AssignmentSunday, July 18th, 2010
Understand what literature review assignments really are
So, they have asked you to write a literature review assignment and you think: “I’m so lucky! I love literature!”, you go to your bookcase and take out your favourite novel and you start writing about how much you liked it. Is this right? Not at all.
The first thing you must take into consideration is that a literature review is not a book review and is not a literary essay. Your literature review assignment is not focused on giving your opinion on a certain literary work. In fact, the whole concept of “literature” implied is different, since literature reviews can survey scholarly articles, books and other sources (e.g. dissertations, conference proceedings), always relevant to a particular issue, theory or area of research. Then, it provides a description, summary, and critical evaluation of each work.
Where can you find a literature review?
Most often associated with academic-oriented literature, such as dissertations, a literature review usually precedes a research proposal and results section. The purpose of a literature review assignment is to offer an overview of significant literature published on a topic. It should be focused on the critical points of current knowledge and the different methodological approaches on that specific topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. That is why your work can’t be limited to just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries.
If you were asked to write a literature review assignment, it is probably as part of a larger work. Your main goal is to bring the reader up to date with current literature on a topic and forms the basis for another goal, such as future research that may be necessary in that area.
Why do I need to write a literature review?
What is the purpose of the examiner when he or she asks you to hand in a literature review? Besides increasing your knowledge about the topic, writing a literature review lets you gain and demonstrate skills in two areas, such as information seeking (since you have to identify the useful articles or books among a huge list of literature available) and critical appraisal (since you have to distinguish between unbiased and valid studies).
Organizing your work
As in a research essay (since the review requires lots of research), a proper organization is a must. Sketch your work and make sure your review has the following stages: problem formulation (in which you establish the topic), literature search (in which you list materials you find relevant to your subject), data evaluation (in which you determine which literature makes a significant contribution to the topic) and analysis and interpretation (in which you conclude and decide the value of each contributions and the “holes” in the topic that require more work).
Finally, if writing a literature review assignment sound way too difficult for you to deal with, don’t take your chances handing in free assignments, since they are not safe and they will probably get you into big trouble.