Literature review and the purpose of literature review Literature review and the purpose of literature review
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Hamro Library

Literature review and the purpose of literature review


Concept of Literature Review (Review of literature)

Any investigation, whatever the scale, will involve reading what other people have written about your area of interest, gathering information to support or refute your arguments, and writing about your findings. In a small-scale project, you will not be expected to produce a definitive account of the state of research in your selected topic area, but you will need to provide evidence that you have read a certain amount of relevant literature and that you have some awareness of the current state of knowledge on the subject.

The literature review is designed to familiarize the investigator with any relevant information pertaining to the topic being studied. Ideally, the bulk of your reading should come early in the investigation, though in practice a number of activities are generally in progress at the same time and reading may even spill over into the data collecting stage of your study.

Once a topic has been decided upon, it is essential to review all relevant material that has a bearing on the topic. In fact, a review of literature begins with a search for a suitable topic and continues throughout the duration of the research project work. Since a researcher report, either a dissertation or a thesis is supposed to be a study in depth aiming at contribution to knowledge, a careful check should be made that the proposed study has not previously been carried out.

Completely new and original problems are rare, however, a previous study should not exactly be replicated unless the techniques used had been facility or the findings and conclusions doubtful or unless some new sources of information had been discovered to shed new light on the problem. It is necessary to show how the problem under investigation relates to previous research studies. In some subject areas, it is important to locate the problem within a theoretical framework and in such cases, the underlying theory needs to be reviewed as well. It is useful in initially surveying a field of work from the general to the specific or to work from tertiary and secondary sources of information to primary sources.

The main reason for a review of literature in the past is to know the outcome of those investigations in areas where similar concepts and methodologies had been used successfully. Further, an extensive or even exhaustive process of such review may offer vital links with the various trends and phases in the researches in one's area of specification, familiarizing with the characteristics precepts, concepts, and interpretations, with the special terminology, with the rationale for undertaking one's proposed investigation.

Each research has a formal and systematic structure, which generates appropriate norms for evaluating its outcome. In this connection, a review of previous related research will help the research to formulate a satisfactory structure for his research.

Purpose of the Literature Review

A collective body of works done by earlier scientists is technically called the literature. Any scientific investigation starts with a review of the literature. The main objectives of a review of the literature are enumerated below.

1. Identifying variables relevant for research
When the researcher makes a careful review of the literature, he becomes aware of the important and unimportant variables in the concerned area of research. A careful review also helps the researcher in selecting the variables lying within the scope of his interest, in defining and operational variables, and in identifying variables that are conceptually and practically important. Thus a review of the literature, on the whole, prepares the researcher to formulate a researchable problem in which conceptually and practically important variables are selected.

2. Avoidance of repetition
A review of the literature helps the researcher in avoiding any duplication of work done earlier. A careful review always aims at interpreting prior studies and indicating their usefulness for the study to be undertaken. Thus prior studies serve as the foundation for the present studies. In some cases the duplication or replication of prior studies becomes essential. This is especially true when the researcher wants to test the validity of the earlier studies. In such a situation, too, a careful review helps the researcher in getting acquainted with the number and nature of the studies related to the study whose validity is being assessed at present.

3. Synthesis of prior works

A careful review of the literature enables the researcher to collect and synthesize prior studies related to the present study. This, in turn, helps him in building a better perspective for future research. A synthesized collection of prior studies also helps a researcher to identify the significant overlaps and gaps among the prior works.

4. Determining meaning and relationship among variables
A careful review of the literature enables the researcher in discovering important variables relevant to the area of the present research. When significant variables are discovered, the relationship among them can be identified. Subsequently, the identified relationship is incorporated into different hypotheses. Thus, for conducting a scientific study, the relationship between the different variables must be explored by reviewing the literature so that a good context may be built up for subsequent investigations.

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