A literature review


A literature review is an analysis, evaluation and summary of what has written on a given topic (Galvan & Jose, 2005). Traditionally literature reviews have focused on what has been written and reviewed by notable scholar and academic researchers and that may remain to be the case in the foreseeable future but with the advent of the internet the knowledge base has greatly broadened to include other actors besides the university-based academicians. The internet has made it possible to disseminate research other than relying on academic publications and presses.

It is important to have this in mind when writing a literature review. First, ensure that literature under review is directly related to the thesis one is working on. It is important to cast your net wide as it relates to searching for sources to ensure that the research question you are doing has not been adequately tackled. In case your question has been answered by a prior study then the purpose of your literature review will be to evaluate your proposal in relation to existing knowledge. Secondly, after reviewing all the relevant existing literature one must be able to come to a conclusion and make judgment about the knowledge. Is the information conclusive, is it accurate, is right or wrong? This questions one must be able to give a definitive answer to. Widening your scope is another best practice when writing a literature review; conventionally literature reviews have largely focused on books published by scholars and reputable university presses and that is great because such publications have gone through peer reviews. But is important that one should not be limited to books, the internet is increasingly becoming a great source of information. Besides, some other players outside academia such as think tanks, some non-governmental organizations are also producing research in various fields and sharing them electronically through the internet. Sources such as the internet also helps one to have access to new and updated information.

These are some worst practices that every student writing a literature review should avoid. One, listing material after material without making any attempt to analyze and evaluate them to suit your thesis is a mistake. Literature review is not so much about how much information you have had access to but how you can summarize each study’s main claim. Another precaution is when getting information from the internet. One must be cautious because anyone with access to internet can upload information that may be not accurate or conclusively (Booth, Colomb & William, 2003). As much as the internet is a great source of information it can also be misleading hence one must not overly rely on it.

In conclusion, a good literature should be relevant to your research interests. The existing knowledge should either help you to ground your own research proposal or identify gaps from the existing knowledge that you can work on.


Booth, W., Colomb, G., & Williams, J. (2003). The Craft of Research (2 nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Galvan, Jose L. 2005.Writing Literature Re-views, 3rd ed. Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing.

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