A good literature review is the most important element of academic writing, so it is essential for an academic to be equipped with the skills in conducting a good literature review.  A good literature review provides the foundation for academic research.  A good literature review provides previous knowledge for new knowledge to bounce off and will be widely read.  They are a chance to give your feedback and opinion on the published words.  For this to be effective, planning structure, analyzing, good research, the skills to synthesize and sum up information in a clear style and integration with previous work is required.  It is not to be confused with a book review.  Unlike a book review relying on one source, a literature review analyses several sources to evaluate the knowledge in the area.  There is a constant stream of scientific publications getting heavier every year, academics cannot possibly read all papers on their subject in detail otherwise they would never have a chance to research and write papers of their own! To be productive an academic must rely on a good literature review.

Choosing a topic to review can prove difficult as there are plenty to choose from, but it’s best if you choose a topic within your field, especially one that is important.  Additionally, choose a subject you are interested in, as your interest and passion for the subject matter will make it exciting to read, raising the interest of more people, and will also make it easier researching for yourself. A well-defined subject will negate the need for references to too many publications, but the references used will be looked into at a much greater depth.  Also in conducting a good literature review you should focus on a target audience.

For conducting of a good literature review you should include the historical background of the topic, consider schools of thought, and make a fusion of available research.  You should highlight and provide critiques of research methods and include disagreements.  A good literature review highlights gaps in the existing research and provides a justification of the subject you would like to investigate.

Your good literature review should first define the issue analyzed, followed by illuminating trends in publications, issues in research and conflictions in theories.  Next, you should state your purpose in reviewing the literature and relay studies according to commonalties: approach, attitude and findings. Then, provide a summary of individual studies and summarize major schools of thought, evaluate the current body of knowledge and in a conclusion provide the reason your study will add to the body of knowledge.

For academic writing, concerns about writing styles may become apparent.  Many feel academic writing is unapproachable due to its clumsy, bloated style and the use of unnecessary complicated words.  If the writing is not clear and engaging the reader will struggle to pursue it.

Each literature review you write will be better than the last; you can improve with practice – do not lose heart if your first literature review is not perfect.  With these hints you have a head start on conducting a good literature review.

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