The main reason why you will write a literature review is to show that you have read widely around your topic and also you have a good understanding of the previous research and its limitations.
While writing the literature review, you will summarize the important facts and the viewpoints of previous researchers that you encountered during your research. It is at literature review section that you are able to show the value of doing the research by showing what is known, what has not be known and how relevant it is. Literature review provides critical analysis of the available literature and also helps you to show how your research completes the previous studies.
The evolving technology has really simplified the research process. Finding materials is now easy and can be done at the comfort of your house. You no longer need to go to the library to look for materials. The problem with online materials is that they may not be properly scrutinized and therefore citing some of those materials could lead to problems as their authenticity cannot be scrutinized.
You will also notice that items online keep on changing from time to time. Therefore, you might read something today and when you come back tomorrow you find that the item is no longer there or you find that it has been changed. But it is important to note that online sources are not all the useless. They are very useful especially on current affairs and also on recent research.
Websites such as Wikipedia and many other blogs are prone to manipulation and therefore cannot be used academic materials. It is due to these reasons that you are advised to be very careful when adopting online materials for academic reasons. If you are going to use a website, then make sure that it is reputable. The best way to find the right materials is to ask people who already know for example librarians and your lecturers.
Refining and choosing your search terms
Search terms are the terms that will help you locate the right materials for your project. You can begin with the common phrases that must have been used by others researching about the same topic. Most likely, the first searches will not yield useful information. Use one or two of the articles that are on you line of research to look for alternative search terms and continue the search until you find the right articles.
There are also tools that you can use to identify the right keywords and phrases which are similar to your search terms. An example of such a tool is Google Adword Keyword Research Tool. Although this tool is commonly used by internet marketers to find similar keywords, it can also be very beneficial when you are carrying out an academic research too. If you really find it difficult to find the right articles, then you can talk to your supervisor who is most likely to send you in the right direction.
How many sources should you use?
Your university supervisor will definitely advise you on the number of sources that you should use in your research. However, you should read at least double the number of sources required so that you are able to select the ones that are most suited for your research. Your sources should also be of different types e.g. journals, books, conference papers, dissertations, working papers and so on.
Using references according to dates
There are some articles or theories that are so important that it would be wrong not to use them as references irrespective of when they were published. Apart from those very important articles, you may want to reference only articles that were published recently i.e. in the last 5 or 10 years.
The actual writing of literature review
You should start writing your literature review by starting with two broad paragraphs where you show the reader that you understand the topic of study properly. After this, you should embark on discussing literature in your field of study. Finally, you should critique the literature in your area of study that is directly related to your research. This is the point where you should spend most time in during the process of writing your literature review.
It is important to ensure that your literature review is as interactive as possible. The easiest way to achieve this is to summarize each of the sources, reference them accordingly and then group them according to themes.
The theme of your research will develop as go on looking for search terms. It is important that you have headings where you will be storing your summaries. Once you have enough materials which you can use to compare and contrast opposing views, then you can start writing this section of the paper. While comparing these views, it would be important to highlight points of disagreements or conflicting evidence as these are the areas that will earn you lots of marks when you submit your dissertation for marking.
Where you had left some gaps, you should carry out further research to ensure that you have appropriate sources to cover those gaps. A successful literature review will be descriptive, and will also bring to light similar ideas as well as a critical analysis of previous literature and also identifying gaps on those previous documents.
References and Citations
Your lecturer will advise you on the best citation styles that you should employ on your dissertation paper. It is therefore important to ensure that you understand very well how the style works so that you can use it properly.
Ensure that your citations are up to date. Also don’t forget to cite your sources as you write (in-text citations). Referencing your work as you continue writing is easier than having to do the references when you have completed writing the paper.
Correcting the draft
Now that you have competed the initial writing of the literature, we can call this the first draft. Each of the section has been written by theme. You should go back and read the whole of it to ensure that the sections flow logically and that the piece reads coherently and sensibly. Also ensure that you have used the right grammar, there are no spelling mistakes, errors or any other form of inconsistencies.