Conducting a literature review is a means of demonstrating the author’s knowledge about a particular field of study, including vocabulary, theories, key variables and phenomena, and its methods and history. Conducting a literature review also informs the student of the influential researchers and research groups in the field (Randolph, 2009).
- report on knowledge and ideas that have been established on a particular topic, including their strengths and weaknesses while they allow you to discover the agreed academic opinion on the topic while at the same time letting you find out the disagreements on the same subject.
- position your research project within the body of literature and thereby provide perspective for the reader.
- demonstrate your knowledge of the subject area.
- determine what each source contributes to the topic.
- understand the relationship between the various contributions, identify and (if possible) resolve contradictions, and determine gaps or unanswered questions.
- justify your choice of research design; for instance, your choice of qualitative over quantitative approaches, or your method of data analysis.
- clarify how your work fills a gap in the scholarly literature.
Writing a literature review also allows you to:
- gain expertise in the ability to scan the literature on a particular topic efficiently, and
- hone your skills in identifying and analysing unbiased and valid data on various topics or fields of study.
Source: Randolph, J.J. 2009. A guide to writing the dissertation literature review. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation. 14 (13): 1-13.