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Boatwright Memorial Library

RHCS 295: Qualitative Research: Literature Review Process

What is a Literature Review?

The literature review is a written explanation by you, the author, of the research already done on the topic, question or issue at hand. 

A literature view provides a thorough overview of the topic and should include the major scholars in the field.  This is critical as a written literature review should provide understanding to your reader about the major findings and current gaps in what we know so far about the topic. 

The literature review is not a list, like an annotated bibliography.  It is a narrative helping your reader understand the topic and where you will "stand" in the debate between scholars regarding the interpretation of meaning and understanding why things happen.

A good literature review should help the reader sense what direction you will go in regarding the methods used to answer a research question as well as what preceding arguments and evidence the author feels best move understanding on the topic forward.

You will find the literature review process everywhere once you start reading scholars' books and articles.  Their literature reviews are excellent sources for determining how other researchers have designed their projects, definitions of terms or problems, and hypotheses that have already been tested.

A wide variety of resources can be included in a literature review, such as: books, journal articles, news articles, working papers, conference proceedings, websites and reports.  These resources provide overviews of a topic, history of approaches to a problem, descriptions of research methods, and the bibliographies used to create them.

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