A literature review or narrative review is a type of review article. A literature review is a scholarly paper, which includes the current knowledge including substantive findings, as well as theoretical and methodological contributions to a particular topic. Literature reviews are secondary sources, and do not report new or original experimental work. Most often associated with academic-oriented literature, such reviews are found in academic journals, and are not to be confused with book reviews that may also appear in the same publication. Literature reviews are a basis for research in nearly every academic field. A narrow-scope literature review may be included as part of a peer-reviewed journal article presenting new research, serving to situate the current study within the body of the relevant literature and to provide context for the reader. In such a case, the review usually precedes the methodology and results sections of the work.
Producing a literature review may also be part of graduate and post-graduate student work, including in the preparation of a thesis, dissertation, or a journal article. Literature reviews are also common in a research proposal or prospectus (the document that is approved before a student formally begins a dissertation or thesis).
A fourth type, the systematic review, is often classified separately, but is essentially a literature review focused on a research question, trying to identify, appraise, select and synthesize all high-quality research evidence and arguments relevant to that question. A meta-analysis is typically a systematic review using statistical methods to effectively combine the data used on all selected studies to produce a more reliable result.
Process and product
Shields and Rangarajan (2013) distinguish between the process of reviewing the literature and a finished work or product known as a literature review.:193–229 The process of reviewing the literature is often ongoing and informs many aspects of the empirical research project.
A careful literature review is usually 15 to 30 pages and could be longer. The process of reviewing the literature requires different kinds of activities and ways of thinking. Shields and Rangarajan (2013) and Granello (2001) link the activities of doing a literature review with Benjamin Bloom’s revised taxonomy of the cognitive domain (ways of thinking: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating).
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- Hart, Chris (2018). Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Research Imagination. SAGE Study Skills Series. SAGE. pp. xiii. ISBN 9781526423146.
- Baglione, L. (2012). Writing a Research Paper in Political Science. Thousand Oaks, California: CQ Press.
- Adams, John; Khan, Hafiz T A; Raeside, Robert (2007). Research methods for graduate business and social science students. New Delhi: SAGE Publications. p. 56. ISBN 9780761935896.
- Bolderston, Amanda (June 2008). "Writing an Effective Literature Review". Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences. 39 (2): 86–92. doi:10.1016/j.jmir.2008.04.009.
- Shields, Patricia; Rangarjan, Nandhini (2013). A Playbook for Research Methods: Integrating Conceptual Frameworks and Project Management. Stillwater, Oklahoma: New Forums Press. ISBN 1-58107-247-3.
- Baker, P. (2000). "Writing a Literature Review". The Marketing Review. 1 (2): 219–247.
- Granello, D. H. (2001). "Promoting cognitive complexity in graduate written work: Using Bloom's taxonomy as a pedagogical tool to improve Literature Reviews". Counselor Education & Supervision. 40: 292–307.
- Cooper, Harris M. (1998). Synthesizing Research: A Guide for Literature Reviews. Applied Social Research Methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-0761913481.
- Creswell, John W. (2013). "Review of the Literature". Research Design. Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Method Approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. ISBN 9781452226101.
- Dellinger, Amy B. (2005). "Validity and the Review of Literature". Research in the Schools. 12 (2): 41–54.
- Dellinger, Amy B.; Leech, Nancy L. (2007). "Toward a Unified Validation Framework in Mixed Methods Research". Journal of Mixed Methods Research. 1 (4): 309–332.
- Galvan, José L. (2015). Writing Literature Reviews: A Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (6th ed.). Pyrczak Publishing. ISBN 978-1936523375.
- Green, Bart N.; Johnson, Claire D.; Adams, Alan (2006). "Writing Narrative Literature Reviews for Peer-Reviewed Journals: Secrets of the Trade". Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. 5 (3): 101–114.
- Hart, Chris (2008). "Literature Reviewing and Argumentation". In Hall, Gerard; Longman, Jo. The Postgraduate's Companion. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1-4129-3026-0.
- Hart, Chris (1998). Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination. SAGE Study Skills. London: SAGE Publications. ISBN 9780761959755.
- Hart, Chris (2001). Doing a Literature Search: A Guide for the Social Sciences. SAGE Study Skills. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-0761968108.