The literature review
The literature review
A major part of any study, the literature review has a variety of influences over a project which may not be immediately apparent to those new to the research field. In essence, pulling a number of citations out of a search engine to request from the library is only one small element of this important tool in addressing the research question. Before discussing the practicalities of the literature review we need to establish what it is, why it is necessary to do one in the first place, and how such a review fits into both the research process and the finished dissertation. Before being able to establish a research question or decide on a design to address a clinical problem, it is necessary to have an awareness of published material pertaining to that subject. In broad terms, what do we already know? Through an appraisal of the literature, one can identify if further investigation is merited, avoid duplication, and benefit from the experiences of those exploring similar issues.… It is generally unwise to define something as important as a dissertation topic without first obtaining a broad familiarity with the field. (Rudestam and Newton, 1992, p.9) (1)… A comprehensive review of the literature will ensure you have a grasp of up-to-date knowledge, which is key to putting any research project into context. Whilst in-depth critical appraisal of the relevant literature may not be necessary at this point, one can see that a literature review is required to turn an interesting idea into a research question. Having established its role in the conception of a research question, once the project is underway the review serves a variety of purposes. No research is unique in all its aspects—at least some of the features addressed in the project will have been previously described and may be used to justify why further investigation is required. To this end each individual research project forms one part of a bigger ‘evidence-based jigsaw puzzle’. Without an appreciation of all the other bits of the puzzle it is impossible to provide a background and identify a gap in the knowledge base which we wish to address.
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