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HD FS 315Y: Family Development

Alice Long

Literature Reviews

What is a Literature Review?
The literature review is a critical look at the existing research that is significant to the work that you are carrying out. This overview identifies prominent research trends in addition to assessing the overall strengths and weaknesses of the existing research.


Purpose of the Literature Review

  • To provide background information about a research topic.
  • To establish the importance of a topic.
  • To demonstrate familiarity with a topic/problem.
  • To “carve out a space” for further work and allow you to position yourself in a scholarly conversation.


Characteristics of an effective literature review
In addition to fulfilling the purposes outlined above, an effective literature review provides a critical overview of existing research by

  • Outlining important research trends.
  • Assessing strengths and weaknesses (of individual studies as well the existing research as a whole).
  • Identifying potential gaps in knowledge.
  • Establishing a need for current and/or future research projects.

Steps of the Literature Review Process


1) Planning: identify the focus, type, scope and discipline of the review you intend to write.
2) Reading and Research: collect and read current research on your topic. Select only those sources that are most relevant to your project.
3) Analyzing: summarize, synthesize, critique, and compare your sources in order to assess the field of research as a whole.
4) Drafting: develop a thesis or claim to make about the existing research and decide how to organize your material.
5) Revising: revise and finalize the structural, stylistic, and grammatical issues of your paper.


This process is not always a linear process; depending on the size and scope of your literature review, you may find yourself returning to some of these steps repeatedly as you continue to focus your project.

 

These steps adapted from the full workshop offered by the Graduate Writing Center at Penn State. See the CSU Bakersfield guide here.