UNDERSTANDING LITERATURE REVIEW

What is the first thought you get when you hear these two words “Literature Review”? For some students and researchers it means a lot of reading, for others, it symbolizes the bulk part of their research work. while others see it as part of their research which the supervisor would make the most corrections. Whatever, the group you fall into, it’s is not bad. This is because all these perceptions about the literature review play a role in their research. Your research topic may also be one with many researched papers in which you have to read between the lines.

It is worth knowing that these results were obtained from observations and experiment which makes it reliable and can be inferred upon. There are three basic elements that ought to be present in your literature review irrespective of the research topic, the scope, and the objectives. These elements serve as the essential supporting structure for a meaningful and comprehensive literature review. Most times these elements are referred to as frameworks. This is because it is on these elements that a good literature review is produced.

A literature review is a section of your research work where you devote your time to understand the nature of your research problem. It enables you to see from the eyes of scholars more clearly what your research problem entails. Your literature review is a compendium of results about or relating to your research problem. The results are findings from academic researches which was carried out by scholars, researchers, organizations and agencies.

Conceptual Review

This review comes up most times as first part of any literature review. The word “concept” is subjective. It is perfectly described as ideas, thoughts, views, that endears individualistic perception towards a given phenomenon. Understanding the literature review demands that the researcher observes and recognizes the various ideas and thoughts of others regarding the problem. For example, if you intend to solve a problem on entrepreneurship; under the conceptual review, you should be able to highlight the views of other scholars and researchers on entrepreneurship.

What was their thought and opinions about entrepreneurship? The same goes for other topics like leadership, family and so on. When you get this understanding right, then you can proceed to the next part of your literature review.

Theoretical Review

For theoretical review, you need to find a theory that best explains your research problem. In Understanding the literature review, theories are principles that prove themselves over time and explain a phenomenon. This means that the basis for choosing a theory is its relevance to explain your research problem. If this element is missing from a theory, you should reject this theory.

What happens if there is no theory that explains my research problem? Some researchers have found themselves in this scenario. When you can’t find a theory that best explains your research problem; then you can choose a theory that attempts to explain the problem. A theory that closely explains your research problem can be adopted in such a situation. Hence, this gap, in theory, could be addressed in your study. However, an in-depth study is recommended for student researchers. This is because they tend to stop at the popular theories. When these popular theories cannot explain their research problem, difficulties arise. Understanding literature review demands that you adopt the best theory for your research work.

Empirical Review

An understanding of the literature review requires a good presentation of empirical works. The empirical review section validates your research problems. It also significantly convinces your project supervisor that you have actually carried out a good study. What is the empirical review? This is simply recognizing what other people have done as it relates to your research. The empirical test differs from other reviews. This is because its results are not based on opinions, assumptions or heresies. Empirical work is rather based on careful observations and experiments.

While this section is important, it is also pertinent to note that the presentation of empirical works matters in the literature review. Of course, the way you present facts can affect its acceptance or rejection. What this means is that in your empirical review section, you must ensure that the works presented are findings obtained by scholars and researchers. These findings were through rigorous observations, experiments, and unbiased statistical analysis. The highlight of empirical works is that the results have been tested and validated. It is on the basis of these empirical works that a researcher can compare results. 

When writing this section, it is expected that empirical works should be presented accordingly. This is done either in ascending order or descending order. Why this is important is that it reveals the gap that each empirical work filled up and the time it did. The empirical review section is most times the third part of the literature review and attracts the attention of research supervisors and the research community. Therefore, this element of literature review demands that the student digs into the books. Like the word research says, search again.

Review Summary

As the name suggests, this section of your literature review gives a brief account of your entire reviews. This implies that during the review summary the striking points in the review are highlighted in the summary section. However, the student researcher must be aware that other related topics can be included in the literature review. This broadness your research scope and your understanding of the research problem you intend to solve.

In summarizing your literature review, the researcher should be able to state the author(s) that best described his concepts and why he thinks so. The researcher should be able to clearly and simply link the adopted theory to his research problem and also acknowledge the empirical work(s) that closely relates to his work.

Finally, the literature review is a significant part of research work and as such requires an understanding of what is expected and how it can be fulfilled. The researcher is therefore mandated to have an understanding of the structure of the literature review in order to produce a perfect review.