LITERATURE REVIEW

As part of the planning process you should have done a LITERATURE REVIEW, which is a survey of important articles, books and other sources pertaining to your research topic. Now, for the second main section of your research report you need to write a summary of the main studies and research related to your topic. This review of the professional literature relevant to your research question will help to contextualize, or frame, your research. It will also give readers the necessary background to understand your research.

Evaluating other studies:
In a review of the literature, you do not merely summarize the research findings that others have reported. You must also evaluate and comment on each study's worth and validity. You may find that some published research is not valid. If it also runs counter to your hypothesis, you may want to critique it in your review. Don't just ignore it. Tell how your research will be better/overcome the flaws. Doing this can strengthen the rationale for conducting your research.

Selecting the studies to include in the review:
You do not need to report on every published study in the area of your research topic. Choose those studies which are most relevant and most important.

Organizing the review:
After you have decided which studies to review, you must decide how to order them. In making your selection, keep your research question in mind. It should be your most important guide in determining what other studies are revelant. Many people simple create a list of one-paragraph summaries in chronological order. This is not always the most effective way to organize your review. You should consider other ways, such as...
  • By topic
  • Problem -> solution
  • Cause -> effect

Another approach is to organize your review by argument and counter argument. For example, You may write about those studies that disagree with your hypothesis, and then discuss those that agree with it. Yet another way to organize the studies in your review is to group them according to a particular variable, such as age level of the subjects (child studies, adult studies, etc.) or research method (case studies, experiments, etc.).

The end of the review:
The purpose of your review of the literature was to set the stage for your own research. Therefore, you should conclude the review with a statement of your hypothesis, or focused research question. When this is done, you are ready to proceed with part three of your research report, in which you explain the methods you used.