This week, our keynotes lecture was with Dr. Martyn Woodward and was about academic forensics, specifically the literature review – this means, what is already known? Who knows it? And what is missing?
What is a literature review?
A literature review is a summary of what an existing scholar knows about a particular topic. It is always based on secondary sources – so, what other people have already written on the subject – a literature review is not about discovering new knowledge and information. Because of this, a literature review is a prelude to further research and a digest of scholarly opinions. A literature review should focus on only the relevant academic literature – popular or non-academic sources can be brought in occasionally to prove or illustrate a point, although the core interest is always on the theories put together by experts within the field.
What does a literature review do?
- It situates the focus of your research within the context of the wider academic community in your field.
- It addresses your critical review of the relevant literature.
- It identifies a gap within the relevant literature that your research will then attempt to address.
- It identifies literature in other fields that may help to ‘fill’ this gap.
What we need to ask ourselves?
- What questions am I asking?
- Why am I asking these questions?
- Has anyone else done anything similar?
- Is my research relevant to any research, practice or theory within my own field?
- What is already known or understood about this topic?
- How might my research add to this understanding, or challenge existing theories and beliefs?
Where does the literature review go?
It will depend on my chosen topic or question, and form of dissertation.
- It can be a chapter at the start that sets the context – for disciplinary work.
- It can be spread throughout several chapters – for interdisciplinary work.
- It can be spread through the entire dissertation – for transdisciplinary work.