Literature Review

Meaning and Definition

When we are thinking and conducting the research project literature review provide fundamental basis. Research start with problems and need some review of existing literature for clarification of problems. It helps to determine what knowledge must be generated from it. For development of theoretical root or conceptual clarity review of literature is the initial stage. literature review helps for clarification of ideas used in research. It is also use for developing methodology. In later stages, it provide a fundamental basis for discussion and drawing conclusions in research.

Literature review is the review or survey of books, articles, scholarly sources for gaining some fundamental knowledge about issues related to research problems. Researchers critically analyze these literature to find out the level of existing knowledge about related topics, methodology used for study, theoretical basis for current study and so on. It provides an overview of current knowledge, identifies the relevant theories, methods used in previous study and gaps between existing literature and our research objectives. Reviewing the literature shows the scientific effect that knowledge creation is a collective process and contribution of one person is a tiny effect for improvement of knowledge. It also suggested that there is inter-dependency in knowledge generation and people continuously contribute for knowledge generation. According to Baker (2002) “ a literature review is  a body of text that aims to review the critical points of current knowledge or a particular topic.” the definition focuses on critically reviewing existing knowledge on current topics which indirectly focus on identification of research gaps.
Conducting literature review involves collection of relevant articles, books and other sources, evaluation of these sources and critically revising the context and relating with research problems. Neuman (2013) argues that doing a literature review builds on the idea that accumulates and that we can learn from and build on what others have done.  Thus, it is a time consuming and sometimes frustrating process but necessary function that must be performed for development of theoretical and conceptual framework, identification of knowledge gaps and so on. It is also necessary for linking the research objectives with existing knowledge and contextualizing the finding of the study. Kumar(2005) argues that literature review helps to bring clarity and focus on research problems, improve methodology, broaden knowledge base in the research area and contextualize your findings. According to Bryman (2008) by exploring the literature review following purposed must be fulfill:

  • What is already about this area?
  • What concepts and theories are relevant to this area?
  • What research methods and research strategies have been employed in the study area?
  • Are there any significant controversies?
  • Are there any inconsistencies in finding related to this area?
  • Are there any unanswered research questions in this area?

Functions of literature Review

Literature reviews are an integral part of research and conduct it even when researchers start the research. Following are the main functions of conducting literature review:

  • Clarification of issues of research.
  • Check the degree of deviation of research objectives from existing literature review.
  • Development of theoretical framework of research.
  • Development of conceptual framework of research.
  • Clarification of methodology and methods used in research.
  • Writing of discussion and report of research.

Phases of Literature Review

Kumar argues that there are four steps of reviewing the literature. Searching for existing literature, reviewing the literature, development of theoretical framework and development of conceptual framework are the main phases. Similarly, Haywood & Wragg (1982) suggest that literature review is the process involving locating, obtaining, reading and evaluating the research literature. The term locating refer to the search of relevant literature, obtaining refer to getting the search literature from source, reading refer to looking at collected literature for critical review and evaluation critical review of contain. We can now conclude that following are the main phases of literature review:

  • Searching: It is the first phase of literature review process where researchers try to find out the source of relevant literature review. Researchers try to find out the source for access to relevant books, journal articles, bibliography and so on. These days the internet plays a vital role for finding the source of existing literature for research.
  • Obtaining: after searching the source for access to relevant literature review research, collect these literature from identified sources. These days researchers collect vast literature (selected books, articles and bibliography) from the internet.
  • Reading and Evaluating: it is the vital stage of literature review. In this stage, researchers read the collected literature. It is a time consuming and frustrating phase of literature review but reading of these collected literature  helps research for selection of vital literature and critically examine the literature. Researchers evaluate the related literature on the basis of methodology use, finding, date, nature of study. After critically evaluating the literature researcher, select which literature must be selected and which must be ignored. Research keeps the note related to objective methodology used, operationalization of concepts,  finding and conclusion.
  • Writing: in this phase researchers write systematically by dividing the whole review into different topics like conceptual review, policy review, historical review, empirical review and so on.

Literature Meta Analysis

In the traditional way of literature review researcher search, review and write the review in research paper. It is a time consuming and very frustrating case for research. Thus, for reviewing the large pool of relevant literature researchers nowadays, use the techniques where statistical methods collect integrative views of existing knowledge related to issues. This technique is called meta analysis. It is the  technique which uses statistical methods for review from relatively large sources of literature by saving time and effort to collect the integrative view from existing literature. It is called qualitative methods basically used for reviewing large literature articles, bibliography and so on using the specific format.

Meta analysis involves generating the details about a large number of previous studies and synthesizing the results. It lies between two kinds of activities: doing a literature review for existing studies in an area of interest and conducting a secondary analysis for other researcher’s data (Bryman, 2008). Thus, there is a broad purpose of meta analysis in research. Its use ranges from clarification of existing issues, operational definition, methodological consideration, epistemological and ontological consideration, and secondary source of data. Wilson & Lipsey (2001) conclude that meta analysis is appropriate to be collection of result that:

  • Are empirical, rather than theoretical,
  • Produce quantitative result rather than qualitative finding,
  • Examine the some constructs and relationships,
  • Have finding that can be configured in a comparable statistical form,
  • Are comparable given the research question at hand.

Meta analysis for quantitative studies relevant information about sample size, measure of variables methodological quality, and size of effect of variable and for qualitative studies considered coded into a set of categories and results are synthesized qualitatively to reveal recurrent themes (Nueman, 2015). Thus, meta analysis is the special type of literature review in which researchers organize the review in special format from large existing literature and use statistics for deriving the common finding of studies.

Following are the main steps for conducting meta analysis according to Neuman (2015):

  1. Locate all potential studies on a specific topic or research question,
  2. Develop consistent criteria and screen studies for relevance and/or quality,
  3. Identify and record relevant information for each study,
  4. Synthesize and analysis the information into board finding,
  5. Draw a summary conclusion based on the findings.

Reference Used

Baker M. J. (2000). Writing Literature Review, The Marketing Review, 1(2). 197-218.

Bryman A. (2008). Social research Methods, New york:Oxford University Press.

Cooper D. P. & Schindler P. S. (2006). Business Research Methods. New Delhi:Tata McGraw-Hill.

Haywood P. & Wargg, E.C. (1982). Evaluating the literature. Rediguide: Nottingham University

Kerlinger F. N. (1986). Foundation of Behavioural Research. USA: Holt,Rinehart & Winston Inc.

Kumar R. (2008). Research Methodology: Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners. New Delhi: Pearson Education.

Pant P. R. (2009). Social Science Research and Thesis Writing. Kathmandu: Buddha Publication.

Sekaran U. (2003). Research Methods for Business: A Skill Building approach. USE: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Wilson D. B. & Lipsey M. (2001). Practical Meta-Analysis. Thousand Oaks, Calit: Sage Publication

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