The Importance Of Literature Reviews In Academic Writing


Literature reviews, a key component of scholarly write-ups, call for a high degree of academic maturity from researchers. In addition to exhibiting the depth of your reading, they help demonstrate your grasp in the research area. The review of literature is of high significance in certain disciplines, especially within the social sciences, where it becomes the primary tool to evaluate, juxtapose and critique the existing body of scholarship.

What is a literature review?

To put simply, it is a survey of literature such as books, articles, write-ups, and other sources that help you address the important issues, theories, and concepts of your research. In other words, it examines secondary sources relevant to your research areaand aims to provide a critical evaluation and summary of them your research question. Here are some of the reasons why the review of literature is important in academic writing:

It shows your readers how well you know the field

Firstly, a carefully written literature review test files to your knowledge of the research field. When doing the review, you analyze your sources, examine all central concepts discussed in them, and evaluate their relevance to your research questions. A critical approach to the existing scholarship and thorough exploration and mapping of the field are also required to produce an exhaustive review. Thus, your review indicates how well you know the field and how vigilantly you have done your homework. Consequently, readers will take your scholarly essay or dissertation seriously right from the beginning.

Firstly, a carefully written literature review test files to your knowledge of the research field. When doing the review, you analyze your sources, examine all central concepts discussed in them, and evaluate their relevance to your research questions. A critical approach to the existing scholarship and thorough exploration and mapping of the field are also required to produce an exhaustive review. Thus, your review indicates how well you know the field and how vigilantly you have done your homework. Consequently, readers will take your scholarly essay or dissertation seriously right from the beginning.

It helps you position your research within the field

Writing the review requires you to delve deep into the questions and concepts your predecessors dealt with and the arguments and claims they set forth. You should also examine the gaps in the existing scholarship and place your questions within the wider context. The review also enables you to track the intellectual progression and all major debates in your field of study. As a result, you will be able to signpost how you are contributing to the existing scholarship, in what ways you are deviating from it, and how your work fits in within the field of study.

It provides the rationale for your research

A properly written literature review is the best spokesperson for your work. You venture out to do research as you wish to contribute to the existing scholarship and fill certain gaps your predecessors couldn't. Literature review helps you identify such gaps, thereby justifying your research questions and your investigations.

It helps steer clear of inadvertent plagiarism

Be it a scholarly paper or doctoral thesis, it is important to steer clear of plagiarism of any sort. Sometimes scholars write papers or essays only to realize that their key arguments were already written about or published by others. A comprehensive analysis of the literature relevant to your topic ensures that you know what has already been said, done, and published in your research area and allied fields. The review helps you not just to protect yourself against charges of plagiarism, but also saves your time, effort and resources.

It helps you develop a theoretical framework

Having a theoretical framework is of utmost importance, especially when you write a doctoral dissertation; equally important it is to have your methodology in place. Your theoretical and methodological frameworks rely hugely on what has been done in the field so far. By exposing you to the vast world of scholarship, literature reviews help you on both counts.

It provides support for your research

The literature review you do as part of your dissertation or scholarly essay serves as a supporting proof for your arguments and claims. It is an authentic precedent for your arguments and theses, and also acts as a solid background for your investigation. A comprehensive review, in other words, is a springboard your scholarly write-up can use to propel itself into the field of study.

It helps you pick your sources wisely

The literature review is also important in that it helps you sift through large numbers of sources and zero in on the ones most relevant to your investigation. As part of writing the review, you examine all possible secondary sources, evaluate their relevance, analyze the arguments they contain at the early stages of your research. This gives you a good grip over the sources, so you can decide which ones to focus on and which ones to discard.

Literature reviews, thus, are not just a formal requirement for writing a scholarly essay or doctoral dissertation. They, on the other hand, are an integral part of any form of scholarly writing.

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