One of the first few parts in writing a research paper is the review of related literature. When I was still a student, this section just intimidates me as it sounded like it requires a lot of reading and writing. True enough, it does.
However, the review of related literature anchors your research in the academic field that cradles your research topic. It reveals historical information, trends, and research gaps. A literature review is not just a collection of summaries of published materials that are related to your topic. It requires organization, analysis, and synthesis.
Furthermore, a review of related literature is still an essay. An essay declares a specific point. This holds true in writing a literature review. You should have a claim with regards to the synthesis of topics, research methodology, findings, and limitations of the academic materials you have collated.
If you will be writing a review of related literature for your research paper, you most likely have clearly defined your topic and research problem. With this, you can already begin your review.
Search, research, and read
In searching for related literature, you should determine the scope of your review. What research material will you include? How can you have access to such materials? You should also identify the publication date of your research materials.
Most research papers nowadays utilize contemporary research materials as to ensure the relevance of the data they present. However, you can still include classic works if you wish to establish the historical context of your topic.
Still, you need to be realistic. Research paper writing is usually time bound. Collate research literature that you will be able to scan through within the given period of writing your research paper. Also, consider the availability of the research material.
When you read a research material, be critical of its references as you can use this as a source of more research materials.
Take notes and annotate
You should take note of the bibliographic information of your research materials. If you already know the citation style to use for your paper, then it would help if you follow the citation style in your annotation. This will save you time when you need to list your references.
Take note of crucial sections from your research materials such as historical facts, related concepts, theoretical framework, methodologies, findings, significance, limitations, and recommendations. You can organize these pieces of information through a spreadsheet for easier analysis.
Analyze and synthesize
In doing the analysis and synthesis of the information you have gathered, look for patterns, gaps, and issues. If you see a certain author multiple times in various literature, then that author will be worth further scrutiny. Why is the author recurring in different secondary sources? Find similarities, differences, strengths, and weaknesses.
Developing your claim
After analyzing and synthesizing your materials, you can now develop a claim about what you have discovered. Your claim can be about a critical emerging pattern about the methodology being used in the in studies with a similar research problem.
Make sure that you can logically defend this claim using the information you have derived from your research.
Doing research and writing a review of related literature requires scrutiny and critical thinking. That’s why it is advisable for you to select a topic that genuinely interests you. With this, you will develop a natural curiosity about the topic. In effect, finding more information about it will be enjoyable for you.