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Reviewing the literature

The main purpose of the literature review is to set the context of your research.

A literature review offers you the opportunity to engage with other researchers in a written dialog form in order to identify if similar work has been carried out. This is done by indicating what you have read, understood and responded to that is a relevant body of knowledge underpinning your research.

The literature review is used to support your identification of a research problem, illustrates that there is a gap in the literature, and identifies theories and previous research studies, which have influenced the choice of research problem. It helps to formulate research questions, and also identifies the methodology that you could adopt for your research.

Overall, the literature review provides a position of strength based on your enhanced knowledge, understanding and insight, for deciding your research question.

Before carrying out a literature review, make sure you have a structure in mind for your review.

This structure can be subdivided based on key themes, headings and subheadings, theoretical perspectives and finally, the chronology.

Three interlinked activities are involved in carrying out a literature review: reading, thinking and writing.

  • Reading: by accessing a broad range of resources you will improve your knowledge around your chosen topic of research.

  • Thinking: by internalising and reflecting on the writing of others you make new links and develop fresh understanding and insights.

  • Writing: in the final stage you draw your thoughts together in summary of what you have read and thought about to inform your research.

Your task

As we have discussed, it is extremely useful to make notes on each resource as you collate your literature.

If you haven’t already done so carry out a search to discover a piece of literature that could help inform your research, read through it and share a short paragraph describing the important content with your fellow learners.

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This article is from the free online course:

Researching Risk, Disasters and Emergencies

Coventry University