This chapter deals with what researchers mean by a literature review, and discusses the purpose as well as the scope of your review. Primary literature is a literary work or a report by someone with first-hand knowledge (such as the author of “Sonny’s Blues”). Secondary literature is any text that discusses the primary text. Secondary literature includes scholarly analyses, interpretations, criticisms, and other forms of commentary. Your research paper will include both primary and secondary sources. On the page Reviewing the Secondary Literature, we include a video about how to avoid common literature review pitfalls as well as how to understand the “intellectual heritage” of your topic or problem. The page Types of Literature Reviews offers an overview of the many different types of literature reviews, with an example of each. These should provide some insight into how to organize your findings and structure your study.
Finally, Reading Like a Researcher is an important section designed to demystify scholarly articles and books and to make your literature review more efficient. We focus on the concepts of thinking while reading, strategic skimming, active reading along with some valuable tips for note-taking.
The key takeaway from this chapter is to understand all that goes into a literature review and why they’re so important. This understanding is essential both for establishing the scope of your review and structuring your study. By reading this chapter and responding to the related discussion prompts, you will learn to:
- understand the elements that go into a literature review and their relevance.
- develop skills for reading strategically and efficiently.
- identify current trends, niches, research gaps, and other opportunities to join the scholarly conversation to add your unique perspective.