Scientific Literature Review

Evaluating the credibility of sources is one of the most difficult aspects of a literature review, especially with the ease of finding information on the internet.The only real way to evaluate is through experience, but there are luckily a few tricks for evaluating information quickly and accurately. Google does not distinguish or judge the quality of results, only how search engine friendly a paper is.All sides of an argument must be clearly explained, to avoid bias, and areas of agreement and disagreement should be highlighted.

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This Study Guide explains why literature reviews are needed, and how they can be conducted and reported.

Related Study Guides are: Referencing and bibliographies, Avoiding plagiarism, Writing a dissertation, What is critical reading? The focus of the Study Guide is the literature review within a dissertation or a thesis, but many of the ideas are transferable to other kinds of writing, such as an extended essay, or a report.

The fact that a researcher is undertaking the research program speaks for its importance, and an educated reader may well be insulted that they are not allowed to judge the importance for themselves.

They want to be re-assured that it is a serious paper, not a pseudo-scientific sales advertisement.

It would be safer and probably more realistic to say that your research will ‘address a gap’, rather than that it will ‘fill a gap’.

When readers come to your assignment, dissertation, or thesis, they will not just assume that your research or analysis is a good idea; they will want to be persuaded that it is relevant and that it was worth doing.Otherwise, this is usually perceived as being a little lazy, and it is better to organize the review around ideas and individual points.As a general rule, especially for a longer review, each paragraph should address one point, and present and evaluate all of the available evidence, from all possible differing points of view.It is an important showcase of your talents of: understanding, interpretation, analysis, clarity of thought, synthesis, and development of argument.The process of conducting and reporting your literature review can help you clarify your own thoughts about your study.It can also establish a framework within which to present and analyse the findings.After reading your literature review, it should be clear to the reader that you have up-to-date awareness of the relevant work of others, and that the research question you are asking is relevant. Be wary of saying that your research will solve a problem, or that it will change practice.Whilst some literature reviews can be presented in a chronological order, this is best avoided.For example, a review of Victorian Age Physics may certainly present J. Thomson’s famous experiments in a chronological order.The ability to review, and to report on relevant literature is a key academic skill.A literature review: To some extent, particularly with postgraduate research, the literature review can become a project in itself.

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