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Why is it important to do a literature review in research?

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 “A substantive, thorough, sophisticated literature review is a precondition for doing substantive, thorough, sophisticated research”. Boote and Baile 2005

Authors of manuscripts treat writing a literature review as a routine work or a mere formality. But a seasoned one knows the purpose and importance of a well-written literature review.  Since it is one of the basic needs for researches at any level, they have to be done vigilantly. Only then the reader will know that the basics of research have not been neglected.

Importance of Literature Review In Research

The aim of any literature review is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of existing knowledge in a particular field without adding any new contributions.   Being built on existing knowledge they help the researcher to even turn the wheels of the topic of research.  It is possible only with profound knowledge of what is wrong in the existing findings in detail to overpower them.  For other researches, the literature review gives the direction to be headed for its success. 

The common perception of literature review and reality:

As per the common belief, literature reviews are only a summary of the sources related to the research. And many authors of scientific manuscripts believe that they are only surveys of what are the researches are done on the chosen topic.  But on the contrary, it uses published information from pertinent and relevant sources like

  • Scholarly books
  • Scientific papers
  • Latest studies in the field
  • Established school of thoughts
  • Relevant articles from renowned scientific journals

and many more for a field of study or theory or a particular problem to do the following:

  • Summarize into a brief account of all information
  • Synthesize the information by restructuring and reorganizing
  • Critical evaluation of a concept or a school of thought or ideas
  • Familiarize the authors to the extent of knowledge in the particular field
  • Encapsulate
  • Compare & contrast

By doing the above on the relevant information, it provides the reader of the scientific manuscript with the following for a better understanding of it:

  • It establishes the authors’  in-depth understanding and knowledge of their field subject
  • It gives the background of the research
  • Portrays the scientific manuscript plan of examining the research result
  • Illuminates on how the knowledge has changed within the field
  • Highlights what has already been done in a particular field
  • Information of the generally accepted facts, emerging and current state of the topic of research
  • Identifies the research gap that is still unexplored or under-researched fields
  • Demonstrates how the research fits within a larger field of study
  • Provides an overview of the sources explored during the research of a particular topic

Importance of literature review in research:

The importance of literature review in scientific manuscripts can be condensed into an analytical feature to enable the multifold reach of its significance.  It adds value to the legitimacy of the research in many ways:

  • Provides the interpretation of existing literature in light of updated developments in the field to help in establishing the consistency in knowledge and relevancy of existing materials
  • It helps in calculating the impact of the latest information in the field by mapping their progress of knowledge.
  • It brings out the dialects of contradictions between various thoughts within the field to establish facts
  • The research gaps scrutinized initially are further explored to establish the latest facts of theories to add value to the field
  • Indicates the current research place in the schema of a particular field
  • Provides information for relevancy and coherency to check the research
  • Apart from elucidating the continuance of knowledge, it also points out areas that require further investigation and thus aid as a starting point of any future research
  • Justifies the research and sets up the research question
  • Sets up a theoretical framework comprising the concepts and theories of the research upon which its success can be judged
  • Helps to adopt a more appropriate methodology for the research by examining the strengths and weaknesses of existing research in the same field
  • Increases the significance of the results by comparing it with the existing literature
  • Provides a point of reference by writing the findings in the scientific manuscript
  • Helps to get the due credit from the audience for having done the fact-finding and fact-checking mission in the scientific manuscripts
  • The more the reference of relevant sources of it could increase more of its trustworthiness with the readers
  • Helps to prevent plagiarism by tailoring and uniquely tweaking the scientific manuscript not to repeat other’s original idea
  • By preventing plagiarism , it saves the scientific manuscript from rejection and thus also saves a lot of time and money
  • Helps to evaluate, condense and synthesize gist in the author’s own words to sharpen the research focus
  • Helps to compare and contrast to  show the originality and uniqueness of the research than that of the existing other researches
  • Rationalizes the need for conducting the particular research in a specified field
  • Helps to collect data accurately for allowing any new methodology of research than the existing ones
  • Enables the readers of the manuscript to answer the following questions of its readers for its better chances for publication
  • What do the researchers know?
  • What do they not know?
  • Is the scientific manuscript reliable and trustworthy?
  • What are the knowledge gaps of the researcher?

22. It helps the readers to identify the following for further reading of the scientific manuscript:

  • What has been already established, discredited and accepted in the particular field of research
  • Areas of controversy and conflicts among different schools of thought
  • Unsolved problems and issues in the connected field of research
  • The emerging trends and approaches
  • How the research extends, builds upon and leaves behind from the previous research

A profound literature review with many relevant sources of reference will enhance the chances of the scientific manuscript publication in renowned and reputed scientific journals .


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Literature Review: Purpose of a Literature Review

  • Literature Review
  • Purpose of a Literature Review
  • Work in Progress
  • Compiling & Writing
  • Books, Articles, & Web Pages
  • Types of Literature Reviews
  • Departmental Differences
  • Citation Styles & Plagiarism
  • Know the Difference! Systematic Review vs. Literature Review

The purpose of a literature review is to:

  • Provide a foundation of knowledge on a topic
  • Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication and give credit to other researchers
  • Identify inconstancies: gaps in research, conflicts in previous studies, open questions left from other research
  • Identify the need for additional research (justifying your research)
  • Identify the relationship of works in the context of their contribution to the topic and other works
  • Place your own research within the context of existing literature, making a case for why further study is needed.

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VIDEO: What is the role of a literature review in research? What's it mean to "review" the literature? Get the big picture of what to expect as part of the process. This video is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license. License, credits, and contact information can be found here:

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Understanding the importance of a literature review in research

  • March 29, 2023

need and importance of review of literature in research

Gerald Naepi

When conducting research, a literature review plays a crucial role as it provides an overview of the existing literature related to a specific topic. Its main objective is to identify the gaps in the current knowledge and provide direction for future research. This article delves into the purpose and structure of a literature review, along with the various types of literature reviews typically employed in research. By familiarising themselves with the different types of literature reviews and their unique features, researchers can determine which review type would best suit their research question and help them achieve their desired results.

Purpose of a literature review in research

The primary goal of a literature review in research is to offer a comprehensive overview of the relevant research within a given area. A well-executed literature review should provide readers with a clear understanding of the theoretical and empirical contributions made in the field, while also highlighting areas that require further exploration or investigation. Additionally, literature reviews help researchers identify gaps in existing knowledge that can lead to new hypotheses or questions for future study.

When conducting a literature review, researchers should pay close attention to key themes and topics covered by previous studies, including the approaches used to answer specific questions or address particular issues. This ensures that any conclusions drawn by the researcher are supported by established evidence and build on prior work in the field. Moreover, when synthesising information from multiple studies, researchers should aim to identify conflicting opinions or discrepancies in the literature and draw implications for further study. Through this process, a comprehensive literature review can provide invaluable insights into the current state of research and inform future studies.

need and importance of review of literature in research

Literature review format

The format of a literature review in research typically consists of the following elements:

Introduction: The introduction is an important part of a literature review, as it gives the reader a sense of what to expect. It should start with a clear statement of the research question or objective, so that the reader understands what the review is trying to achieve. It’s also important to explain why the topic is important, so that the reader understands the relevance of the review. Finally, the introduction should give the reader an overview of the structure and organisation of the review, so that they can easily navigate through the rest of the content.

Search Strategy: The search strategy should be comprehensive, focused, and systematic. It involves selecting appropriate databases, developing effective search terms, and utilizing other sources to collect information. To begin, the researcher needs to determine the most relevant databases to search. Depending on the topic, discipline, and research question, different databases may be more suitable. Some commonly used databases are PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. Once the databases are selected, the researcher can develop a set of search terms that accurately reflect the topic and research question. These search terms can be a combination of keywords and subject headings. Other sources of information may include reference lists, grey literature, conference proceedings, and experts in the field. These sources can provide additional insights and help to ensure a comprehensive search.

The search strategy should be documented in detail to enable replication and transparency. This documentation should include the databases searched, search terms used, search dates, and any filters or limits applied. By having a clear and systematic search strategy, the researcher can ensure that they have identified all relevant literature and that the research findings are reliable and valid.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria: Inclusion criteria refer to the characteristics that a study must have to be included in the review, while exclusion criteria refer to the characteristics that disqualify a study from being included. The inclusion and exclusion criteria may vary depending on the research question, but generally, they should be clearly defined and stated in the methods section of the review. Common criteria include study design, population, intervention or exposure, and outcome measures. For example, a systematic review on the effectiveness of a particular drug for a specific condition may include only randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with a minimum sample size of 50 participants, and exclude non-randomized studies or studies with a high risk of bias.

Defining clear inclusion and exclusion criteria is crucial in ensuring that the studies included in the review are relevant, appropriate, and of high quality. It also helps to minimize bias and enhance the validity of the review’s findings. Additionally, transparent reporting of inclusion and exclusion criteria allows readers to assess the rigor of the review process and the generalizability of the findings to their own context.

Methodology: The methodology section typically involves outlining the procedures and techniques employed to collect relevant data and information, including any data extraction forms that were used. Additionally, this section may also include information about the process of data extraction, such as how the data was collected, coded, and analysed. Furthermore, it is essential to include a description of the quality assessment process used to ensure that the extracted data was reliable and valid. This may involve explaining the criteria used to evaluate the quality of the studies, as well as any potential biases or limitations that were taken into consideration. By providing a thorough description of the methodology, readers will be able to assess the rigor of the research and better understand the context and implications of the findings.

Results: The results section summarises the main outcomes and findings of the review process, including the key themes, concepts, and trends identified in the literature. The results section provides a clear and concise description of the analysed data and should be presented in a logical and organized manner to make it easy for readers to understand. The results section of a literature review provides an overview of the evidence and information obtained from the analysed sources and explains how the findings support or challenge the research question or hypothesis. It is essential to ensure that the results are presented accurately, and any limitations or weaknesses of the study are acknowledged to provide a transparent and objective review of the literature.

Discussion: The discussion section of a literature review in research is an important component that provides a critical analysis of the literature reviewed in the study. This section allows the researcher to present their findings and interpretations of the literature, as well as to draw conclusions about the research question or problem being investigated. In the discussion section, the researcher will typically summarise the key findings of the literature review and then discuss these findings in relation to the research question or problem. The discussion section may also identify gaps in the literature and suggest areas for further research, as well as discuss the implications of the findings for theory, practice, or policy. Ultimately, the discussion section of a literature review should provide a comprehensive and insightful analysis of the literature reviewed, which contributes to the overall understanding of the research question or problem at hand.

Conclusion: The conclusion section in a literature review summarises the key findings and implications of the reviewed studies. It is the final part of the literature review that brings together all the main points and themes discussed in the previous sections. In this section, the researcher should provide a critical evaluation of the reviewed literature, highlighting the strengths and limitations of the studies, and how they relate to the research question or problem. The conclusion section should also address any gaps or inconsistencies in the existing literature and suggest future research directions. Furthermore, it should provide a clear and concise summary of the main findings and their significance for the field of study.

References: The reference section provides a comprehensive list of all the sources that have been cited in the literature review, including books, journal articles, reports, and other relevant materials. The purpose of the reference section is to give credit to the authors whose work has been used to support the arguments and ideas presented in the paper. Additionally, the reference section allows readers to locate and retrieve the sources that have been cited, which can help them further explore the topic or verify the accuracy of the information presented. The reference section is typically organized in alphabetical order by the last name of the first author of each source, and it includes all of the necessary bibliographic information such as the title of the work, the name of the journal or book, the date of publication, and the page numbers

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need and importance of review of literature in research

Types of literature review in research

Literature reviews in research can be conducted for a variety of reasons, including to gain a comprehensive understanding of a topic, to identify research gaps, or to support the development of research proposals.

Here are the different types of literature reviews in research:

  • Narrative Literature Review: A narrative literature review is an overview of the literature on a specific topic or research question that does not follow a structured or systematic approach. It is a qualitative review that summarizes and synthesizes the findings from different studies.
  • Systematic Literature Review: A systematic literature review is a rigorous and structured approach to reviewing literature that involves a comprehensive search strategy, inclusion/exclusion criteria, and critical appraisal of the quality of evidence. It involves a meta-analysis and quantitative synthesis of data from multiple studies.
  • Meta-analysis: A meta-analysis is a quantitative review of the literature that involves statistical analysis of the data from multiple studies. It combines the results of different studies to produce an overall estimate of the effect size of a particular intervention or treatment.
  • Scoping Review: A scoping review is a type of literature review that aims to map the existing literature on a topic, identify research gaps, and provide an overview of the evidence. It is useful when the research question is broad or unclear.
  • Rapid Review: A rapid review is a type of systematic review that uses streamlined methods to quickly and efficiently review the literature. It is useful when there is a time constraint or when there is a need to update a previous review.
  • Umbrella Review: An umbrella review is a type of systematic review that synthesizes the findings of multiple systematic reviews on a particular topic. It provides a higher level of evidence by combining the findings from multiple studies.
  • Critical Review: A critical review involves the evaluation and analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the literature on a particular topic. It assesses the quality, credibility, and relevance of the literature and identifies research gaps.

Literature review example:

A literature review can play a crucial role in connecting with qualitative talanoa research. Talanoa is a research approach that emphasises collaboration, dialogue, and relationships within Pacific communities. Conducting a thorough literature review can help researchers to identify existing knowledge and gaps in ta specific field. This can inform the design of Talanoa research that centers on community engagement and dialogue. By reviewing literature that focuses on Pacific cultures, histories, and knowledge systems, researchers can develop a deeper understanding of the context and values of the community they are working with. This can help to build trust and establish meaningful relationships between researchers and community members.

An example of a literature review is our social research on Pacific peoples’ concerns about COVID-19, titled “The $7 cabbage dilemma: Pacific peoples’ experiences and New Zealand’s COVID-19 response.pdf” The objective of our study was to investigate how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the wellbeing of Pacific peoples in New Zealand. To accomplish this, we conducted a comprehensive literature review of existing research on Pacific peoples’ urban climate change, health, economy, and housing in New Zealand. Through our talanoa-based research, we discovered that many Pacific peoples were worried about the cost of living, access to healthcare, support for parents, and affordable healthy food options, which were all connected to the broader themes of urban climate change, health, economy, and housing that we had identified in our literature review.

In conclusion, a literature review is an essential component of research as it helps to identify gaps in existing knowledge, provide direction for future research and support or challenge research questions or hypotheses. The purpose of a literature review is to offer a comprehensive overview of the relevant research within a given area, identify key themes and topics, and synthesize information from multiple studies. Researchers need to pay attention to the different types of literature reviews and their unique features when conducting literature reviews to determine which review type would best suit their research question and help them achieve their desired results. A well-structured literature review should include an introduction, search strategy, inclusion and exclusion criteria, methodology and results sections. A well-executed literature review ensures that the research findings are reliable and valid and provides invaluable insights into the current state of research to inform future studies.


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Literature Review

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The purpose of a literature review is to collect relevant, timely research on your chosen topic, and synthesize it into a cohesive summary of existing knowledge in the field. This then prepares you for making your own argument on that topic, or for conducting your own original research.

Depending on your field of study, literature reviews can take different forms. Some disciplines require that you synthesize your sources topically, organizing your paragraphs according to how your different sources discuss similar topics. Other disciplines require that you discuss each source in individual paragraphs, covering various aspects in that single article, chapter, or book.

Within your review of a given source, you can cover many different aspects, including (if a research study) the purpose, scope, methods, results, any discussion points, limitations, and implications for future research. Make sure you know which model your professor expects you to follow when writing your own literature reviews.

Tip : Literature reviews may or may not be a graded component of your class or major assignment, but even if it is not, it is a good idea to draft one so that you know the current conversations taking place on your chosen topic. It can better prepare you to write your own, unique argument.

Benefits of Literature Reviews

  • Literature reviews allow you to gain familiarity with the current knowledge in your chosen field, as well as the boundaries and limitations of that field.
  • Literature reviews also help you to gain an understanding of the theory(ies) driving the field, allowing you to place your research question into context.
  • Literature reviews provide an opportunity for you to see and even evaluate successful and unsuccessful assessment and research methods in your field.
  • Literature reviews prevent you from duplicating the same information as others writing in your field, allowing you to find your own, unique approach to your topic.
  • Literature reviews give you familiarity with the knowledge in your field, giving you the chance to analyze the significance of your additional research.

Choosing Your Sources

When selecting your sources to compile your literature review, make sure you follow these guidelines to ensure you are working with the strongest, most appropriate sources possible.

Topically Relevant

Find sources within the scope of your topic

Appropriately Aged

Find sources that are not too old for your assignment

Find sources whose authors have authority on your topic

Appropriately “Published”

Find sources that meet your instructor’s guidelines (academic, professional, print, etc.)

Tip:  Treat your professors and librarians as experts you can turn to for advice on how to locate sources. They are a valuable asset to you, so take advantage of them!

Organizing Your Literature Review

Synthesizing topically.

Some assignments require discussing your sources together, in paragraphs organized according to shared topics between them.

For example, in a literature review covering current conversations on Alison Bechdel’s  Fun Home , authors may discuss various topics including:

  • her graphic style
  • her allusions to various literary texts
  • her story’s implications regarding LGBT experiences in 20 th  century America.

In this case, you would cluster your sources on these three topics. One paragraph would cover how the sources you collected dealt with Bechdel’s graphic style. Another, her allusions. A third, her implications.

Each of these paragraphs would discuss how the sources you found treated these topics in connection to one another. Basically, you compare and contrast how your sources discuss similar issues and points.

To determine these shared topics, examine aspects including:

  • Definition of terms
  • Common ground
  • Issues that divide
  • Rhetorical context

Summarizing Individually

Depending on the assignment, your professor may prefer that you discuss each source in your literature review individually (in their own, separate paragraphs or sections). Your professor may give you specific guidelines as far as what to cover in these paragraphs/sections.

If, for instance, your sources are all primary research studies, here are some aspects to consider covering:

  • Participants
  • Limitations
  • Implications
  • Significance

Each section of your literature review, in this case, will identify all of these elements for each individual article.

You may or may not need to separate your information into multiple paragraphs for each source. If you do, using proper headings in the appropriate citation style (APA, MLA, etc.) will help keep you organized.

If you are writing a literature review as part of a larger assignment, you generally do not need an introduction and/or conclusion, because it is embedded within the context of your larger paper.

If, however, your literature review is a standalone assignment, it is a good idea to include some sort of introduction and conclusion to provide your reader with context regarding your topic, purpose, and any relevant implications or further questions. Make sure you know what your professor is expecting for your literature review’s content.

Typically, a literature review concludes with a full bibliography of your included sources. Make sure you use the style guide required by your professor for this assignment.

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Conducting a Literature Review

Benefits of conducting a literature review.

  • Steps in Conducting a Literature Review
  • Summary of the Process
  • Additional Resources
  • Literature Review Tutorial by American University Library
  • The Literature Review: A Few Tips On Conducting It by University of Toronto
  • Write a Literature Review by UC Santa Cruz University Library

While there might be many reasons for conducting a literature review, following are four key outcomes of doing the review.

Assessment of the current state of research on a topic . This is probably the most obvious value of the literature review. Once a researcher has determined an area to work with for a research project, a search of relevant information sources will help determine what is already known about the topic and how extensively the topic has already been researched.

Identification of the experts on a particular topic . One of the additional benefits derived from doing the literature review is that it will quickly reveal which researchers have written the most on a particular topic and are, therefore, probably the experts on the topic. Someone who has written twenty articles on a topic or on related topics is more than likely more knowledgeable than someone who has written a single article. This same writer will likely turn up as a reference in most of the other articles written on the same topic. From the number of articles written by the author and the number of times the writer has been cited by other authors, a researcher will be able to assume that the particular author is an expert in the area and, thus, a key resource for consultation in the current research to be undertaken.

Identification of key questions about a topic that need further research . In many cases a researcher may discover new angles that need further exploration by reviewing what has already been written on a topic. For example, research may suggest that listening to music while studying might lead to better retention of ideas, but the research might not have assessed whether a particular style of music is more beneficial than another. A researcher who is interested in pursuing this topic would then do well to follow up existing studies with a new study, based on previous research, that tries to identify which styles of music are most beneficial to retention.

Determination of methodologies used in past studies of the same or similar topics.  It is often useful to review the types of studies that previous researchers have launched as a means of determining what approaches might be of most benefit in further developing a topic. By the same token, a review of previously conducted studies might lend itself to researchers determining a new angle for approaching research.

Upon completion of the literature review, a researcher should have a solid foundation of knowledge in the area and a good feel for the direction any new research should take. Should any additional questions arise during the course of the research, the researcher will know which experts to consult in order to quickly clear up those questions.

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need and importance of review of literature in research

  • Research Process

Literature Review in Research Writing

  • 4 minute read

Table of Contents

Research on research? If you find this idea rather peculiar, know that nowadays, with the huge amount of information produced daily all around the world, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep up to date with all of it. In addition to the sheer amount of research, there is also its origin. We are witnessing the economic and intellectual emergence of countries like China, Brazil, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates, for example, that are producing scholarly literature in their own languages. So, apart from the effort of gathering information, there must also be translators prepared to unify all of it in a single language to be the object of the literature survey. At Elsevier, our team of translators is ready to support researchers by delivering high-quality scientific translations , in several languages, to serve their research – no matter the topic.

What is a literature review?

A literature review is a study – or, more accurately, a survey – involving scholarly material, with the aim to discuss published information about a specific topic or research question. Therefore, to write a literature review, it is compulsory that you are a real expert in the object of study. The results and findings will be published and made available to the public, namely scientists working in the same area of research.

How to Write a Literature Review

First of all, don’t forget that writing a literature review is a great responsibility. It’s a document that is expected to be highly reliable, especially concerning its sources and findings. You have to feel intellectually comfortable in the area of study and highly proficient in the target language; misconceptions and errors do not have a place in a document as important as a literature review. In fact, you might want to consider text editing services, like those offered at Elsevier, to make sure your literature is following the highest standards of text quality. You want to make sure your literature review is memorable by its novelty and quality rather than language errors.

Writing a literature review requires expertise but also organization. We cannot teach you about your topic of research, but we can provide a few steps to guide you through conducting a literature review:

  • Choose your topic or research question: It should not be too comprehensive or too limited. You have to complete your task within a feasible time frame.
  • Set the scope: Define boundaries concerning the number of sources, time frame to be covered, geographical area, etc.
  • Decide which databases you will use for your searches: In order to search the best viable sources for your literature review, use highly regarded, comprehensive databases to get a big picture of the literature related to your topic.
  • Search, search, and search: Now you’ll start to investigate the research on your topic. It’s critical that you keep track of all the sources. Start by looking at research abstracts in detail to see if their respective studies relate to or are useful for your own work. Next, search for bibliographies and references that can help you broaden your list of resources. Choose the most relevant literature and remember to keep notes of their bibliographic references to be used later on.
  • Review all the literature, appraising carefully it’s content: After reading the study’s abstract, pay attention to the rest of the content of the articles you deem the “most relevant.” Identify methodologies, the most important questions they address, if they are well-designed and executed, and if they are cited enough, etc.

If it’s the first time you’ve published a literature review, note that it is important to follow a special structure. Just like in a thesis, for example, it is expected that you have an introduction – giving the general idea of the central topic and organizational pattern – a body – which contains the actual discussion of the sources – and finally the conclusion or recommendations – where you bring forward whatever you have drawn from the reviewed literature. The conclusion may even suggest there are no agreeable findings and that the discussion should be continued.

Why are literature reviews important?

Literature reviews constantly feed new research, that constantly feeds literature reviews…and we could go on and on. The fact is, one acts like a force over the other and this is what makes science, as a global discipline, constantly develop and evolve. As a scientist, writing a literature review can be very beneficial to your career, and set you apart from the expert elite in your field of interest. But it also can be an overwhelming task, so don’t hesitate in contacting Elsevier for text editing services, either for profound edition or just a last revision. We guarantee the very highest standards. You can also save time by letting us suggest and make the necessary amendments to your manuscript, so that it fits the structural pattern of a literature review. Who knows how many worldwide researchers you will impact with your next perfectly written literature review.

Know more: How to Find a Gap in Research .

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