Literature review forms the nucleus of all scientific research. As a systematic investigation to reach new conclusions and establish facts, every scientific research builds on existing knowledge. Unless one wants to reinvent the wheel, precise awareness on the extent of wisdom on a subject is necessary to carry on research that adds value to the field.
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” –Sir Issac Newton
A literature review for scientific research can be defined as a survey of scientific books, scholarly articles, and any other systematic scientific sources relevant to a particular issue, area of study, or theory, to provide a description, summary, and critical evaluation of a concept, school of thought, or ideas pertaining to the research question in investigation. In extension, the literature review familiarizes the author to the extent of knowledge in their field. When presented as a part of the paper, it establishes to the readers, the author’s depth of understanding and knowledge of their subject.
The scientifically relevant literature in a field consists of the previous studies in the area, established schools of thoughts, scholarly articles, and scientific journals among other things. The literature review varies from field to field. In hard sciences, the literature is mostly facts and the review may be simply a summary of the critical sources. While in soft sciences, the survey provides an overview and synthesis of various schools of thoughts and their interconnection. A summary or an overview is the brief account of all informational highlight from key sources, while synthesis is the restructuring or reorganization of the information in a way that informs of the dissertation’s plan of investigating the research problem.
The importance of literature review to scientific research can be condensed into its analytical feature. The reach of its significance, though, is multifold.
The following are reasons how literature review adds value and legitimacy to the study:
The literature review also validates the study by providing information on its relevancy and coherency to the existing knowledge and methods in research. In turn, it establishes the author’s expertise in the field and provides legitimacy to carry forward the wisdom of the area using scientific and systematic methods.
The literature review while elucidating the continuance of knowledge, also point out areas that require further investigation and hence, aid as a starting point for future research.