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SWK 3350: Diagnostic Systems in Social Work: What is a Literature Review?

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What is a Literature Review?

A literature review evaluates the existing scholarly research in a given topic.  A literature review goes beyond a summary of the literature; it explains the relationship between  previous studies and how they are related to your research.


Purpose of a Literature Review Per Bourner

 Bourner (1996) stated that prior starting a research project one has to review the literature. He also provided the following reasons for conductiong a literature review:

  • To identify gaps in the literature
  • To avoid reinventing the wheel
  • To carry on from where others have already reached
  • To identify other people working in the same fields
  • To increase your breadth of knowledge of your subject area
  • To identify influential works in your area
  • To provide the intellectual context for your own work, enabling you to position your project relative to other work
  • To identify opposing views
  • To put your work into perspective
  • To demonstrate that you can access previous work in an area
  • To identify information and ideas that may be relevant to your project
  • To identify methods that could be relevant to your project

Bourner, T. (1996) The research process: four steps to success. In T. Greenfield (Ed.), Research methods: guidance for postgraduates (pp.7-11). London: Arnold.

Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students

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