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Conducting a literature review is an ongoing, non-linear, and iterative process.“Your literature review will inform your question, theory, and methods, and your question, theory, and methods will help set the parameters of your literature review.This is a cyclical process.” (O’Leary 2010, p.83)It is usually one of the first tasks that graduate research students undertake, and one of the last to be completed.This is reflected in scholarship that deals with predestination.
A successful scientific literature review will not only identify the current gap in knowledge, but also position your own research project as a viable way of addressing it.
You thus need to build a solid argument to convince the reader thatyour theoretical and methodological approach is likely to result in a worthwhile contribution to knowledge.
In essence, a literature review identifies, evaluates and synthesises the relevant literature within a particular field of research.
It illuminates how knowledge has evolved within the field, highlighting what has already been done, what is generally accepted, what is emerging and what is the current state of thinking on the topic.
With a focus on creative practice, your research may not necessarily be guided by an explicit research question or a gap that your research aims to address.
Nonetheless, a literature review should still contextualise and situate your practice, processes and/or work.
Rather, it should include the key sources related to the main debates, trends and gaps in your research area.
Even if you’re in the early stages of your research and just beginning to conduct a literature review, it’s useful to consider the eventual role that your review will play within your thesis and the way it functions to orient your readers.
You can see an example of where literature is dealt with in the annotated humanities example on the Thesis structure page.
In disciplines which use footnotes for referencing, some of the literature analysis is carried on in the footnotes, in parallel to the main argument in the text above, as can be seen in the example below, from a history thesis.