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The literature review

In a scientific essay, project or report you will be expected to show that you are aware of the relevant research on the topic and a literature review will form an important part of your assignment. In some units you may be expected to write a stand-alone literature review as the whole assignment.

Literature reviews are important to scientists because

  • scientific knowledge is not static
  • scientific knowledge changes as scientists conduct their research, replicate the research of other scientists, and report their findings
  • it is important to understand how knowledge in a particular discipline is changing
  • it is very important to be aware of the controversies in the discipline.

A literature review will give the reader

  • a clear statement of the topic or problem
  • a clear presentation of the range of research on the topic
  • an evaluation of the research
  • an indication of what further research is necessary.

It is not enough to summarise the research literature. You need to show you understand the relevance and significance of the different publications, and how they relate to each other.

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