Introduction “A methodological review of past literature is a crucial endeavor for any academic research” (Webster & Watson, 2002: 48-49). “The need to uncover what is already known in the body of knowledge prior to initiating any research study should not be underestimated” (Hart, 1998). A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period.
It can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis, often within specific conceptual categories. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information in a way that informs how the researcher is planning to investigate a research problem. It might give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates. And depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant.
The format of the literature review may vary from discipline to discipline, and from assignment to assignment, but the purpose is standard: critical analysis of a body of knowledge through summation and comparison.