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What Is a Literature Survey and How Do You Deal with It

lit survey review

A literature survey (also known as literature review) is the collation of information which was derived from secondary sources such as the internet, books, magazines newspapers and other appropriate sources. This information in a lit survey is content specific and generally should revolve around a specific subject matter or topic. In a literature survey, ideas on a particular topic or set of topics are selected and gleaned from other people’s findings and put together to buttress a certain fact or point. The sources selected in a lit review should be authoritative and must be well written in good English, shedding light on the matter under study. A literature review is meant to achieve the goal of setting the tone for the rest of the academic paper as it gives insights into the theoretical and methodological views and theories made by past researchers of the subject. There is a need to use subheadings in it as it acts as signposts guiding the writer to stay on track.

A literature review basically surveys every possible literature in a specific field. There are two reasons why it is written: First is to extensively and exhaustively describe the research work carried out in a specific area. The second purpose is to thoroughly evaluate the body of literature already reviewed to establish the authenticity of the findings and check for possible conflicting evidence and gaps in the research. Some kinds of literature being surveyed in a lit review include scholarly articles, research papers, dissertations, conference papers and other sources.

Literature survey to a beginner can be a daunting task. But when you understand how to start a lit review, you will find it to be both easy and interesting. All that is required in the writing is patience and some good analytic skills. Literature surveys have a basic structure, though may have slight variations, depending on the purpose of the survey and the discipline for which it is written.

Length of a Literature Survey

Some students get really concerned about the length of the survey of literature. You should know that there are no hard rules here. It all depends on what you are required to do by your academic faculty and on the specific details you need to provide a comprehensive report on the researches carried out previously.

Types of Literature Survey

There are two very popular styles of literature survey: the traditional or narrative lit survey and the systematic literature review.

In the traditional style, you produce a summary of the literature. The aim of the traditional method is to give succinct information to the reader on the debates, arguments, and issues raised within the field of inquiry or subject matter. The arguments in this type of reviews are therefore narrative and descriptive. The points are organized in a particular order that best gives a truthful analysis of the subject matter or social problem.

The systematic style is quite different from the narrative as it goes beyond mere narrations to a creative representation of the text being discussed. The systematic approach seeks to present old information in new ways, providing a balanced evaluation of the arguments the best ways possible, giving an opening for further research and resolution opportunities.

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How to Write a Literature Survey Report

To write a survey literature review, one must begin by identifying the topic on which the literature review is being written. Finding a suitable topic is perhaps the most challenging part of the literature review. The search for the topics must begin early. You will need to study extensively and choose a relevant topic that interests you, also, don’t forget about review paper format. This will make the entire process quite interesting.

Ensure there are already existing extensive researches in the area you’re writing on before finalizing on the topic. A subject matter that has been researched for extensively in the past would make for a better review than the one which was hardly touched, as you are sure to have a lot of viewpoints to compare and analyze.

The next step to take after finding your area of interest is too narrow it down to a specific topic. A specific topic gives you room for a more comprehensive survey.

Now that you’re locked down on a topic, it’s time to read. Choosing the topic should have availed you the opportunity of conducting some preliminary research. Build on that research systematically by getting even more materials. You can start with collections from libraries and online journals. Other sources include books documentaries, archival data, and interviews with experts in the subject matter.

literature survey for project report guide

Reading academic articles aren’t as interesting as reading novels or watching movies. It can be boringly challenging at times. But do not give up.

Here are some tips that should help your reading:

  • Read the easier articles first, and then go on to read the harder ones.
  • Start with the abstract. With a good understanding of what the book is about, scan through the article identifying the key themes and elements such as the findings, research questions, theories, etc. Take note of these elements.
  • Read literature you have collected, this time, be more in-depth. Each article should be studied line by line so as to completely understand it. Take note of hidden themes, contradictions and the logical gaps in the provided theories and arguments. Link the material to other literature in the area that you have studied.
  • Plan and accordingly allocate time for reading, as it requires time and patience.

After you must have read through the sufficient material provides, shortlist the articles, adding them to the ones you already deem relevant to your topic. Try connecting the articles together, identifying both the consensus and loopholes in the existing research on the subject matter.

Look critically at all the information you gathered with an open mind. Avoid falling into the temptation of summarizing all the couple of articles and books you read in the name of literature survey. Let your lit survey provide a unique perspective on the reviewed existing literature, facilitating further debate. Now that you napped out your ideas and arguments, and have created a structure for the review, you are now set to begin writing your literature survey paper.

How to Write a Good Lit Survey

Ideally, a good literature survey should comprise of information acquired from between 15-20 articles. Some literature reviews combine information from over 90 articles. A literature survey for project report should typically be 20 pages long or of approximately 3000 words

Ensure that you have a well-organized literature survey. Your work should flow naturally as it will make the lit review more interesting and easy to read. You can begin your review of literature with a title page, followed by an abstract and then a brief introduction to the topic. Introductions should address the purpose and the questions to be covered in the review.

In the body, describe each study in detail, stating your observations and the comparisons you made in your studies. Put your findings concisely in the conclusion, mentioning the implication of the literature survey. Implications are your personal suggestions to the matter, based on your study and analysis. This is where you include your impressions of the result of the study and your recommendations for further research.

how to write survey of literature

Basic pointers to help you write a great lit survey:

  • Read and understand all the text before you commence the writing;
  • Take some breaks in between the review writing, so that you don’t burn out;
  • Be simple as concise as possible. Let your points be illustrated with concrete examples;
  • Use more of summaries and paraphrases over long quotes;
  • Edit, review and proofread your work, to avoid formatting and grammatical errors;
  • Do not plagiarize. Use references and in-text citations.

When you quote someone else’s ideas within your article, make sure you cite the author. Do this by entering the author’s last name, year of publication and the publishing house, as well as the location. You will find detailed citation instructions online in most university websites. They should give you more insight on how to reference.

Sometimes you may find yourself too occupied to actually take out time to do your literature survey. You can find highly experienced professionals who are versed in your field of study and will write the literature review for you. They are usually a click away. Contacting a good one is all you need to have an excellent literature survey done.

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