What is a Literature Review? Here’s All You Need to Know

If you ever find yourself setting on the journey of writing a dissertation or thesis – you have likely encountered the somewhat enigmatic term “literature review.”

If you’re here, it’s quite possible that you are not entirely certain about the essence and purpose of a literature review. And the reassuring news is that you have arrived at the perfect destination!

In the following discussion, we will uncover the concept of a literature review while shedding light on its significance and demystifying its role in the academic landscape.

So, whether you are a student cruising your first research project or a seasoned scholar seeking a comprehensive understanding – this exploration of the literature review will provide you with valuable insights and guidance to enhance your academic endeavors.

Before longing any other minute, let’s dive on this enlightening journey together and explore all the hidden cruxes.

What is a Literature Review?

Within the world of the literature review process, the term “literature review” encompasses two interconnected aspects.

The first involves the active engagement of reviewing existing literature, which entails sourcing and thoroughly reading through research materials pertinent to your research topic.

The second facet pertains to the tangible chapter that takes shape within your dissertation, thesis, or research project. To gain a deeper understanding, let’s explore each of these dimensions in more detail.

Reviewing the Literature

The initial and fundamental phase of conducting a literature review involves the diligent search and comprehensive perusal of pre-existing research materials pertinent to your chosen research topic.

To accomplish this, you’ll have to employ a toolbox of research tools and methodologies (which we will explore in more detail later) to uncover a diverse array of scholarly sources, such as journals, articles, books, research reports, dissertations, thesis, and other reputable repositories of knowledge that directly align with your subject matter.

Subsequently, you will synthesize and keenly organize these findings, creating a readily accessible catalog of references to inform the composition of your literature review chapter.

The Literature Review Chapter

The next stage in the literature review process involves curating the actual literature review chapter, typically positioned as the second chapter in the standard structure of a dissertation or thesis.

At its core, this chapter serves as a comprehensive synthesis of the critical literature relevant to your research topic. It endeavors to present a coherent narrative that encompasses the existing research landscape, elucidating what has been explored, what is firmly established, what remains uncertain, and what areas are subject to scholarly debate within the context of your research topic.

Chiefly, it offers an integrated examination of the current state of knowledge surrounding your research subject. While this description provides a foundational understanding, it represents a simplified perspective. In the subsequent discussion, we will dive deeper into the multifaceted purposes and nuances of the literature review chapter.

Purposes Behind Writing a Literature Review

The literature review chapter serves several crucial functions within your dissertation, thesis, or research project.

Let’s explore these functions in detail.

Purpose #1 – Displaying Your Mastery of the Topic

The primary objective of the literature review chapter is to showcase your comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. At heart, it is a prime way to convey to the reader or evaluator that you possess a deep knowledge of the field.

In other words, an effective literature review chapter goes beyond mere summarization of existing research; it involves a skillful integration of this research to illustrate the cohesive narrative within the field, highlighting areas of consensus and contention. This demonstration of expertise leads us to the second purpose.

Purpose #2 – Identifying the Research Gap You Will Address

The second pivotal role of the literature review chapter is to uncover the notable gaps in the current body of research, thereby establishing the rationale for your own research inquiry.

Basically, your literature review chapter should convey the notion that within the broader scholarly landscape, there exist conspicuous “missing pieces” that await YOUR discovery, and your study is poised to fill one of these critical voids.

By accomplishing this, you not only assert the originality of your research topic but also emphasize its significance in contributing to the ever-evolving pool of knowledge.

In the main, the literature review chapter serves as the foundational pillar justifying your chosen research topic.

Purpose #3 – Establishing the Cornerstone for Your Conceptual Framework

The third vital role of the literature review is to serve as the bedrock upon which a conceptual framework can be constructed. While not every research topic necessitates a conceptual framework, when it is essential, the literature review becomes its fundamental precursor.

For instance, consider research aiming to explain the determinants of a particular outcome, such as the factors contributing to burnout among office workers. In such a scenario, it becomes imperative to formulate a conceptual framework that delineates the potential influencers (e.g., extended working hours, heightened stress levels, etc.) along with the intended outcome (burnout).

These influencing factors must emerge from the insights gleaned through the literature review chapter rather than being solely derived from personal belief.

Purpose #4 – Establishing the Cornerstone for Your Conceptual Framework

The fourth pivotal function of the literature review is to provide essential guidance in selecting the appropriate methodology for your research. Your choice of methodology should align closely with your research objectives and questions.

Given the proximity of your research topic to the literature you review, valuable insights can be obtained from the well-considered methodologies employed in previous studies.

While conducting your literature review, keen attention to the research design, methodology, and methods employed in similar studies is crucial. This information can serve as a valuable foundation for shaping your own research methodology.

In many instances, you may have the opportunity to draw upon and adapt methodologies utilized in prior research. This is particularly applicable to quantitative studies, where established measures and scales from previous research can often be employed.

Well, Here’s an Example…

Literature Review: The Impact of Social Media on Adolescent Mental Health


Social media platforms have become an integral part of the lives of adolescents, providing them with opportunities for social interaction, self-expression, and information sharing. However, the influence of social media on the mental health of this demographic has raised concerns among researchers and healthcare professionals. This literature review aims to synthesize existing research findings on the relationship between social media usage and adolescent mental health.

Social Media Usage Patterns

Several studies have examined the prevalence and patterns of social media use among adolescents. Smith and Jones (2017) found that 95% of American teenagers aged 13-17 have access to a smartphone, and 85% of them use at least one social media platform regularly. Furthermore, Pew Research Center (2019) reported that the average time spent by adolescents on social media is approximately 3 hours per day.

Impact on Self-esteem and Body Image

One of the prominent concerns related to social media use is its impact on adolescents’ self-esteem and body image. Fardouly et al. (2018) conducted a longitudinal study and discovered that increased exposure to idealized images on platforms like Instagram was associated with decreased body satisfaction among adolescent girls. Similarly, Perloff and Clarke (2017) found that the constant comparison of oneself to others on social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

Cyberbullying and Mental Health

The phenomenon of cyberbullying on social media platforms has garnered significant attention in recent years. Hinduja and Patchin (2018) revealed that adolescents who experience cyberbullying are at a higher risk of developing depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. The anonymity provided by social media often emboldens perpetrators, making it essential to address this issue’s psychological consequences.

Positive Effects and Coping Strategies

While there are negative implications, some studies have highlighted positive aspects of social media use among adolescents. Kross et al. (2019) noted that social media can serve as a platform for emotional support and connection with peers, especially in times of stress or loneliness. Additionally, some adolescents employ coping strategies such as social media mindfulness techniques to mitigate the negative impact on their mental health (Hughes et al., 2020).


The relationship between social media use and adolescent mental health is complex and multifaceted. Existing research suggests both positive and negative effects, with the potential for harm, particularly in terms of self-esteem, body image, and cyberbullying. It is crucial for parents, educators, and healthcare professionals to understand these dynamics and promote responsible social media use among adolescents. Future research should continue to explore this evolving landscape to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of social media on adolescent mental health.

The Final Words

In fine, a literature review plays an essential role in research by helping us understand what has already been studied on a topic. Think of it as a roadmap that guides researchers in their work.

While examining existing studies, we can build on the knowledge others have gathered and make our own research more meaningful.

Whether you’re starting a new project or just trying to learn more about a subject, a well-done literature review is a valuable tool to have in your toolkit. It helps you avoid repeating what’s already been done and ensures that your own research is well-informed and insightful.

So, remember, a literature review is like a helpful guide on your journey to explore and contribute to the world of knowledge.




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