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Reviewing and critically appraising the research literature

Many students find it difficult to write a rigorous literature review, which is an essential starting point for any study. They can often identify papers and write a brief description of what they are about, but omit some important points.

They do not understand the purpose of the review for their particular study so are too inclusive, not selecting ony appropriate texts for review.

They fail to make a critical appraisal of the papers they review alongside the description of the content.

They find it difficult to organise the review to avoid a repetitive style and invariably include their own opinion of the texts which is not relevant.

This solution gives some guidelines which should help to overcome the problems.

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Literature Reviews - the purpose, process and presentation

Any project or study, which aims to answer questions or solve problems through research, evaluation or practice development, should aim to widen the knowledge base and enhance understanding of the topic it addresses. A critical appraisal of the existing literature is an essential starting point.

A literature review may be carried out:
· as part of an academic assignment or in writing-up a dissertation
· when preparing a research proposal and writing a research report
· as part of the change management strategy for an area of practice.

The purpose of a literature review is to:
· find out what has already been written in ...