If you are writing a thesis or dissertation, you will most likely have to write a literature review.
Simply put, since your dissertation will draw on previous research, you need the literature review to show how your work fits in with and contributes to existing knowledge in the subject area. It is therefore an integral part of any dissertation.
You need to write a good literature review for three main reasons.
Proving Your Understanding
A good literature review shows that you understand the subject matter. You can do this by critically assessing past research. This is vital so that your reader is clear about the purpose of your research and the theoretical basis upon which you are building your work.
Justifying Your Research
The literature review also helps you to justify your research, since relating it back to past studies will provide important context. To do this effectively, you need to convince the reader of the contribution your work will make to the field.
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Providing a Theoretical Framework
The literature review is where you do the groundwork for the rest of your dissertation. Most important is establishing a theoretical framework; by setting your work against a particular tradition of thought, you will be better equipped to explain the conclusions you reach based on your findings.
Aside from what your literature review does for your reader, it is worth remembering that the process of writing a literature review is often essential to gaining a good understanding of your own research. A well-developed literature review can therefore help you to focus on your main research questions.