Conduct a literature review of an area of computer science or engineering research or another academic discipline that interests you. Formulate a thesis or a question about that field of research. Try to test that thesis or resolve a question through your review. Literature reviews do not provide original research; however, their synthesis of existing research does offer insight.
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Expect to read and assess 6 – 12 papers to yield 5 citations in your review. The quality and the relevance of the citations is important.
The following description and advice is taken from the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s Writing Center Website (http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/ReviewofLiterature.html):
The format of a review of literature may vary from discipline to discipline and from assignment to assignment. A review may be a self-contained unit—an end in itself—or a preface to and rationale for engaging in primary research. A review is a required part of grant and research proposals and often a chapter in theses and dissertations.
Generally, the purpose of a review is to analyze critically a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles. Keep in mind that the subject of your paper is the existing research on the topic—not the topic itself.
In the introduction, you should:
• Define or identify the general topic, issue, or area of concern, thus providing an
appropriate context for reviewing the literature.
• Point out overall trends in what has been published about the topic; or conflicts in theory,
methodology, evidence, and conclusions; or gaps in research and scholarship; or a single
problem or new perspective of immediate interest.
• Establish the writer’s reason (point of view) for reviewing the literature; explain the
criteria to be used in analyzing and comparing literature and the organization of the
review (sequence); and, when necessary, state why certain literature is or is not included
In the body, you should:
• Group research studies and other types of literature (reviews, theoretical articles, case
studies, etc.) according to common denominators such as qualitative versus quantitative
approaches, conclusions of authors, specific purpose or objective, chronology, etc.
• Summarize individual studies or articles with as much or as little detail as each merits
according to its comparative importance in the literature, remembering that space (length)
• Provide the reader with strong “umbrella” sentences at beginnings of paragraphs,
“signposts” throughout, and brief “so what” summary sentences at intermediate points in
the review to aid in understanding comparisons and analyses.
In the conclusion, you should:
• Summarize major contributions of significant studies and articles to the body of
knowledge under review, maintaining the focus established in the introduction.
• Evaluate the current “state of the art” for the body of knowledge reviewed, pointing out
major methodological flaws or gaps in research, inconsistencies in theory and findings,
and areas or issues pertinent to future study.
• Conclude by providing some insight into the relationship between the central topic of the
literature review and a larger area of study such as a discipline, a scientific endeavor, or a