What is a review of the literature?
A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. Most often the review forms a key section of a research report or thesis. In this case however, you are asked to write it as a separate assignment.
In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept or question (i.e., describing the Dimensions and Antecedents of Organisational Citizenship Behaviour).
Besides enlarging your knowledge about the topic, writing a literature review lets you gain and demonstrate skills in two areas
1. information seeking: the ability to scan the literature efficiently, using manual or computerized methods, to identify a set of useful articles
2. critical appraisal: the ability to apply principles of analysis to identify unbiased and valid studies.
Writing a Literature Review
Like all academic writing, a literature review must have an introduction, body, and conclusion.
The introduction should include:
• the nature of the topic under discussion. If the topic is very broad then it will be important to identify your specific focus.
The bodycould include relevant paragraphs on:
• definitions in use
• historical background
• current mainstream versus alternative theoretical or ideological viewpoints, including differing theoretical assumptions
• recent discoveries about the topic from empirical research
• principal questions that are being asked
• general conclusions that are being drawn
• questions for future researchers to address
The conclusion should include:
• A summary of major agreements and disagreements in the literature
A literature review is a piece of discursive prose, not a list describing or summarizing one piece of literature after another. Therefore you want to avoid (as much as possible) simply repeating the research results; for example:
From a survey of 500 public sector workers, Smith and Brown (2002) found that most (approx. 60%) undertook at least one well-recognised form of OCB.
Instead, organise the literature review into sections that present themes or identify trends, including relevant theory. You are not trying to list all the material published, but to synthesise and evaluate some of it according to the guiding concept or question; for example:
OCB is not limited to a specific workplace context. Studies of finance sector workers (Jones & Jones, 2010), non-profit volunteers(Ralph, 2012) and local government employees (Smith & Brown, 2002) all support the position that OCB is a universal concept applicable to all types of organisations.
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