What are the limitations of literature review?


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Phil Newton answered

What are the limitations of a literature review?

Literature reviews have many advantages, and we'll get to those shortly, but the task at hand is to discuss the limitations of a literature review.  I've compiled a list below, and believe me, it's difficult to be too critical of literature reviews:

  1. Reliance of previously published material - sometimes people lose track of their own ideas, and get bogged down looking for EVERYTHING that's been published on the topic in the past.
  2. Non-relevant material - some people include work that's not really relevant.  This is usually to make the literature review appear more comprehensive than it actually is.
  3. Not using work in the final text - it looks sloppy to include published works in the literature review, and then not use them in the final work.
  4. Listing books - a literature review should inform the reader about its relevance, and why it's included.  Literature reviews often become a simple list of titles, and this is pointless.
  5. A lack of framework - people often forget to frame their literature review.  It's supposed to inform the reader of its relevant parts.  It doubtful that the entire publication is relevant.

Advantages of a literature review

Although I've looked at the limitations of literature reviews, I feel it's necessary to have a look at the benefits.  I've used literature reviews throughout my studies, and found them valuable for the following reasons:

  1. The ability to convince the reader about the importance of your research.
  2. Showing that you're able to make an original contribution to the field.
  3. Justifying your approach to the reading.
  4. Confirming that you understand the already published material.
  5. Allowing the reader to see the structure behind your project.

I'm sure there are many more reasons that people could add to this list, but I feel that the above conclude that the advantages of literature reviews far outweigh their limitations.

Here's a brief video outlining one way to write a literature review for your piece of work.  Make sure you check how your institution would like your literature to be written:

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