Q: How to outline the subtopics of review related literature?

1 Answer to this question

A review of related literature (RRL) puts your research in the context of what is currently known about the topic. Accordingly, it is a good way to highlight the knowledge gaps and what your study offers in terms of novelty and significance. Your question on outlining the subtopics is a pertinent one. However, outlining subtopics would heavily rely on the specific topic you are writing on. Without knowing that, we cannot clearly delineate the subtopics and their position in the text. However, we will try to provide hints that will help you choose and organize them optimally.

The opening paragraphs should provide an informative background, perhaps with a historical perspective, if applicable. Then, you should streamline the broad topic by narrowing the focus on the basis of various parameters.

Depending on the topic, you might want to choose a chronological organization or a thematic one. The former would require you to discuss the developments in the field from old to new. Meanwhile, a methodological review deals with research, data collection, and data analysis techniques. The subtopics in a methodological review would be specific methods/approaches followed in different studies, each with their pros and cons. An RRL organized by theme would have subheadings on various key concepts. One way to group the literature might be by region: global, regional, and national-level studies. Another way to group topics might be according to study findings, i.e., papers with similar results could be grouped together, and conflicting results could appear separately.

Note that each subtopic might have further subsections and sub-subsections. Moreover, managing references can be quite daunting. Make sure you use literature discovery apps (R Discovery) or reference managers like Mendeley.

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Hope this answers your question. All the best for your study