Q: What is the importance of a review of related literature in the study – and how do you organize it?

1 Answer to this question

Hello Kenn – Welcome to the forum!

A review of related – and preferably recent – literature is meant to set your research in the context of what is currently known about the topic and to establish that what you have to offer is novel, something different from what has been already attempted. The review also reassures the referees that you are familiar with current developments in your field: if all of the papers that you cite in the review are, for example, at least 3–5 years old, the referees are bound to notice!

Coming to the second part of your query, a good review is not a chronological inventory. Do not simply list all the papers in the order in which they were published; a thematic organization is more effective. For example, in one paragraph, you may cite papers related to what is currently known about the topic; in another, you can mention papers that specifically relate to the method you have chosen. Another possibility is to group the papers by region: global studies forming one group, for example, and regional studies and national-level studies forming two more groups. Yet another possibility is by results: all the papers with similar results forming one group and those proposing a different hypothesis forming a different group, and so on.

Hope that helps. For more information on writing a review of related literature (RRL), you may refer to these previous queries by other researchers:

All the best for your review!

[With inputs from Yateendra Joshi]