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A literature review is written in essay style to describe, classify, and evaluate the information sources published on a given topic. A literature review is not just limited to articles, it’s a collection of research published by accredited scholars and researchers that is related to your research subject. And yes, it can include many other sources besides scholarly articles.

Non-scholarly sources are non-published material. The objective of the literature review is not to list as many relevant books and articles as possible, but the idea of the literature review is to provide a survey (published work) of the most significant and relevant work. This is why using journals/articles is necessary.

What is the “literature” in a literature review?

Literature is the collection of journal articles, books, and other scholarly works one finds relevant to his or her research subject. There are different sources of collecting literature and these include the following:

1- Journal articles

Journals or articles are excellent sources for a Literature Review. Journal articles are often used in literature reviews as they offer a concise and up-to-date format for research. The editors only publish the most relevant and reliable research that has been reviewed by other field experts. Google Scholar is one of the most used platforms to explore journals for any researcher.

2- Books

Generally, a book takes longer to be published than a journal article. That is why books tend to be less up-to-date. Books are unlikely to be useful in literature review as they are meant for teaching, not for research, but books provide direction from where to find better more detailed sources. Some books are available in electronic form on the internet these days.

3- Conference proceedings

These proceedings can provide the latest research or research that is yet to be published. These are also helpful in providing current information on people involved in which area of research and can be helpful to track down other research work by the same researchers. These can be accessed through the organization’s website. E.g, you can browse WTO, WHO, and UNICEF’s various proceedings reports.

4- Government/corporate reports

Many government departments and corporations commission carry out research work. Their published findings can provide a valuable source of information, depending on your area of research. Some of these reports are publicly available while some aren’t.

5- Newspapers

Newspapers are intended for a general audience. The information newspaper contains has no use in a literature review. Journalists are not scholars, and that is why newspaper articles are not a good source of literature review.

6- Thesis and dissertations

They can be helpful to find resourceful information. However, there are some drawbacks:

  • It can be hard to obtain as they are not always published but generally available on the library shelf.

  • Students who carried out the research may not be experienced researchers and thus you might have to treat their findings with extra caution than published research.

6- Websites

A rapidly growing source of information on the Internet is websites. It is not possible to differentiate the valid and invalid information available on the internet but here are a few tips while collecting data from the internet.

  • • Keep in mind that anyone with access can post information on the Internet. So, this data might not be accurate. It is best to get it from a reliable source.

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