To teach students how to perform research projects themselves, professors often have an assignment to do a literature review paper. This requires students to choose a topic and research and write a paper about it. It is a useful exercise to practice exercising skills required to find information and analyze and synthesize it in order to tell a "story" about the topic to their readers.
Professors may not explicitly tell students that the paper they are asked to write that reviews information about a topic is a "literature review." But it is.
So you have to write a research paper for the first time? Or you're going to create a thesis or dissertation? Feeling overwhelmed? Feeling like you don't have the first idea how to do this?
A full research project or thesis or dissertation requires you to propose a research question and to perform a research project appropriate to your discipline. The resulting paper will include a literature review.
The primary purpose of a literature review is to give the reader context for your research question and to demonstrate how it is connected to the larger body of knowledge in the disciplines. It will encompass what is known now about your topic, what theories are presumed to address your topic, what questions are being asked and what gaps of knowledge still exist around your topic. And it will prime your readers for how your research project will fit into this body of knowledge.
The research to create your literature review will likely continue throughout your entire research project. Your literature review research will help you get started on your research project but will not stop there. As you learn from your literature review research, you will be able to better focus your own research project and theories. But new knowledge is published all the time. It takes continual monitoring to stay abreast of it.
Making the implicit explicit: creating performance expectations for the dissertation (2007)
By Barbara E. Lovitts
ISU Main Library LB2369 .L685 2007
Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students by North Carolina State University Libraries