Writing a Literature Review for Your Final Year Project
To have a great final year project, many things have to be carefully put in place; a literature review is one of those things. Aside from helping achieve the aim of your final year project, your literature review helps to provide ground information on your selected topic.
Let me explain, a literature review is a play by play analysis and evaluation of all resource materials used in your project. These works are explained, showing their support or opposition to your project topic stance, and how this particular material helps solidify your project topic. The strengths and weaknesses of these works of literature are also presented but, in a very objective manner.
These materials are usually presented in a summarized and linked form in the literature review so the meaning and connection between all the resource materials used as well as your background topic are not lost. The aim of the literature review and its direction will be lost on your reader and professors if you cannot connect seamlessly all facts and theories presented by the materials used in your literature review.
The idea is to present to your readers prior knowledge already established and shared by experts or more experienced researchers in your field regarding your project topic. Now review does not necessarily mean ‘this is what I think’ rather it is more of ‘this is what the material is saying.’ You present it in a way that helps people understand their relationship to your research topic.
Why a Literature review?
It shows you have done ample research on your topic and have been brought up to speed (by yourself, of course) on the current happenings in the field you are carrying out your research.
It also helps in providing background knowledge on the topic your project aims to discuss. These materials help to either show the chronological development in the field of your project topic, the themes surrounding it, or research methods used by researchers to speak on the matter. A literature review works both ways.
So, how exactly does one write a literature review?
Have a chat with your Supervisor
The project is the whole and your literature review is just a part of it. If the topic for your project is not selected, you cannot create a table of content let alone a literature review. You need to sit with your supervisor to;
• Talk about your topic. You get to select one but he/she has to approve of it. Also, if you having a hard time getting a topic, your supervisor might be able to help with that.
• Talk about the scope of your literature review and how much freedom you have with it. Some boundaries are set by them or your academic institution concerning literature reviews and final year projects in general. These you need to know about as well as the existing restrictions; for example, some do not permit students to review materials written less than five years ago from the date of your project or some do not appreciate the use of projects submitted by students of any level. So, you need to know the parameters of your literature review. That way, when you go researching, you do not select the wrong material and earn a minus in the process.
Research and Evaluate Your Selected Materials
There is a lot of information out there, trust me! It is very important that in the course of your research you, stick to your project topic and its requirements. Do not get carried away by the information that has no place in your project unless you realize it is going to be extremely useful.
When materials are selected, evaluate them. Ask yourself certain questions on them;
• Do they provide any valuable information for what I am trying to make in my project?
• What was the aim of the author when he/she was writing this?
• What are the strengths and weaknesses of this publication? Is this publication objective enough or is it bias?
• Is the material from a credible source and is this Author an expert or one with a considerable amount of knowledge in this field.
Do you have your resource materials, have you asked and answered all the questions concerning their validity and the direction of your project? Then, it is time to write! A literature review is best delivered in three parts;
Introduction: In introduction, you present your project topic, the objective of your literature review, its parameters, and the importance of your literature review and project as well.
Body: This is where the bulk of your work is. The review of these materials is done in this part and should be done with orderliness and abiding by a laid down structure. What do I mean? Your review of these materials will follow a pattern depending on the aim of your project as a whole; is it to show a progression, support a claim, or simply explore your topic. If it is for progressive study, your review will most likely follow a chronological order. This will show how things have progressed in the said field, using the materials reviewed. If otherwise, you could decide to team the materials up by their shared theories or the similar research methodology used by the Authors. Whichever structure you decide to use, make sure your ideas are not scattered all over the place and your review is presented in a connected manner that shows the connection between the materials selected, why you choose them and how they help you bring home the overall point of your final year project. These materials, their ideas, and stance must be linked back to your topic and the goal of your final project; whatever it may be.
Also, note that it is not a monotonous description of these works. You are not there to list stuff and jump to the next one or quote stuff and jump to the next one. Try as much as possible to summarize and evaluate every material referenced, showing their strength, weaknesses as well as their connection to your project topic and stance.
Conclusion: Summarize all that you have said from the beginning till the last idea shared in the last paragraph of your body (you know you are going to paragraph it, right?). Reiterate the stance or overall idea of your literature review here and close with a final tone.