If you do not have a specific research problem, you should review the literature in your broad area of interest with the aim of gradually narrowing it down to what you want to find out about. After that the literature review should be focused around your research problem. There is a danger in reviewing the literature without having a reasonably specific idea of what you want to study. It can condition your thinking about your study and the methodology you might use, resulting in a less innovative choice of research problem and methodology than otherwise would have been the case. Hence, you should try broadly to conceptualize your research problem before undertaking your major literature review.
There are four steps involved in conducting a literature review:
- Searching for the existing literature in your area of study.
- Reviewing the selected literature.
- Developing a theoretical framework.
- Developing a conceptual framework.
The skills required for these tasks are different. Developing theoretical and conceptual frameworks is more difficult than the other tasks.
Searching for the existing literature
To search effectively for the literature in your field of enquiry, it is imperative that you have at least some idea of the broad subject area and of the problem you wish to investigate, in order to set parameters for your search. Next, compile a bibliography for this broad area. There are three sources that you can use to prepare a bibliography:
Reviewing the selected literature
Now that you have identified several books and articles as useful, the next step is to start reading them critically to pull together themes and issues that are of relevance to your study. Unless you have a theoretical framework of themes in mind to start with, use separate sheets of paper for each theme or issue you identify as you go through selected books and articles.
Developing a theoretical framework
Literature pertinent to your study may deal with two types of information:
- More specific (i.e. local trends or a specific programme)
In writing about such information you should start with the general information, gradually narrowing it down to the specific.
Developing a conceptual framework
The conceptual framework is the basis of your research problem. It stems from the theoretical framework and usually focuses on the section(s) which become the basis of your study. Whereas the theoretical framework consists of the theories or issues in which your study is embedded, the conceptual framework describes the aspects you selected from the theoretical framework to become the basis of your enquiry.
- Research Methodology-Methods and Techniques by C.R. Kothari, New Age International (P) Limited, Publishers, ISBN (13) : 978-81-224-2488-1
- Research Methodology- a step-by-step guide for beginners by Ranjit Kumar , SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd, ISBN 978-1-84920-300-5, ISBN 978-1-84920-301-2 (pbk)