For your topic to grow there must also be a context and this is influenced by existing knowledge. Other influences include your work and study environment, your interaction with colleagues, peers and supervisors, and current opinions and attitudes towards your discipline. The role of the literature review is to analyse the existing literature and give justification as to how your research will fit into the existing body of knowledge. "This means that the literature review provides the general understanding which gives meaning to the discussion of findings, conclusions, and recommendations. This allows the author to demonstrate how his research is linked to prior efforts and how it extends our understanding of this general line of scholarly inquiry." (Muskal n.d.).
When placing your topic in context, it is often useful to think about the following:
- What is the scope of the topic?
- What is the purpose of the research?
- Who is the intended audience?
- What is the time period?
- What is the geographical coverage?
- What are the relevant/related disciplines?
Reference: Muskal, F n.d., Guidelines for the Literature Review Paper, viewed 26 May 2008, http://www.umdnj.edu/idsweb/gsc/lit_review_education.html