A literature review is an essential part of the research process. It may be defined as "The selection of available documents (both published and unpublished) on the topic, which contain information, ideas, data and evidence written from a particular standpoint to fulfil certain aims or express certain views on the nature of the topic and how it is to be investigated, and the effective evaluation of these documents in relation to the research being proposed". Source: Hart, Chris. 1998. Doing a literature review:releasing the social science research imagination. London:Sage.
A literature search is a "systematic and thorough search of all types of published literature in order to identify as many items as possible that are relevant to a particular topic." (Gash, Sarah. 2000. Effective literature searching for research. 2nd ed. Aldershot, Hampshire: Gower)
Reasons for searching the literature : (Hart, Chris. 2001. Doing a literature search:a comprehensive guide for the social sciences. London:Sage)
1. to identify work already done or in progress that is relevant to your work;
2. to help to prevent you from duplicating what has already been done;
3. to avoid some of the pitfalls and errors of previous research;
4. to help you design the methodology for your project by identifying the key issues and data collection techniques best suited to your topic;
5. to enable you to find gaps in existing research, thereby giving you a unique topic.