WHY ARE LITERATURE REVIEWS IMPORTANT?
In chapter 4 of the book (Searching and reviewing the literature), you learned that when undertaking any research it is important to know what has been written about the topic you wish to investigate.
By undertaking a literature review you are able to critically summarise the current knowledge in the area under investigation, identifying any strengths and weaknesses in previous work, so helping you to identify them in your own research and thus eliminate the potential weaknesses, whilst bringing to the fore the potential strengths. In addition, a good and full literature search will provide the context within which to place your study.
In chapter 4, it is stressed that undertaking a literature review requires developing a complex set of skills and this you can only do by undertaking literature reviews. Therefore, before commencing writing your research proposal, you will need to allocate time to read the literature that is relevant to your proposed research study.
By reading many different studies, you will begin to:
gain an impression about the important aspects of the topic;
identify data sources that other researchers have used;
identify and become familiar with the style of writing that is used - particularly within the ethos of the area that you are researching;
identify the relationship between concepts;
identify ideas for further consideration;
see how you can prevent yourself from repeating any errors that have been indentified in previous work;
create your own reading and critiquing strategy.
Thus a comprehensive review of the literature is important because it:
provides an up-to-date understanding of the subject and its significance to (your) practice;
identifies the methods used in previous research on the topic;
helps you to work out how to answer the questions - and indeed, what questions need to be asked;
provides comparisons for your own research findings.
(There is more on the reasons for doing a full literature search to be found in chapter 4 - Searching and reviewing the literature).
However, the importance of the literature search and review is that your research proposal will be so easy to write once you have done this. Everything in your research proposal flows from your literature review - indeed, you may find from the literature that the questions you wish to deal with in your own research have already been answered, and so there is no need for you to undertake your research. In that case, you may decide that either there is no need to do any research, or your review of the literature may have pointed you in the direction of another piece of research related to your interests/practice, etc., because you have identified gaps in the literature (even though your own topic has been well covered) and you want to examine those.