In writing a research paper, a section is devoted to the review of related literature. Why is there a need for such section to be there? Why should a researcher take time to write a review of related literature? Can this section be skipped in conducting an empirical investigation?

A discussion of the reasons behind the need to write a review of related literature will help clarify this vital component of the research paper. For the neophyte in the field of research, the connection of this section to the rest of the research paper must be well understood and established.

Overall, the purpose of the review of related literature is to provide an overview of the literature about the researcher’s chosen topic of inquiry. The overview will help the researcher determine the current state of research on the specific topic he wants to delve into; what has been done in the past by other researchers working along the same line of interest and what needs to be done. The researcher would want to fill in the “gaps in knowledge.”

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Why is there a gap in knowledge in the first place? Are the discoveries made by many scientists in the past not enough to provide answers to questions which may have been asked before?

Although man has gone a long way in history and modern civilization has advanced greatly to meet the society’s need, science as a tool is not able to provide all the solutions to the many problems besetting man. Whenever there are discoveries or models to predict outcomes of interventions to problems, there are always errors or uncertainties involved.

A cure for cancer, for example, may work for some people but not for everyone. There are always deviants, or exceptions to the rule. This leaves questions that will warrant further study to help shed light on the issue. Questions may arise like “Why is the cancer cure for the majority of people not working for a specific group of people?” or “Are there other factors, inherent in the specific group of people, that influence the effects of the cancer cure?”

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The answers to these questions are not easy to come by. A good researcher, therefore, has to make an exhaustive review of related literature that will help clarify the issue. It will also help the researcher determine if there is really a need for him to do further research or probably the problem he posed may already have been answered by someone.

The review of related literature will help the researcher avoid doing things which have already been done before. He can focus his research on those issues which, upon rigorous analysis of the literature at hand, are still left unanswered. This will mean savings in time, money and effort.