How to critically review or analyze the literature?

Critical analysis means you are identifying the problems or weaknesses of previous research. That is the meaning of the word “critic”. For example, the job of a food critic is to criticize food served to him. He may like it or he may find faults and give suggestions to make the dish better. Similarly, a film critic will decide whether a movie was good or bad.
In a research paper, you are the critic. The first step in choosing a research topic is to read recent studies in the area of interest and decide what is lacking. This will help you justify why you want to do research on the topic. Thus, critical analysis means doing lots of research related to your topic, identify the shortcomings, and explaining how your research will address these shortcomings and how.

Critically review or analyze literature

First of all, make a good outline of what all points you want to include or explain.

Suppose the research topic is “Impact of age on compensation in public sector companies”.

The literature review should primarily talk about:

  • Factors affecting compensation.
  • Which demographic factors affect compensation?
  • How age affects compensation?
  • How age affects compensation in public sector companies?

The second step in a critical analysis is to identify 8-10 good recent types of research or journals related to your topic that are not more than 5 years old. They must have empirical research, i.e. some kind of primary study analysis in them (survey or interview, etc.). For example:

For a research paper on the same topic as above, I will look for:

  • Any study that has primary research talking about how age affects compensation. This can be in any country or industry.
  • Studies that talk about the impact of all demographic factors on compensation.
  • Studies that talk about the impact of age on productivity and wage.

All of the above 3 studies should have primary research analysis. They should not be only based on secondary research or theory. Then you should summarize these studies in the following manner:

  • Brief information about the study, where was it conducted and by whom will help you achieve credibility in your research.
  • And it is important that you put forward the findings of these studies.

Keep in mind that you do not stray away and avoid providing extra information and explanation or interpretation of the study. The summary should for each study be short and concise. Keep a limited number of words for each summary. It is important that you do not extra emphasize on the summary as this part is not important but rather necessary to include.

Lastly, identify the shortcomings of these studies. In this case, the shortcoming is that none of the 3 studies as mentioned above are focused on the effect of age on compensation in private sector companies in India. They are all in different contexts like other countries, industries, etc. Therefore, the research will be significant because it focuses only on private sector companies. This was not been explored independently by any researcher before.

Points to remember for critical analysis

  1. Choose studies that are related to your research area.
  2. Do not refer to books for critical analysis.
  3. The studies you choose for critical analysis should have primary research analysis.
  4. Avoid excess information in the summary of the study avoid writing more than a few words for each study.
  5. Review at least 10 empirical studies.
  6. None of these studies should be older than 5 years old, otherwise, your research will become invalid.

Priya Chetty

Partner at Project Guru
Priya is a master in business administration with majors in marketing and finance. She is fluent with data modelling, time series analysis, various regression models, forecasting and interpretation of the data. She has assisted data scientists, corporates, scholars in the field of finance, banking, economics and marketing.
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1 thought on “How to critically review or analyze the literature?”
  1. Avatar hina khan 5 years & 3 months ago

    it was helpfull.

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