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Published by at November 1st, 2023 , Revised On November 1, 2023

Purpose of Traditional Literature Review | When to Use

The phrase “literature review” is well-known in the constantly changing world of academics and research. It takes many different forms and is an important component of academic work. A typical example of one of these kinds is a literature review.

We will review traditional literature reviews’ functions, consider when and why they are necessary, and contrast them with systematic reviews in this extensive blog article. You will have a thorough understanding of the traditional literature review’s function in research and its applicability in today’s academic environment by the end of this article.

Understanding Traditional Literature Reviews

Before discussing why and when we should use traditional literature reviews, let’s first define what they are. 

A traditional literature review is a comprehensive and critical summary of the existing research and scholarly work on a particular topic or subject. It involves the systematic identification, evaluation, and synthesis of relevant academic articles, books, and other sources. 

The main goal is to thoroughly review all of the knowledge in a certain field or area of study.

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are not the same as traditional literature reviews. Traditional literature reviews are more flexible and narrative, in contrast to systematic reviews, which employ a structured and extremely rigorous technique to address certain research issues. They provide a larger viewpoint on a subject and frequently act as the starting point for more study or the creation of theoretical frameworks.

What Traditional Literature Reviews are Used for

Let’s look more closely at the goals of traditional literary evaluations now that we have a better idea of what they involve. Traditional literature reviews provide a number of crucial roles in academic and research settings, including:

1. Knowledge Synthesis

The synthesis of current knowledge on a particular subject is one of the main goals of traditional literature reviews. To develop a deep understanding of the topic, researchers compile and examine various academic materials. Researchers can find trends, gaps, and areas that require more research with the use of this synthesis.

2. Recognising Important Theories and Concepts

Traditional literature reviews are essential for identifying the most important ideas, theories, and models in a certain field of study. Researchers can use these reviews to create a solid theoretical framework for their own research endeavours. They can also hone their research topics and hypotheses by reading existing literature.

3. Contextualisation

Traditional literature reviews provide context for new research. They help researchers understand the historical development of a field, the evolution of ideas, and the debates and controversies that have shaped it. This contextualisation is essential for producing meaningful and relevant research.

4. Identifying Methodologies

Researchers can learn about various research methodologies and approaches used in their field by reviewing traditional literature. This knowledge can guide them in selecting the most appropriate methods for their own studies.

5. Supporting or Challenging Existing Ideas

Traditional literature reviews allow researchers to evaluate the strength of existing ideas and arguments. They can either support or challenge established theories, providing a platform for intellectual discourse and the advancement of knowledge.

6. Generating Research Hypotheses

Researchers frequently come up with fresh research questions or hypotheses when they review and synthesise the literature. These new concepts may inspire creative research initiatives.

7. Informing Policy And Practice

Traditional literature evaluations are critical in guiding best practices and policy decisions in sectors including healthcare and education. These assessments help practitioners and policymakers make decisions that are supported by the available data.

When Should You Conduct Traditional Literature Reviews?

Knowing the functions of traditional literature reviews is essential now that we are aware of them. In the following circumstances, traditional literature evaluations are very helpful:

1. Exploratory Analysis

A traditional literature review can assist researchers in exploring and comprehending the body of knowledge when they are approaching relatively unexplored terrain in their discipline. It acts as a springboard for additional investigation.

2. Theoretical Growth

A conventional literature review can offer the essential framework if a researcher wants to create or improve a theoretical framework. It assists in locating important ideas, factors, and connections that can guide the creation of a new theory.

3. Historical Investigation

Traditional literature evaluations are essential for researching ideas’ development or a particular discipline’s history. They make it possible for academics to follow the evolution of ideas and hypotheses over time.

4. Policy And Practice Evaluation

Traditional literature reviews aid in assessing the efficacy of current policies and practices in domains where research is intimately linked to policy choices and practical applications. They offer data to back up or refute established theories.

5. Multidisciplinary Study

Traditional literature reviews can assist researchers in synthesising knowledge from numerous sources and incorporating it into their work for interdisciplinary research projects that draw from multiple disciplines of study.

6. Preliminary Investigation

Traditional literature reviews can assist researchers in honing their research questions, hypotheses, and procedures prior to starting a more substantial research effort.

Traditional Literature Review Vs. Systematic Review

It’s critical to distinguish between traditional and systematic literature reviews because they have different objectives and employ different approaches. A quick comparison is shown below:

Traditional Literature Review:

  • Methodology: Flexible and narrative.
  • Scope: Broader, aiming to provide an overview.
  • Inclusion Criteria: This may include a wide range of sources.
  • Objective: To synthesise existing knowledge, identify trends, and inform further research.
  • Rigor: Less stringent than systematic reviews.
  • Narrative: Typically presents information in a narrative format.

Systematic Review:

  • Methodology: Follows a highly structured and rigorous process.
  • Scope: Focused on answering specific research questions.
  • Inclusion Criteria: Strictly defined inclusion and exclusion criteria.
  • Objective: To provide a comprehensive, unbiased, and reproducible summary of existing research on a specific topic.
  • Rigour: High level of rigour, including systematic search, data extraction, and quality assessment.
  • Presentation: Follows a structured format, often with meta-analysis.

Traditional and systematic literature reviews have their place in research, and the choice between them depends on the research goals and questions.

Ethical Principles in Traditional Literature Reviews

  • Transparency and Accountability
  • Accountability and transparency are the foundations of ethical behaviour. The choice of sources, data extraction, and any potential conflicts of interest should all be thoroughly documented by researchers. Transparent reporting makes it possible for others to assess and reproduce the review’s results.
  • Citation and Plagiarism 
  • In academic research, plagiarism is a significant ethical breach. It is crucial to correctly cite the original sources in order to credit them while summarising and synthesising current work appropriately. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in charges of intellectual theft and harm the researcher’s reputation.
  • Avoiding Bias
  • During the review process, ethical researchers work to reduce prejudice. This covers bias in the choice of sources, the analysis of the data, and the presentation of the conclusions. Researchers must approach the literature with an open mind and respect for other points of view.
  • Inclusivity and Representation 
  • Researchers should be aware of diversity and representation when conducting their literature reviews. Diverse viewpoints, including those from underrepresented groups, must be taken into account. Certain voices being ignored or marginalised can help to keep injustices from ending.
  • Respecting Intellectual Property 
  • Researchers are required to uphold the rights to intellectual property. This entails obtaining the required authorisations for the reproduction of copyrighted materials and abiding by licencing contracts. Legal repercussions may result from failing to respect these rights.
  • Human Subjects Research 
  • Ethical guidelines governing human subjects research must be followed whenever a typical literature review uses data or information pertaining to human subjects. This can entail getting consent with full knowledge, protecting participants’ privacy and confidentiality, and minimising harm.
  • Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest 
  • Researchers should disclose any potential conflicts of interest that could influence their review. This includes financial interests, affiliations, or any personal biases that may impact the objectivity of the review.


In conclusion, traditional literature reviews are essential to academic and research endeavours. They accomplish a variety of tasks, including theory creation, knowledge synthesis, and policy evaluation. The precise research objectives and the nature of the project will determine when it is appropriate to use standard literature reviews.

Both sorts of reviews offer certain advantages, even if they are distinct from systematic reviews in terms of approach and scope. When determining whether to do a regular literature review or choose a systematic review, researchers and academics should consider the goal of their study, the research questions they seek to address, and the level of rigour required. In their particular domains, researchers can advance knowledge and make wise decisions by utilising the power of traditional literature reviews.

Frequently Asked Questions

Traditional literature reviews differ from other types of reviews, such as systematic reviews, in their methodology and scope. Traditional reviews are more flexible and narrative in nature, while systematic reviews follow a structured and highly rigorous process to answer specific research questions.

A traditional literature review is a scholarly process that involves systematically identifying, evaluating, and synthesising relevant academic articles, books, and other sources on a specific topic. It aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge in a particular field or area of study.