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The literature search starts with an introduction describing the subject area and the associated problem area. The problem area consists of three parts:

  1. Broad context
  2. Relevance
  3. Previous findings

The broad context indicates what the general background is. Usually this is stated in a few sentences. In addition,  information is provided to further understand the general content of the study, such as definitions of important concepts and a description of a studied model. The text goes on to further explain why the topic is important. A distinction can be made between social and scientific relevance. For societal relevance, consider the practical application and in the case of scientific relevance consider the underlying theory and knowledge.

An example scientific relevance could be how a specific technique can be used to develop a specific software which can detect faces. An example of social relevance could be how a specific technique can be used to combat terrorism.

Some studies are socially and scientifically relevant while others are clearly relevant to only one aspect.

Next, descriptions of findings from previous research are given. Sometimes it is necessary to give them earlier when they are needed to understand the broad context in order to substantiate scientific relevance.

Both the introduction of previous findings and the relevance lead to the central question of the literature research. This question forms the leitmotif (or the recurring theme or red line) for the rest of the literature review. All the data that is further mentioned lead to an answer to the central question. Without a clear question it will be difficult to reach a final conclusion.

The question can be formulated as a real question. However, it is customary to process the question in an indirect question.

Question as direct question: What is the effect of X on Y?
Question as indirect question: It is unknown what the effect is of X on Y. (scientific relevance)
In this study we look at the effect of X on Y. (central question)

After the question, state in a few sentences what the construction of the middle section will be. This will tell you how the problem will be answered.

Questions that are answered in the introduction:
What has been studied?
Why is this important?
What is already known about the subject?
What data did previous studies yield?
What new questions have been raised by these insights?
What knowledge is still missing? What is the central question?
What is the structure of this literature search?

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