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I'm always confused by this and can't find it anywhere. Here's an example of what I mean: (literature here in context of academic literature, such as journals, proceedings, etc.)

In the literature ...

or

On the literature ...

Another one:

... an overview on the advances of ...

or

... an overview in the advances of ...

Someone care to say which ones are correct and why?

  • This question requires a critical overview of all the implications. – kiamlaluno Feb 26 '11 at 2:46
  • Is there any way that I can narrow it? – korbes Feb 26 '11 at 2:48
3

Literature

Words are contained in sentences. Meaning resides within sentences. Sentences are within paragraphs. Paragraphs are in articles or in chapters in books. articles, books and other writings make up literature.

If something was on literature it would be external to it. "Essays on the Literature of Sao Tome and Principe."

Overview

This is a conjunction of over and view suggesting the view from a high place where one can look over nearby obstacles to see the whole surrounding context. It uses, as a metaphor, the visual meaning of view (rather than it's meaning as a synonym of opinion for example)

We most often use of with view so this carries across to overview. Sometimes we use into with view but this isn't appropriate here because an overview isn't concerned with looking primarily at detail inside something.

3

If there are portions of the literature that you are referencing in order to make or support a point, you would say "In the literature regarding this topic, we can see...", because you are looking at various passages inside the literature as a whole.

For "overview", the correct preposition to use is "of":

This is an overview of the advances of Dr. Bork in the field of Podiatric Phalangeal Ordinal Dactyl Scansion Patterns.

2

In all languages generally, the distribution of prepositions is highly idiomatic and subject to particular prepositions being associated with particular nouns or quite narrow concepts; it's difficult to give simple rules that will work in all cases.

That said, as a native English speaker, I'd say that the two cases here are quite conceptually different to me: "in" in the first case is more or less synonymous with "within", and-- in case this helps-- there's almost a figurative idea of picturing yourself "inside" a box containing information.

In the second case, "overview" functions as a "picture" noun (like "a photo/image/collage/snapshot/montage/film of ..."), where English tends to prefer "of". Coincidentally, some languages might allow the same preposition in these two cases, but they're essentially different constructions.

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