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Literature Review

What is a literature review?

A literature review provides the readers with an account of what has been published on a specific topic or subject by accredited experts, scholars and researchers in the field. You maybe asked to write a literature review as a separate assignment , but in most case it will be part of the introduction to an essay, research report or thesis.

When writing a literature review, your aim is to inform the reader about what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic or subject and what their strengths and weaknesses are. The literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis).

It is NOT just a descriptive list of the resources available, or a set of summaries.

Things to consider when writing a literature review

  • What is the specific thesis, problem, or research question that my literature review aims to define?
  • What type of literature review am I conducting? Am I looking at issues of theory, methodology, policy, quantitative research (e.g. on the effectiveness of a new procedure), qualitative research (e.g., studies )?
  • What is the scope of my literature review? What types of publications am I using (e.g., journals, books, government documents)?
  • What discipline am I working in (e.g., english, linguistics, history, sociology)?
  • Has my search for sources been wide enough to ensure that I have found all the relevant material?
  • Has it been narrow enough to exclude irrelevant material?
  • Is the number of sources I've used appropriate for the length of my paper?
  • Have I critically analysed the literature I use?
  • How will I avoid just listing and summarizing items, do I assess them, discussing strengths and weaknesses?
  • Have I cited and discussed studies contrary to my perspective?
  • Will the reader find my literature review relevant, appropriate, and or useful?