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Literature Review: Home

How to do a Literature Review

Starting your Literature Review

"A Literature Review typically summarizes results of past studies, suggests potential reasons for inconsistencies in past research findings, and directs future investigations" (Patall and Cooper, 2008, p.536)

*It is important to remember that a literature review is not a summary of articles*

  • Analyze your area of study, select a topic of interest to you
    • Write a Research Question
  • Focus your topic and Select Papers
    • Search Databases, Journals, Books and other sources
    • Choose Search Terms, use Boolean Operators to narrow your search
    • Screen the material you find (Fink, 2014, p.3-4)

Fink, A. (2014) Conducting Research Literature Reviews: From the Internet to Paper. 4th ed. London: SAGE.

Patall, E. A. and Cooper, H. (2008) 'Coducting Meta-Analysis', in Alasuutari, P., Bickman, L. and Brannen, J. (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Social Research Methods. London: SAGE, pp.536-554.

Evaluating the Literature

  • Read and analyse the selected articles
    • break up into sections
    • isolate themes and common principles
    • Annotate the readings (Mendeley has a notes feature for pdf documents)
  • Synthesize your findings
    • identify relationships and similar formulations (Hart, 1998, p.111)
    • Create a map of similar ideas and classify relationships  (Hart, 1998, p.143).
  • Comprehend the data
    • understand/interpret the data and be able to explain the core ideas and relationships
  • Knowledge 
    • Awareness of rules/methods
    • be able to apply concepts to different situations (Hart, 1998, p.111)

Hart, C. (1998) Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination. London: SAGE.

Writing the Literature Review

  • Develop a Working Plan
    • Structure your Review
    • What is the purpose of the review?
    • Make  a list of the main points (what are the aims?).
    • Draft and section the relevant material
    • Apply the necessary evidence (Hart, 1998, p.185-186)

Hart, C. (1998) Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination. London: SAGE.

Systematic Reviews

Systematic Reviews are used "to get a reliable and objective overview of the evidence that is currently available on a specific topic or the impact of a new intervention" (Denscombe, 2017, p.148).

  • As opposed to literature reviews, systematic reviews are self contained and would not be a part of a thesis or research proposal.
  • Focus on one policy problem or question.
  • More systematic in the approach of reviewing (Denscombe, 2017, p.148).

Denscombe, M. (2017) The Good Research Guide For small-scale social research projects. 6th edLondon: Open University Press.

For more information please see this page