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Research & Postgraduate Students: Literature Reviews

Literature Review banner

 

The main purpose of the literature review is to demonstrate why the researcher’s study is necessary.

 

A literature review is a central part of any research project, as it sets your research in context and identifies how it fits with the research that has already been done. You may be asked to write a literature review as part of a thesis, dissertation, or longer project, or as a separate assignment to progress the research.

Essentially it is a "re" view or "look again" at what has already been written about your research topic.


  • A literature review is a critical examination of information related to your proposed research topic
  • A literature review ensures that you are at least familiar with research in your area before starting your own research
  • It involves analysing and evaluating the work of a range of works in relation to your research area
  • Reviewing the literature will help you identify a gap in your field that you can explore and help you identify your research question

Organising a literature review

A literature review...

 

Shows that:

► You have an in-depth grasp of your topic

► You understand where your own research fits into and adds to an existing body of knowledge

Demonstrates:

► Your literature searching abilities

► You can critical appraise information to judge its trustworthiness, value and relevance

► You have learnt from others

► Your research is a starting point for new ideas

A good literature review has:

  • Up-to-date citations
  • Clear transitions between ideas
  • Corroborates all claims 
  • References
  • Well organised paragraphs 
  • Consistent formatting 

A Literature review is not!

  • A comprehensive alphabetical list of every work referred to in your research, or a list of references cited
  • A literary review describing and evaluating specific books, articles etc.
  • A annotated bibliography listing references and adding brief notes about the significance of each source

The purpose of a literature review is to:

Communicate to your reader what information and ideas have been established on a topic

Explain what the strengths and weaknesses of that information and those ideas might be

Establish context for the argument explored in the rest of your research

Keep up-to-date with current developments on a topic  or discipline

Listen & Learn...

Literature Review Podcast image

Examples

Checkout some recent Masters or PhD theses related to your research in Research@THEA (the IoT’s digital repository). Read the literature review chapter - has the author been successful in providing a clear synthesis of past research?

Useful Books


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