A literature review is a comprehensive and critical review of literature that provides the theoretical foundation of your chosen topic.
A review will demonstrate that an exhaustive search for literature has been undertaken. It might be used for a thesis, a report, a research essay or a study.
A good literature review is a critical component of academic research, providing a comprehensive and systematic analysis of existing scholarly works on a specific topic. Here are the key elements that make up a good literature review:
Focus and clarity: A good literature review has a clear and well-defined research question or objective. It focuses on a specific topic and provides a coherent and structured analysis of the relevant literature.
In-depth research: A comprehensive literature review involves an extensive search of relevant sources, including academic journals, books, and reputable online databases. It ensures that a wide range of perspectives and findings are considered.
Critical evaluation: A good literature review involves a critical assessment of the quality, credibility, and relevance of the selected sources. It evaluates the methodologies, strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of each study to determine their impact on the overall research.
Synthesis and analysis: A literature review should go beyond summarizing individual studies. It involves synthesizing and analyzing the findings, identifying patterns, themes, and gaps in the existing literature, and presenting a coherent narrative that connects different works.
Contribution to knowledge: A good literature review not only summarizes existing research but also contributes to the knowledge base. It identifies gaps, inconsistencies, or unresolved debates in the field and suggests avenues for further research.
Clear and concise writing: A well-written literature review presents complex ideas in a clear, concise, and organized manner. It uses appropriate language, avoids jargon, and maintains a logical flow of information.
Proper citation and referencing: Accurate citation and referencing of the reviewed sources are crucial for maintaining academic integrity. Following the appropriate referencing style guidelines ensures consistency and allows readers to access the cited works.
In summary, a good literature review demonstrates a thorough understanding of the topic, critically engages with existing literature, and offers valuable insights for future research.
Where should you search?
The Library uses MultiSearch as an access point to our subscriptions and resources. Using MultiSearch is a good place to start.
You can also search directly in databases. You might like to consider statistics, government publications or conference proceedings. This will depend on the question you're researching.
What should you read?
You will need to read critically when assessing material for inclusion in your literature review. Each piece of information you look at (whether a journal article, a book, a video, or something else) should be assessed.
Analyse the Literature
Once you've read widely on your subject, stop to consider what new insights this knowledge has provided.
Keep a search diary
Set up a document or spreadsheet to record where you've searched, and also the search strategies you've used. Record the search terms and also the places which have served you well. For instance, is there a particular database which had good coverage?
You may need to repeat searches in the future and this information will help. It might also be requested by your supervisor.
There are many options for setting up alerts which will help you keep track of new publications by a journal, or an author who is key in your research area, or even when other people cite the papers you have noted (maybe their work will be of interest to you).
1. Consider the guidance in the "getting started" box above before starting your search.
2. Develop your research question or need.
3. Set up your search diary to record your progress and as a reference guide to come back to.
1. Identify the major concepts from your research question or topic.
Let's say that our topic is: How do alternative energy sources play a role in climate change?
The major concepts will be
2. List synonyms or alternative terms for each concept and organise them in a table like the one below - using a column for each major concept. Use as many columns as you have major concepts.
|Alternative energy sources||Climate Change|
|wind power||global warming|
|solar power||greenhouse gases|
Tools and tips to assist with this process:
Create your search strategy from the concepts, synonyms, phrases etc in your Concept Grid
Identify the best databases for your topic. Check the databases tab on this Guide.
N.B.The syntax/search tools for your search may depend on the particular database you are searching in. Most databases have a Help screen to assist.
However, the majority of databases will use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) and other commonly used search tools:
So with our question/topic: How do alternative energy sources play a role in climate change?
After identifying our major concepts and synonyms for each and employing some of the tools mentioned above, our constructed search strategy might look something like this:
("alternative energ*" OR "wind power" OR "Solar power" OR "Solar energy" OR Renewabl* OR geothermal OR hydroelectricity OR "hydro electricity") AND ("climate change" OR "global* warm*" or "greenhouse gas*" or "green house gas*")
3. Be prepared to revise, reassess and refine your search strategies after you have run your initial searches to ensure you get the best possible results. If you retrieve too many false results or "noise", try to analyse why. For example, you may have used a word which has alternative meanings.
If you have too many results, you can either add another concept or remove some synonyms
If you have too few results, try searching with fewer concepts (identify the least most important to omit) or add more synonyms.
Your Faculty or Clinical Librarian will be able to assist with this process.