example literature review
example literature review
If you are writing the literature review as part of your dissertation or thesis, reiterate your central problem or research question and give a brief summary of the scholarly context. You can emphasise the timeliness of the topic (“many recent studies have focused on the problem of x”) or highlight a gap in the literature (“while there has been much research on x, few researchers have taken y into consideration”).
The content will look slightly different in each case, but the process of conducting a literature review follows the same steps.
A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources – it analyzes, synthesizes, and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.
- Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
- Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
- Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
- Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts
There isn’t one ideal type of literature review and you may need to employ a range of methods and provide reasons for your choices depending on the research area, problem and methodology. Aveyard (2014) describes a number of ways to approach writing a literature review. Most importantly though, take a close look at your assessment task, the associated marking criteria and access the support material on the first page of this guide. These will guide you towards an application of the fundamental characteristics required in the review.
Evidence-Based Practice & Systematic Reviews
Another way of organising your content is according to theme; or sub-themes, if your review focuses on one overarching topic. This method of organisation still allows you to present an overview of any polemical debates within these sub-themes. A thematic review can easily shift between chronological periods within each sub-section too.
Make sure that your sources are balanced; include enough books and academic journals and any useful published work from reputable scholars. To help you choose your sources appropriately, you might want to think about the parameters and objectives of your research. What are you hoping to find out? In your literature review, what theoretical issues or perspectives do you aim to tackle? How about your methodology? Will you focus on mainly qualitative or quantitative studies, or a mixture of both? These general questions should help guide you in selecting your sources and again, remember that the abstract of a source is a very useful tool. Having a quick scan of the abstract and its ‘keywords’ will often give you an indication of the whether the source will be useful for your research or not.
- It is important that you do not include new information in your conclusion. Instead, you need to highlight the key points raised in the earlier sections of your literature review.
- In-text citations are not usually included in your conclusion. This relates to the point above in regards to not including new information – all of the information in your discussion should have also been included, with correct citing and referencing, in the earlier sections of your literature review.
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