What you'll learn
Conduct a Literature Review
This course guides learners through the entire process of preparing a literature review, selecting and analyzing existing literature and structuring and writing a quality literature review. Most importantly, the course develops skills in using evidence to create and present an engaging and critical argument.
This course will help learners to:
Evaluate the purpose of a literature review
Develop and clarify their thinking, embed their ideas, and articulate their thoughts clearly
Identify the key preparation steps of a literature review and use each step to effectively articulate their research question and literature review plan
Identify the key considerations when evaluating journals, selecting the most appropriate journal for their literature review
Build a strong and convincing argument using suitable literature and data to develop and present their argument in their literature review
Write and structure a strong literature review avoiding common pitfalls when writing
Recognize what each section of the literature review requires and formulate their own with the help of examples and guidelines.
Time to complete: 5 hours
How to access: Sage Campus is a digital library product. If you are a librarian, find out how to get Sage Campus for your university . If you are faculty, a researcher, or a student, recommend Sage Campus to your library .
there are 6 modules in this course:, 1. what is the purpose of a literature review.
First, you need to know what a literature review is. A well-designed and presented literature review is central to the success of your research project. This module will look at what a literature review is and how it is used to establish where your research fits in.
2. What to do before you start
Jumping into a literature review can be daunting. Why? Well, conducting a review will open up a whole new world of process, language and structures, so it’s important to address it one step and a time. You build a review, and the best place to start is the beginning.
3. Selecting and analyzing the right literature
When writing a literature review, it’s important to understand that the argument already exists within the available literature. Your review will ultimately be based on pre-existing academic knowledge. This essential knowledge will invariably be in journals and journal articles.
4. How do I create my argument?
An argument is central to a literature review. This module will look at why it is essential to engage in an academic argument and how to develop an argument throughout your literature review. It will explore using evidence and existing arguments.
5. How should I write my argument?
Now we have looked at what an argument is, let's look at how to actually write the argument. This module will help you put pen to paper and structure a well-presented argument in your literature review.
6. How should I structure a literature review?
Time to put pen to paper. This module will go through the sections likely to be required in your literature review, what needs to be included in each, and how to write the different elements of a literature review. Keep in mind that literature review requirements vary, so have a look at your particular requirements.
Who it's for
Who it’s for.
This course is aimed at all students across a wide range of disciplines who are conducting a literature review as part of their studies, whether that is undergraduate or postgraduate, as part of a wider research project or as a standalone piece of research.
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Guides you through the entire process of preparing a literature review, from selecting and analyzing existing literature to structuring and writing your review.
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Dr. Thomas is currently a Lecturer (Marketing) at Aston Business School. Dr. Thomas’s primary research interests and publications encompass Brand Management, specifically the areas associated with sponsorship, fandom, co-creation, and brand community. His work has been published the European Journal of Marketing, Computers in Human Behavior, Journal of Marketing Management, Journal of Product and Brand Management, Young Consumers, Strategic Change: Briefings in Entrepreneurial Finance, and IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management. Dr. Thomas sits on the editorial boards for Journal of Product and Brand Management and International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing, winning reviewer of the year for Journal of Product and Brand Management in 2015.
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How to: the literature review 1/2: find a good literature review
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What you will achieve: In this project-based course, you will outline a complete scientific paper, choose an appropriate journal to which you'll submit the finished paper for publication, and prepare a checklist that will allow you to independently judge whether your paper is ready to submit. What you'll need to get started: This course is designed for students who have previous experience with academic research - you should be eager to adapt our writing and publishing advice to an existing personal project. If you just finished your graduate dissertation, just began your PhD, or are at a different stage of your academic journey or career and just want to publish your work, this course is for you. *About Project-Centered Courses: Project-Centered Courses are designed to help you complete a personally meaningful real-world project, with your instructor and a community of learners with similar goals providing guidance and suggestions along the way. By actively applying new concepts as you learn, you’ll master the course content more efficiently; you’ll also get a head start on using the skills you gain to make positive changes in your life and career. When you complete the course, you’ll have a finished project that you’ll be proud to use and share.
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Jun 3, 2020
It was really helpful to me, I hope it will be useful to all researchers who are intensively working for publishing papers in journals. I thank all course instructors who handled the video sessions.
Jun 20, 2020
From the lesson
Before writing: delimiting your scientific paper
A good paper do not loose focus throughout the entirety of its form. As such, we are going to give you a more detailed view on how to delimit your paper. We are going to lead you through your paper by taking a closer look at the paper definition which will ensure you don't loose focus. Then we will explain why the literature review is important and how to actually do it. And then we will guide you with advices as to how to find the so-what of your paper! This is important as research is all about so-what!
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How to write a literature review
- Information and services
- Student support
- Study skills and learning advice
- Study skills and learning advice overview
- Assignment writing
A literature review critically analyses existing literature to develop an argument.
Writing a literature review can be challenging because:
- you need to coordinate many sources and ideas into a logical argument
- you may be dealing with language and ideas you haven't fully mastered yet
- there are no fixed rules for what to include or how to organise your writing.
This is just a general guide to help you write a literature review. The specific requirements for your course may be different. Make sure you read through any assignment requirements carefully and ask your lecturer or tutor if you're unsure how to meet them.
Purpose of a literature review
A literature review should demonstrate your overall understanding of the literature and develop an argument, often by answering specific questions. It shouldn't just list and summarise what you've read.
Unlike other assignment types, you're often expected to determine the purpose of a literature review yourself.
Commonly, a literature review is written to help develop and justify a novel research question. But they have many other uses. For example, you may use a literature review to develop an argument that:
- justifies the significance or interest of a research question
- demonstrates your professional competence in a field of research
- critically reviews theory or methodological approaches
- weighs evidence to reach a conclusion or recommendation.
Selecting relevant materials
Your literature review should only include relevant materials, and it should be clear how each work is relevant to your main argument.
When selecting materials you should:
- read widely – don't just cite papers produced by a particular research group, or from only one country or continent.
- use up-to-date material – if you're completing a PhD or MPhil, you'll need to update your confirmation literature review for your final thesis.
- include relevant landmark studies – show that you know the influential and highly cited works in your field, but make sure they're relevant to your argument.
- limit background information – only include background details that are needed to orient the reader and help them appreciate your argument.
- include as much evidence as needed – be selective about what you include, even if you're building on, updating or challenging previous work. To challenge a common assumption, include a representative list of papers to demonstrate that it's common; you don't have to list every paper that makes the assumption.
Analysing the literature
Your literature review should provide a detailed justification for your main argument. You need to critically review the literature and synthesise your analysis into a logical argument.
This general process may help:
- familiarise yourself with the literature to learn what's been done and what's already known
- organise the materials around themes, issues or questions rather than individual papers
- critically review the information to identify things like assumptions, limitations, deficiencies, lack of clarity, methodological weaknesses, gaps, controversies and problems in existing knowledge or practice that need to be addressed.
Organising your argument
Your literature review should be a logical, well-structured argument organised into an introduction, body and conclusion.
To help organise your argument:
- plan before you start writing – creating a mind map or outline can help to clarify your thinking before you start drafting.
- refine as you write – give yourself time to write many drafts, and refine the writing and structure of your argument as you go. Look for repetition and common themes.
- Assignment types
- Steps for writing assignments
- Literature review example analysis
Our advisers can help undergraduate and postgraduate students in all programs clarify ideas from workshops, help you develop skills and give feedback on assignments.
How a Learning Adviser can help
UQ Library guide to literature reviews Guide for research students (PDF, 1.7 MB) Example literature review analysis
- Schools & departments
A general guide on how to conduct and write a literature review.
Please check course or programme information and materials provided by teaching staff , including your project supervisor, for subject-specific guidance.
What is a literature review?
A literature review is a piece of academic writing demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the academic literature on a specific topic placed in context. A literature review also includes a critical evaluation of the material; this is why it is called a literature review rather than a literature report. It is a process of reviewing the literature, as well as a form of writing.
To illustrate the difference between reporting and reviewing, think about television or film review articles. These articles include content such as a brief synopsis or the key points of the film or programme plus the critic’s own evaluation. Similarly the two main objectives of a literature review are firstly the content covering existing research, theories and evidence, and secondly your own critical evaluation and discussion of this content.
Usually a literature review forms a section or part of a dissertation, research project or long essay. However, it can also be set and assessed as a standalone piece of work.
What is the purpose of a literature review?
…your task is to build an argument, not a library. Rudestam, K.E. and Newton, R.R. (1992) Surviving your dissertation: A comprehensive guide to content and process. California: Sage, p49.
In a larger piece of written work, such as a dissertation or project, a literature review is usually one of the first tasks carried out after deciding on a topic. Reading combined with critical analysis can help to refine a topic and frame research questions. Conducting a literature review establishes your familiarity with and understanding of current research in a particular field before carrying out a new investigation. After doing a literature review, you should know what research has already been done and be able to identify what is unknown within your topic.
When doing and writing a literature review, it is good practice to:
- summarise and analyse previous research and theories;
- identify areas of controversy and contested claims;
- highlight any gaps that may exist in research to date.
Conducting a literature review
Focusing on different aspects of your literature review can be useful to help plan, develop, refine and write it. You can use and adapt the prompt questions in our worksheet below at different points in the process of researching and writing your review. These are suggestions to get you thinking and writing.
Developing and refining your literature review (pdf)
Developing and refining your literature review (Word)
Developing and refining your literature review (Word rtf)
Writing a literature review has a lot in common with other assignment tasks. There is advice on our other pages about thinking critically, reading strategies and academic writing. Our literature review top tips suggest some specific things you can do to help you submit a successful review.
Literature review top tips (pdf)
Literature review top tips (Word rtf)
Our reading page includes strategies and advice on using books and articles and a notes record sheet grid you can use.
Reading at university
The Academic writing page suggests ways to organise and structure information from a range of sources and how you can develop your argument as you read and write.
The Critical thinking page has advice on how to be a more critical researcher and a form you can use to help you think and break down the stages of developing your argument.
As with other forms of academic writing, your literature review needs to demonstrate good academic practice by following the Code of Student Conduct and acknowledging the work of others through citing and referencing your sources.
Good academic practice
As with any writing task, you will need to review, edit and rewrite sections of your literature review. The Editing and proofreading page includes tips on how to do this and strategies for standing back and thinking about your structure and checking the flow of your argument.
Editing and proofreading
Guidance on literature searching from the University Library
The Academic Support Librarians have developed LibSmart I and II, Learn courses to help you develop and enhance your digital research skills and capabilities; from getting started with the Library to managing data for your dissertation.
Searching using the library’s DiscoverEd tool: DiscoverEd
Finding resources in your subject: Subject guides
The Academic Support Librarians also provide one-to-one appointments to help you develop your research strategies.
1 to 1 support for literature searching and systematic reviews
Advice to help you optimise use of Google Scholar, Google Books and Google for your research and study: Using Google
Managing and curating your references
A referencing management tool can help you to collect and organise and your source material to produce a bibliography or reference list.
Referencing and reference management
Information Services provide access to Cite them right online which is a guide to the main referencing systems and tells you how to reference just about any source (EASE log-in may be required).
Cite them right
Published study guides
There are a number of scholarship skills books and guides available which can help with writing a literature review. Our Resource List of study skills guides includes sections on Referencing, Dissertation and project writing and Literature reviews.
Study skills guides
Imperial College London Imperial College London
Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden visit Imperial
Largest study of its kind shows leafy greens may decrease bowel cancer risk
Health Minister visits White City to see pioneering dementia research
- Graduate School
- Imperial students
- Professional Development
- Courses for Master's Students
Preparing your Literature Review (Online Course)
Course Level: Level 1 Duration: Approximately 2 hours Format: Self-paced online Blackboard course
This online course will equip you with key skills and knowledge on how to start, what to include and how to structure your master-level literature review. You can complete the course at your own pace and start at any time. The course activities will support you to verify your learning as well as to prepare your literature review in stages: we suggest you enrolling in this course when you are getting ready to prepare your literature review so that you will complete the course with a draft of your own literature review.
Please, note that examples are not subject specific: they are included to show how strategies are applied, you will need then to transfer the learning to your own literature review.
On completion of this course, you will be able to:
- Define your literature review from your research question
- Identify the boundaries of your literature review with reference to your research question
- Assess the usefulness of different sources of literature
- Employ effective reading strategies
- Structure a literature review based on a research question
To complete the course, you are required to achieve a threshold level of understanding which will be tested through a final exam. Instructions on how to receive a certificate as proof of completion can be found in the course in the section ‘Course Info.’
Please follow the instructions to self-enrol onto the course MasterClass: Preparing your Literature Review .
Conduct a literature review
What is a literature review.
A literature review is a summary of the published work in a field of study. This can be a section of a larger paper or article, or can be the focus of an entire paper. Literature reviews show that you have examined the breadth of knowledge and can justify your thesis or research questions. They are also valuable tools for other researchers who need to find a summary of that field of knowledge.
Unlike an annotated bibliography, which is a list of sources with short descriptions, a literature review synthesizes sources into a summary that has a thesis or statement of purpose—stated or implied—at its core.
How do I write a literature review?
Step 1: define your research scope.
- What is the specific research question that your literature review helps to define?
- Are there a maximum or minimum number of sources that your review should include?
Ask us if you have questions about refining your topic, search methods, writing tips, or citation management.
Step 2: Identify the literature
Start by searching broadly. Literature for your review will typically be acquired through scholarly books, journal articles, and/or dissertations. Develop an understanding of what is out there, what terms are accurate and helpful, etc., and keep track of all of it with citation management tools . If you need help figuring out key terms and where to search, ask us .
Use citation searching to track how scholars interact with, and build upon, previous research:
- Mine the references cited section of each relevant source for additional key sources
- Use Google Scholar or Scopus to find other sources that have cited a particular work
Step 3: Critically analyze the literature
Key to your literature review is a critical analysis of the literature collected around your topic. The analysis will explore relationships, major themes, and any critical gaps in the research expressed in the work. Read and summarize each source with an eye toward analyzing authority, currency, coverage, methodology, and relationship to other works. The University of Toronto's Writing Center provides a comprehensive list of questions you can use to analyze your sources.
Step 4: Categorize your resources
Divide the available resources that pertain to your research into categories reflecting their roles in addressing your research question. Possible ways to categorize resources include organization by:
- theoretical/philosophical approach
Regardless of the division, each category should be accompanied by thorough discussions and explanations of strengths and weaknesses, value to the overall survey, and comparisons with similar sources. You may have enough resources when:
- You've used multiple databases and other resources (web portals, repositories, etc.) to get a variety of perspectives on the research topic.
- The same citations are showing up in a variety of databases.
Undergraduate student resources.
- Literature Review Handout (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
- Learn how to write a review of literature (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Graduate student and faculty resources
- Information Research Strategies (University of Arizona)
- Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students (NC State University)
- Oliver, P. (2012). Succeeding with Your Literature Review: A Handbook for Students [ebook]
- Machi, L. A. & McEvoy, B. T. (2016). The Literature Review: Six Steps to Success
Graustein, J. S. (2012). How to Write an Exceptional Thesis or Dissertation: A Step-by-Step Guide from Proposal to Successful Defense [ebook]
Thomas, R. M. & Brubaker, D. L. (2008). Theses and Dissertations: A Guide to Planning, Research, and Writing