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Dissertations 3: Literature Reviews: Home

What is a Literature Review?

The literature review is an overview of the significant literature on a topic. The word literature (in 'literature review') broadly refers to the scholarly or scientific writing on a topic. It may include: scholarly articles, books, book chapters, conference papers, theses and other sources of information relevant to your particular area of research.  

It should not be purely descriptive: a literature review needs to include summary and critical evaluation. 

Overall, a literature review should do the following: 

  • Identify key debates in your field of study 

  • Present and critically evaluate previous research and ideas 

  • Highlight gaps in the research 

Literature Review as Part of Research Project (Dissertation)

A literature review leading to your original research project (dissertation) prepares the ground for your own study. This involves reading widely to help you to refine your topic and formulate your research question or hypothesis. The purpose of a literature review is to demonstrate familiarity with and understanding of research in your field of study before conducting a new investigation. Therefore, it will enable you to uncover research which has been done before and to illuminate what is not yet known about your topic. 


To produce an effective literature review, you could follow these steps: 

  1. Research 

  1. Assess the quality of studies 

  1. Structure your work 

  1. Synthesise information 

  1. Express critical analysis 

These steps are addressed in the tabs of this guide. 

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