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Literature Review Guide: Conducting a literature review


Guidelines for writing a literature review

  • Establish your research questions and organise your literature into logical categories around the subject/topic areas of your questions

  • Begin the literature review with an introduction to the topic. What is its significance and importance? Provide an overview of the contents of the review

  • Critically analyse the relevant literature in relation to the research questions stating the content of the literature, the implications of this knowledge, any gaps or deficiencies, any inconsistencies or conflicting viewpoints

  • Ensure you make your own interpretations and that you have written a critical and evaluative review

  • Your conclusion should draw together the important points and briefly explain how the information answers your original research question

  • You need to establish if more research is needed to provide a deeper understanding of the subject/topic, especially if there are inconsistencies or conflicting points of view

  • Avoid plagiarism- understand the guidelines and acknowledge the source of ideas and quotations of other researchers. This adds authority and credibility to your work.

From The University of Melbourne Literature Reviews guide

Avoiding plagiarism

Because a literature review is based on the work of other authors, you must be very careful to separate an author's evaluation of research from your own. Organisation and scrupulous note taking and referencing are the best ways to ensure that your work is correctly referenced. Make sure that you understand what needs to be referenced.

Plagiarism of ideas occurs when you paraphrase facts or arguments without citation. Anything you get from a book, even if you write it in your own words, needs to have a citation or footnote.

Plagiarism of words happens when you copy another author exactly without putting the words in quotation marks. This type of plagiarism may occur in conjunction with plagiarism of ideas, or on its own. Even if you provide citation information, you also need to put the text in quote marks, or you will be plagiarising. Citations of quotations ought to include page numbers.

From The University of Melbourne Literature Reviews guide

Strategies and issues to consider

  • The literature review relates to your research questions so think of the key concepts/issues surrounding them. Your literature review is judged within the context of your completed research

  • Establish terminology and key words. Thesauri can assist. Mind spelling variations

  • Construct a search strategy. Use Boolean operators (OR, AND, NOT)

  • The absence of research in the literature may help confirm that this is an area which needs further research. You may need to broaden your search by looking for literature in related fields.

  • Determine the scope of your literature search. The scope of the literature search and review is bound up with the research problem

  • The breadth of reading may depend on whether this is a new research area where reading may need to be more extensive, or a well-researched area where reading may be more focused

  • Decide whether to be comprehensive or selective in your coverage? What is your rationale? What is your interest? There are inherent difficulties in attempting to be comprehensive

  • How far back you should search may depend on the topic/subject? You might only include historical landmark studies while including a broader approach to more current research

  • Start with the most recent sources and search backwards

  • You may read articles only to decide to exclude them

  • It is worth thinking laterally to other fields given the multidisciplinary nature of research (depending on the discipline area.)

From The University of Melbourne Literature Reviews guide

Finding Literature to Review

The Library has a range of different subject guides to assist in finding the most relevant databases in your specific area of study. For specific discipline guides see:

Many other guides are also available on the Subject Guide homepage.

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