University of New South Wales: Getting Started on your Literature Review

A General Guide for Postgraduate Research Students

There is no one single correct method to writing a literature review. Therefore, this resource is a guide only. Check with your supervisor/lecturer/school to ascertain whether there are any specific requirements for your literature review before proceeding.

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is an examination of the research that has been conducted in a particular field of study. Hart (1998) defines it as:

  • The selection of available documents (both published and unpublished) on the topic, which contain information, ideas, data and evidence. [This selection is] written from a particular standpoint to fulfil certain aims or express certain views on the nature of the topic and how it is to be investigated, and
  • The effective evaluation of these documents in relation to the research being proposed (p. 13).

What is the Purpose of a Literature Review?

  • To demonstrate your scholarly ability to identify relevant information and to outline existing knowledge.
  • To identify the 'gap' in the research that your study is attempting to address, positioning your work in the context of previous research and creating a 'research space' for your work.
  • To evaluate and synthesise the information in line with the concepts that you have set yourself for the research.
  • To produce a rationale or justification for your study.

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