This is the "Home" page of the "Literature Reviews" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

Literature Reviews   Tags: literature, literature review, review  

This guide is an introduction to the Literature Review process - including what is a Literature Review, its purpose and strategies, guidelines and resources to help you to get started.
Last Updated: May 24, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Home Print Page

What is a Literature Review?

The aim of a literature review is to show "that the writer has studied existing work in the field with insight" (Haywood and Wragg, 1982). It will enable you to:

  • Define and limit the problem you are working on
  • Place your study in a historical perspective
  • Avoid unnecessary duplication
  • Evaluate promising research methods
  • Relate your findings to previous knowledge and suggest further research

As can be seen from the purposes above, the literature review is an exploration of an area, which at best will provide definition and a framework for a piece of research. Most students are not experts in their chosen field before they start their reading. The idea of the literature review is to develop a good working knowledge of the research in a particular area. The final written review should reflect the results of this preliminary research. So, a good literature review raises questions and identifies areas to be explored. The review should give an idea of the work that has been carried out in the subject area, preparing the reader for the study that is to follow.

You need to view the work of others with insight to review critically. As described by Caulley (1992), an effective review analyses and synthesizes material, and it should meet the following requirements:

  • Compare and contrast different authors' views on an issue
  • Group authors who draw similar conclusions
  • Criticise aspects of methodology
  • Note areas in which authors are in disagreement
  • Highlight exemplary studies
  • Identify patterns or trends in the literature
  • Highlight gaps and omissions in previous research or questions left unanswered
  • Show how your study relates to previous studies and to the literature in general
  • Conclude by summarising what the literature says

Basic Guidelines for a Literature Review

  • Establish your research questions and organise your literature into logical categories around topics.
  • Begin the literature review with an introduction to the topic. What is its significance and importance?
  • Critically analyse the literature relevant to the research question stating the content of the literature, implications of this knowledge, any gaps or deficiencies and inconsistencies or conflicting viewpoints.
  • Ensure you make your own interpretations and that you have written a critical and evaluative review.
  • The conclusion draws together important points and shows how the information answers the question.
  • Establish if more research is needed, especially if there are inconsistencies or conflicting points of view.
  • Avoid plagiarism - acknowledge sources of ideas and quotations to add authority and credibility to the work.


The content of this site has been developed using a guide created by the University of Melbourne Library. The creator of this site has obtained permission to use this information and acknowledges and thanks these staff for their contributions.

Contact the Library

For help click - Ask the Library

Debbie Booth email Debbie
Faculty Librarian Health

Lisa Ogle email Lisa
Faculty Librarian Engineering & the Built Environment

Lindsey Fratus email Lindsey
Faculty Librarian Business & Law

Ann Stokes email Ann
Faculty Librarian Science & IT

Ruth Talbot-Stokes email Ruth
Faculty Librarian Education & Arts



Was this information helpful?

How useful is this page?
(1 = Not Useful, 5 = Very Useful!)

Additional comments:

Your Email:


Loading  Loading...