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Independent Study

Literature Review

Literature Review

A literature review identifies the boundaries of your study and demonstrates very clearly the focus and purpose of your research.

A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. Occasionally you will be asked to write one as a separate assignment but more often it is part of the introduction to an essay, research report, or thesis. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g. your research aim). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries. 

Besides enlarging your knowledge about the topic, writing a literature review lets you gain and demonstrate skills in two areas: 

  • information seeking: the ability to scan the literature efficiently, using manual or computerised methods, to identify a set of useful journals and books 
  • critical appraisal: the ability to apply principles of analysis to identify unbiased and valid studies. 

This will be one of the longer sections of the dissertation and will contain a critical review of your reading in books and journals. Learning Resource staff will help you if necessary to use indexes and abstracts in order to secure relevant sources for your work.

The literature reviewed should be closely related to the focus of your study. You should use sub-headings which identify the key issues. This will help you to summarise and synthesise your readings in a structured way.

Ensure that from the start of your work, you keep detailed, accurate notes of all your reading, ensuring that you also note relevant bibliographic data, including: page numbers; author(s); titles; date and place of publication etc.