Useful readingSupport & tools
Useful readingSupport & tools
Useful readingSupport & tools
Useful readingSupport & tools
Useful readingSupport & tools
Useful readingSupport & tools
Useful readingSupport & Tools
Useful readingSupport & tools
Useful readingSupport & tools
Useful readingSupport & tools
This is the "Literature review" page of the "The research process" guide.
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This Libguide provides a systematic guide to the different phases and activities of a master's or doctoral research project and introduces the researcher and research student to relevant Library sources, tools and services offered along the way.
Last Updated: Jun 6, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Literature review Print Page

How to organise your literature review

Since there is no general standard or correct structure for a literature review, you may try one of the following criteria:

  • Chronologically
  • By school of thought theory or definition
  • By theme
  • By hypothesis
  • By case study
  • By method

Average number of references

  • Humanities: Masters=170 Doctorate=380
  • Social Sciences: Masters=93 Doctorate=320
  • Health: Masters=28 Doctorate=200
  • Science: Masters=96 Doctorate=172
  • Engineering: Masters=70 Doctorate=110

More on literature reviews ...

Literature reviews are a form of qualitative analysis which involve complex processes such as:

  • Identifying key themes and coding for them
  • Extracting from the codes 'gold dust' quotes to be used when writing up
  • Linking similar ideas from different articles/transcripts
  • Identifying contradictions in arguments
  • Comparing dissimilarities in articles/transcripts
  • Building one's own argument/analysis with links to supporting evidence in the data/literature.

Consult the "Support and Tools" section for tips and tools on how to manage the process.


What is a "Literature Review"?

A literature review surveys scholarly articles, books and other sources relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, providing a description, summary, and critical evaluation of these works.

It should be designed to provide an overview of sources you have explored while researching a particular topic and to demonstrate to your readers how your research fits into the larger field of study.

A literature review may consist of simple a summary of key sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis, often within specific conceptual categories.

[A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information in a way that informs how you are planning to investigate a research problem.]


Criteria of a good literature review

  • Exhaustive in its coverage of the main aspects of the study
  • Fair in its treatment of author
  • Topical and not dated
  • Based on scientific journals and books (not Internet sources only!)

Effective reading tips

  • Start with most recent sources work backwards
  • Always read the abstract first. Look at headings and reference list to determine relevancy before reading the whole article
  • The introduction and conclusion/summary is an indication if it is worthwhile to proceed reading
  • If the source is relevant proceed to reading in-depth and systematically. Make notes and drawings
  • If you are unable to summerise the gist of the article in your own words you have not understood it

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