Getting Started with Research: Writing a Literature Review
What is a Literature Review
A literature review is an investigation into existing research on the topic of your research. A literature helps showcase the work already done on a topic as well identifying any gaps in the current knowledge. It should demonstrate how your research contributes to the existing area, how it fills a gap or builds upon existing research.
A literature review should be done as part of your own research process and included as a section in your journal article. Many journals will accept literature reviews as a research piece in their own right and will have them peer reviewed. If you are undertaking a literature review, have a look at Effective Searching and Evaluating Sources. The Electronic Resources List will provide you with a list of places to search.
When finding sources for your literature review, stick to scholarly sources. Sources should be fairly recently published. A good rule of thumb is not to use source older than five years but there might be occasions where you might cite something older such as when providing Remember that you will need to reference any source that you use.
You should use:
- Journal articles
- Scholarly books
- Grey literature
- Case studies
- Country or company reports
You should not use:
- Web sources with no authors
- Dissertations or theses (as these are done by students they are not yet experts in their field)
Finding too Many Sources
If you are finding too many sources: this can be an indication that your research is too broad. Consider narrowing down your research to a specific aspect.
Finding too Little Sources
If you are finding too little sources: your research may be too narrow in focus. You may also need to broaden your search strategy. For example if you are researching the information seeking behaviours of Irish nursing students but can't find any sources, it is okay to use similar research based in different countries or based in similar fields.
It is important to be analytical and not descriptive when doing a literature review. Always remember that it's a literature review and not a literature summary. Think about whether you agree or disagree with the findings and the conclusions they came to. Consider the research methods used and if you feel they were appropriate. Perhaps the sample size used was too small or the survey questions were leading.
Compare and Contrast
A good literature review should highlight the current views and discourse on a particular subject. You should highlight where there are agreements and disagreements on a topic. You can reference more than one article or source at once when they are all in agreement.