Getting Started on Your
General Guide for Postgraduate
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The selection of available documents (both published and unpublished) on the topic, which contain information, ideas, data and evidence.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.
Initially, you may read quite broadly on the topic to enrich your understanding of the field. This is useful for refining your topic and establishing the perspective that your research will take. For example, reading broadly may help you work out where there are gaps in the research, which may provide you with a niche for your research. It may also enable you to establish how your research extends or enhances the studies already done.
However, remember that the