Doing a literature review

Doing a literature review

Once you have settled on your dissertation topic, you will need to be able to show the rationale for your research, and to describe how it fits within the wider research context in your area. A literature review will support you in doing this. This is a review of material that has already been published, either in hard copy or electronically, that may be relevant for your research project. Key tools that are available to help you, include:

  • databases in your subject
  • internet search engines, especially ones that offer advanced search features (like Google Scholar or Mednar)
  • Discover (for books and ebooks)
  • electronic journals available via the library (by title or by content)
  • bibliographies in any key texts about your topic.

It is a good idea to make an appointment to see your subject librarian. They will be able to give you advice on your literature search, and on how to manage the information that you find.

You will probably find more references than you can read. Use the titles and abstracts to decide whether the reference is worth reading in detail. Be selective by concentrating on references that:

  • are recommended by your supervisor
  • contain a high number of specifically relevant keywords
  • are cited in a number of other works
  • are published in the last five years, unless they are key texts in your field

Once you start reading, ensure that you think about what you are trying to get out of each article or book that you read. Your notes should enable you to write up your literature search without returning to the books you have read. look at our sections on Harvard ReferencingAPA referencing and Plagiarism for further help.