When thinking about conducting a literature review, it is always useful to begin with what a literature review actually is.
We can define a literature review as 'a critical evaluation of the existing published work in a selected subject area'. In simple terms, it is an overall view of what is known about your subject and what is not known, which demonstrates your understanding of the topic and the debates surrounding it.
Jesson, Mattheson and Lacey (2011, pp.22-23) highlight that, an academic literature review allows you to show,
- that you are aware of and can interpret what is already known about your topic
- you can make sense of the literature, highlighting trends, common themes, debates, contradictions, and gaps in existing knowledge
- when part of a research project or dissertation, you can discuss how your research is important and how it will contribute to the existing knowledge.
You might come across different definitions and expectations of what a literature review is.
The Thinglink below explores an alternative one offered by Dianna Ridley (2012). Read the definition and examine the three key elements it highlights by clicking on the tags. Compare these to the elements listed above
For study skills support on the other dissertation areas see the dissertation Library Guide link below.
Check your understanding with the quick drag-and-drop activity below:
References and additional reading:
Jesson, J. K., Matheson, L. and Lacey, F. M. (2011) Doing your literature review: Traditional and Systematic Techniques. London: Sage Publications Ltd.
Ridley, D. (2012) The literature review: a step-by-step guide for students. Los Angeles: Sage Publications Ltd.