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Starting your literature review

Information providing guidance on starting a literature review, including resources, techniques and approaches to searching the literature and writing the review.

This guide ...

This guide provides new HDR students with a starting point for commencing their literature search.

The guide will:

  • outline strategies and search techniques that can be used in your searches
  • provide links to a number of key information sources
  • provide guidelines on how to structure your literature review
  • give instruction on how to write critically and with authority

Complete a Request Research Advice form to get help from a librarian or academic skills advisor.

What is a literature review?

Broadly defined, a literature review is an analysis of the scholarly writings (the literature) which are relevant to your research topic. It usually forms the foundation of a research project (whether this is a research proposal, thesis, dissertation or a journal article) as it provides the context for your research. 

The overall purpose of a literature review is to: 

  • position your research in the context of the scholarly work that has been conducted/ the knowledge that has been reached in your research area 
  • identify a gap in the existing knowledge 
  • situate your planned research within this context. This entails indicating where your planned research fits in relation to the gap and therefore why your research is original and significant. 

A literature review analyses relevant sources critically. It does not simply summarise different sources. It also needs to evaluate the literature. As such, a literature review differs from an annotated bibliography as it does not constitute a list of summaries of relevant sources.