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Literature Reviews - Research Guide

Planning your Review

Planning your Review


The process of researching and writing a literature review usually includes the following steps:

  1. Defining your literature review topic - identify the issues
  2. Planning your approach to your research and literature review
  3. Searching the literature
  4. Managing the results of your research
  5. Evaluating texts
  6. Reading critically and analysing texts
  7. Writing your literature review

As all of this takes time, it is best to start early and give yourself enough time to collect and analyse the literature.

Defining your Topic

Prior to developing your search strategy, you will need to formulate your review topic.
It is important to consider the scope of your topic and the purpose of your research.
You may need to do some background reading, to develop an overview of your review topic, before planning your research and literature review.

In order to develop your review topic, it must be contextualised.
When placing your topic in context, it is useful to think about the following:

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is the purpose of the research?
  • What is the scope of the research topic?
  • What is the time period?
  • What is the geographical coverage?
  • What are the relevant/related disciplines?

To search the literature, you will need to further define your review topic:

  • Describe your topic in broad and narrow concepts and determine the relationships between these concepts
  • Determine key words and phrases which best describe your topic
  • Find definitions for any terms with which you are not familiar - subject dictionaries and encyclopaedia will help you to define relevant terms and concepts
  • Consider synonyms and alternative terms
  • Consider scientific and common terms
  • Consider variant spellings
  • Decide if you should use controlled vocabulary (eg Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)), as well as natural language

Planning your Review Checklist

  1.     How will you determine what is already known about your topic?
  2.     How will you identify any gaps in knowledge of the topic?
  3.     How will you determine areas for further study, that have been identified by other researchers?
  4.     How will you identify significant researchers in the field?
  5.     How will you determine if there are differing opinions about the topic?
  6.     How will you identify which areas have generated debate on the topic?
  7.     What  methodologies might you consider for your research?
  8.     What sources of information might be useful to you?
  9.     What time period will your review cover?
  10.     Who is the intended audience for your literature review?