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Conducting a literature review is an ongoing, non-linear, and iterative process.“Your literature review will inform your question, theory, and methods, and your question, theory, and methods will help set the parameters of your literature review.This is a cyclical process.” (O’Leary 2010, p.83)It is usually one of the first tasks that graduate research students undertake, and one of the last to be completed.
After selecting a topic to investigate, you will begin to locate and read sources.
Then you will analyse, evaluate and synthesise the texts before organising them into a logical structure that you will use to write your literature review.
You can see an example of where literature is dealt with in the annotated humanities example on the Thesis structure page.
In disciplines which use footnotes for referencing, some of the literature analysis is carried on in the footnotes, in parallel to the main argument in the text above, as can be seen in the example below, from a history thesis.
In addition, within research-based texts such as a Doctoral thesis, a literature review identifies a research gap (i.e.
unexplored or under-researched areas) and articulates how a particular research project addresses this gap.
This is a cyclical, iterative process in that you will return to find and read more sources and incorporate them into your synthesis.
While many of the general considerations outlined in this module are pertinent to all research, there are some particular things to consider when writing a literature review within your discipline.
Literature refers to a collection of published information/materials on a particular area of research or topic, such as books and journal articles of academic value.
However, your literature review does not need to be inclusive of every article and book that has been written on your topic because that will be too broad.