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Literature review

This guide will help you to plan your literature review and to adopt a systematic approach to searching the literature.

What is a literature review?

"The literature review chapter in the thesis, then, justifies the proposed research by identifying trends or gaps in the literature, and, by a review of relevant studies, demonstrates that you understand the relevant literature and shows how your study will contribute to that body of knowledge."

Burton, Suzan, and Steane, Peter. Surviving Your Thesis. London: Routledge, 2004.

Books at the James Hardiman Library


Other books on conducting a literature review  and books on writing a thesis with a chapter on literature reviews are available in the James Hardiman Library - see this selective listing.  

See also a selective listing of books on systematic reviews.


The starting point: Plan your search strategy

Try using a search strategy worksheet to identify key concepts in your research question:

  • Write out a clear, detailed statement of your research question.
  • Identify the concepts which your research question includes.
  • List keywords which describe the concepts including synonyms, acronyms, alternative spellings including American spelling and plurals.
  • Identify subject headings which describe the concepts.
  • Develop your search strategy using this Search Strategy Worksheet:

            (From program developed by librarians from Ohio universities)

Online training


The Research Methods in Literature Review tutorial is  available via the Researcher Development portal here including access instructions: