Literature reviews

Set your context

The purpose of your literature review is to set your own work in a context of research and theories that other people have developed. You are making it clear that you understand your area of study well by showing your knowledge of other researchers.

A good review will show where others have been before you, but equally importantly where they have not been. If you can identify 'virgin territory' - areas that other people haven't fully investigated - this can provide interesting avenues for your own research.


Steps:

  • Read widely but not necessarily in any depth to give yourself an overview of the material. You can then focus in on those aspects which have relevance to your project.
  • Become selective - Pick out the authors and works who say the most about the topic you are investigating, and whose work you can use to support the arguments you want to develop.
  • Read the most relevant material in depth and with a critical eye. What work relates to your topic? Which authors do you agree or disagree with?
  • Have a thesis statement in mind while you work - a plan of what you hope to achieve and say in the paper.This plan may change as you go through your research, but it will give you direction, and help you to select the most relevant authors for your literature review.