A literature review is literally that – a review of the current literature in a specific area of interest. It is used in a report or thesis to provide the reader with some useful background on the current knowledge in that area. It is generally placed in the report or thesis as the first major section.
The Literature Review Process
The following notes are taken from the USQ Library's Research Support.
In very practical terms, the literature review process is an integral part of research planning. It provides a foundation for the student's research, and triggers creative thinking. The literature review process also assists in identifying appropriate research methods and techniques, and helps in formulating a discussion about the implications of the research.
Writing a literature review clearly both assists students to gain mastery of their field and demonstrates that they have mastered an important research skill. Writing literature reviews has not only been a long-standing tradition in research and scholarship, it continues to be a vehicle through which credibility is established. Literature reviews are required when writing grant applications, research reports and journal articles, as well as being sought after by journals for publication in their own right. Writing a literature review is therefore an important part of undertaking higher degree research.
The best literature reviews are concise overviews of what is currently known in a specified area of interest. They should generally not go into too much detail, but should also not be in any way superficial or trite. They should be sufficiently broad in their scope to embrace the full range of issues addressed in the report/thesis.
Literature reviews need to be written in a formal style and are typically rich in in-text citations to key references – see the examples provided below. The best reviews alert the reader to the full range of views and ideas being expressed in that area in the published literature, and provide an objective analysis of these differing views.
All references cited in-text must be included as full end-text reference citations in the report/thesis bibliography. Information on referencing is available from USQ Library.
A literature review:
is usually the first major section in a report/thesis
provides the reader with a background and context
must provide a concise overview of the current literature
must encapsulate the full scope of issues addressed in the main report or work reported in the thesis
should be rich in in-text citations and be written in a formal style
should consider the full range of views expressed in the published literature and provide an objective analysis of these views
be supported by a full end-text bibliography
An example of a literature review demonstrates these features.