What is a literature review?
A literature review is...
- simply a summary of existing scholarship on a particular topic
- commonly a prelude to further research
- usually near the beginning of a thesis or dissertation, directly after the introduction. There are exceptions to this, so it is always advisable to confirm this with your supervisor
- based on secondary sources – that is, what other people have already written on a subject
- not concerned about discovering new knowledge or information
- almost entirely focused on relevant academic literature and the data collected or theories put together by recognised experts in the field. Popular or non-academic sources may be brought in occasionally to illustrate a point, but the central focus is always on academic sources
A literature review will...
- try to look at as much of this existing research as possible
- review major scholarly books in the relevant area
- also take a keen interest in journal articles, which in many subjects give more up-to-date material than books