This page is about the structure and content of literature reviews
A literature review is a systematically structured review of the literature in a particular field. It is a review of existing knowledge in a particular subject/problem area. Literature is compared, evaluated and organised appropriately in relation to the specific subject/problem area.
Writing a literature review can be an assignment in its own right, or it can be part of other assignments. In independent assignments, the literature review will often help to motivate your choice of research questions/hypothesis.
Elements of a literature review
- An introduction that clearly and precisely presents, motivates and narrows down the academic topic/problem, using relevant terminology and referring to existing literature. The introduction describes how the assignment is structured and the purpose of its individual sub-elements. The relationship between the sub-elements is made clear, so that the assignment appears as a coherent text with an overall purpose.
- Discussion of sources/studies included. Sources included in the review must be relevant academic works, and no important sources should be left out. The key findings/results of the sources/studies should be clearly stated, free from errors and omissions, and, where relevant, linked to the topic/problem and other sources/studies. They should be analysed systematically in relation to the relevant topic/problem and discussed fairly and coherently. Implications and potential problems should be discussed in detail for all sources/studies included in the review, and all sources must be referenced and cited correctly and consistently.
- A conclusion, summing up the main points and discussions and ending with an overall conclusion on the assignment as a whole. The conclusion should be clearly linked to the overall purpose of your assignment and demonstrate your capacity for independent work, e.g. by assessing what needs to be examined further, by placing the topic in a larger academic context, or by showing academic curiosity in relation to the topic.
Ask the library for advice and useful strategies when doing a literature review, or download this example of a literature review.