• To demonstrate familiarity with a boy of knowledge and to establish credibility.
  • To show the path of prior research and how a current project is linked to it to integrate and summarize what is known in an area.
  • To learn from others and stimulate new ideas.


  1. A review tells the reader that the researcher knows the research in the area. A good review increases a reader’s confidence in the researcher’s professional competence, ability and background.
  2. A good review places a research project in context and demonstrates its relevance by making connections to a body of knowledge.
  3. A good review points out areas where prior studies agree, where they disagree and where main question remain. It collects what is known up to a point in time and indicates the direction for future research.
  4. A good reviews blind alleys and suggests hypotheses for replication. It divulges procedures, techniques and research designs worth copying so that a researcher can better focus hypotheses and gain new insights.


  1. Context reviews – Places project in the big picture.
  2. Self-study review – Increases reader’s confidence in an area that is rarely published.
  3. Historical reviews – Traces the development of an issue over time.
  4. Theoretical reviews – Compares how different theories address an issue.
  5. Methodological reviews – Points out how methodologies vary but study
  6. Integrative reviews – Summaries what is known at a particular point in time.


  • All research needs to be informed by existing knowledge in a subject area. The literature review identifies and organizes the concepts in relevant literature.
  • The process associated with this production of a literature review is as follows:
    • Evaluating information sources
    • Developing conceptual framework and mind mapping
    • Searching and locating information resources
  • It is therefore important that the literature review is focused, and avoids the comprehensive textbook-like approach.
  • Literature reviews are, then, important in:

o   Supporting the identification of a research topic, question or hypotheses;

o   Identifying gate literature to which the research will make a contribution, and contextualizing the research within that literature;

o   Building an understanding of theoretical concepts and terminology;

o   Facilitating the building of a bibliography or list of the sources that have been consulted;

o   Suggesting research methods that might be useful; and in analysing and interpreting results.


  • Relevant to the research topic;
  • Written by an authorities author; the biographical details given in the book will summarize the authors experience in the field;
  • Up-to-date, as signalled by the publication date;
  • Published by a reputable publisher in the discipline;
  • One that includes extensive reference to other associated literature; and is
  • Clearly structured and well presented, and easy to read.

Web sources are easy to locate through simple searches in standard search engines.

The web providers access to a wide range of information, but these sources are provided by a range of different individuals and organisations, each with their own messages to communicate, and reasons for making the information available. It can be difficult to evaluate web resources as they are less credible.

Literature searching and locating information sources


There are number of different tools to assist in the identification and location of documents in each of the categories discussed above. These include:

  1. Library catalogues- good for locating books held by a library, and journals to which they subscribe;
  2. Search engines- good for locating web pages with simple keyword based searches; and,
  3. On-line database or abstracting and indexing services, which provide access t journal articles, papers in conference proceedings, reports, dissertations and other documents.

Typical stages in review of literature process are:

  1. Start with your library web page; this provides directions to some on-line database, a portal, or a suitable abstracting and indexing service, such as Emerald for business and management;
  2. Conduct a search within the online database, examine the references, and possibly expanded annotations and save or print a list of relevant items. If the library subscribes to the appropriate electronic journal collections there may be a direct link to the full text of the journal articles. Alternatively, you need to move on to the next stage.
  3. Use these references, to locate the full text of the article, by revisiting the library web page to examine the catalogue of electronic journals; this should yield some full text copies of articles;
  4. Locate other articles through the library serial catalogue and in print form on the library shelves.
  5. Finally, order any article that you cannot access or locate in the library, via inter-library loan. Most of the search engines, whether they search online database, or the web, have two levels of search options. It is possible to conduct Basic search using keywords, or to choose the advance search option that offers a range of other search devices to assist in the formulation of a more precise search.

Concept mapping:

  • Concept mapping is a useful way of identifying the key concepts in a collection of documents or a research area.
  • Such map can be use to:
  • Identify additional search term during the literature search.
  • Clarify thinking about the structure of the literature review in preparation for writing the review
  • Understand theory concepts and relationships between them.
  • Concept maps may be sketched on paper or on a computer. It is important to understand that there is no correct answer for a concept map- their purpose is to assist the researcher to develop their understanding.
  • Thus, understanding a literature search, locating documents and understanding the distilling the literature of a subject area is a complex task this brief article has reviewed a number of aspect of the development of a literature review.
  • The article is intended to assist students with a process of writing a literature review as a component in an undergraduate or masters project or dissertation.

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