Literature Review
Why conduct a literature
Where do I find the research
Importance of citations.
How do I conduct a systematic
Goals of
a Literature Review
To demonstrate familiarity with
a body 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.
What does a literature
review do?
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.
A good review places a research project in a
context and demonstrates its relevance by
making connections to a body of knowledge.
A good review points out areas where prior
studies agree, where they disagree and
where major questions remain. It collects
what is known up to a point in time and
indicates the direction for future research.
A good review identifies 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.
Types of Reviews
Self-study reviews.
 Increases reader’s confidence in an area
that is rarely published.
Context reviews.
 Places project in the big picture.
Historical reviews.
 Traces the development of an issue over
Theoretical reviews.
 Compares how different theories address an
Methodological reviews.
 Points out how methodologies vary by study.
Integrative reviews.
 Summarises what is known at a particular point
in time.
Systematic Versus
Narrative Review
Systematic Review:
 The purpose of this type of review is to evaluate
and interpret all available research evidence
relevant to a particular question.
 It differs from the narrative review in that
previous work is not only described but is
systematically identified, assessed for quality
and synthesized.
 Usually involves meta-analyses.
 Usually used in evidence based
health/medicine but is now being used in social
Narrative Review:
 This is the more usual route of literature
reviews and is tailored or moulded by its
relevance to your research question and
Where do I get my
Scholarly journals, books, dissertations,
government documents, policy reports,
presented papers.
Remember the tools of research from last
week? Use the library and your computer
to help you do the literature review.
Library catalogues and shelves.
Online catalogues of libraries (not just Bodelian
but others like British National Library).
Internet – use search engines like google and
some databases like PubMed are available
Government bodies – e.g. National Office of
Statistics, Department of Health.
Electronic resources such as databases like
Sociofile (see handout), Medline, PsycINFO,
Catalogues and Library Information
OLIS - Union Catalogue of Oxford Libraries
Catalogues of Oxford Libraries
World-Wide Library Catalogues
Oxford University Library Information
Latest Database Acquisitions and Trials
All Subjects
Area Studies
Dictionaries, Encyclopædias and
Reference Works
Electronic Journals and E-books
General Bibliographic Tools and
Publishing Aids
Official Papers
OXAM - Oxford Examination
Papers Online
World Wide Web and the Internet
Biological Sciences
Earth & Environmental Sciences
History of Science
Medical Sciences
Physical & Mathematical Sciences
Arts & Humanities
Art & Music
Modern Languages
Social Sciences
Business & Management Studies
Tips on
Literature Searches
When using the search engines in
Sociofile, Medline etc, be specific with
your search terms and remember that
some terms have different names –
e.g.: motor neurone disease is also
called motor neuron disease and
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Use AND, OR between terms – helps
gather larger amounts of relevant
Save your results as text files (see
handout) and download them into
Reference Manager, Procite or
Endnote. These programmes make
the handling of lots of literature a lot
Do use hand searches and ‘snow
Use the help of a librarian!
Tips on
Recording Literature
Be systematic about collection of
Record all literature.
Use a card index (bibliography card)
Computer packages like Reference
Manager, Procite or Endnote.
Keep a filing system of all articles
obtained – file by subject matter/theme.
Buy a small filing cabinet if necessary!
You may even want to keep a file of ‘not
included/not relevant’ articles as
sometimes, these articles may become
useful later on.
Avoid duplicates – I recommend
carrying a journal with you and record
every relevant title and cross it off once
obtained or dismissed. It prevents you
from wasting time reading literature that
you have already read.
Tips on Literature
Set aside time for reading.
Read to inform your research
proposal (background reading).
Read to inform your research
question and theories.
Most projects involve the
literature review earlier on as it
is involved in the development
of a survey instrument or field
You will need to keep up to date
with the field as your project
progresses however, know
when to stop reading.
Importance of
Make sure that you reference
everything, including full authors’
names, year of publication, publisher,
titles, chapter titles and page
Do this every time you read an article,
book chapter or book or when you
photocopy. This really saves time in
your project.
Don’t leave the bibliography until the
end of the report. Write it up as you
go along.
Be aware from the onset what style of
referencing your college/institution or
publisher uses – Chicago, Harvard,
APA etc. These can usually be
downloaded from the web.
How to Read
a Journal Article
Read with a clear purpose or goal in
Skim the article – what can you learn
from the title, headings, abstract,
summary and conclusions?
Consider your own view – beware of
What do you already know about the
topic and the methods used – is the
publication source credible?
Evaluate as you read – any errors? Do
findings follow data?
Summarize information as an abstract
with the topic – methods used, findings
and cite your questions on the article.
Practical Advice
Review the literature don’t reproduce
Look for circular patterns in the
material you are accessing and
Identify two articles that really
impressed you and use these as
Plan the literature review:
Outline what you plan to argue.
Structure the evidence around your main
Emphasise the relatedness of the
literature to the problem you are
Interpret, don’t just give summaries.

Literature Review