Literature Review

This guide provides information to understand the purpose of a Literature review, search for information, analysis; synthesis of the literature and writing the review.

Critical reading and critical thinking

The literature review is not just an annotated bibliography. You need to read the literature critically to identify the information and ideas presented in the text. You need to evaluate the ideas, looking at the strength and weaknesses of the paper and synthesise the material to demonstrate where it fits within the literature and its relationship to the research question.

Here some examples of questions you may ask while reading and analysing the material. These questions will help you focus and approach the material in an objective manner:

  • Is this information relevant to my research question, if not discard that material?
  • What are the key ideas presented?
  • How do they fit with the research question?
  • What assumptions have been made? Are they reasonable?
  • How was the data collected?
  • What was measured?
  • What were the results?
  • What is missing from the discussion?
  • What do the authors conclude and to what do they attribute their findings?
  • Can you accept the findings as true?
  • How can you apply these findings to your research question?


Critiquing the literature involves looking at the strength and weaknesses of research and evaluating the statements made by the author/s.

Books and resources on reading critically

Writing with an academic voice

The literature review critically analyses and summarises the content of the literature by grouping together material with similar conclusions or themes. Connections are made between the literature and your research question. Any gaps, inconsistencies or conflicting viewpoints are appraised within the context of the research question.

Literature reviews and systematic literature reviews are written in a formal tone known as academic voice. Writing in an academic voice requires the author to be clear, straightforward, and professional without using unnecessarily complicated vocabulary. The central components of academic voice include:

  • declarative statements i.e. a sentence that declares or states something without the use of "I".  It is possible to write a declarative statement merely by deleting the "I" part of the sentence. Make authoritative statements - declare your point.
  • avoid using casual language by removing the "sound" of your conversational casual style - avoid words like "okay," or storytelling indicators like, "then," "next," and "after that."
  • avoid the use of pronouns i.e. "I", "me", "my", "he/she" "his/her", "we", "us" etc
  • avoid the use of contractions e.g. can't, don't, she's, there's etc.
  • avoid slang or colloquial expressions e.g. slang: The guy was nailed while taking down the newsagents. e.g. formal: The man was caught robbing the newsagent.
  • authoritative register (voice) i.e. express ideas strongly with the power of research to back up the idea

The CQUniversity Academic Learning Centre can assist you with academic voice. Make an appointment.

Additional resources:
Queensland University of Technology: Writing a literature review
Griffith University Systematic literature reviews for education: Writing your literature review
Ashford University Academic Voice
The University of Melbourne Voice in Academic Writing

University of Melbourne, Academic Skills Writing the Literature Review