Literature Reviews

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

Examples of questions to ask yourself while reading and analysing your sources. These questions will help you focus and approach the material in an objective manner:

  • Is this information relevant to my research question?
  • 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?

Recording your findings from your critical reading

This is where you start populating the literature matrix you created at the end of managing your search results. Test it with about 10 references to make sure that you've got the right categories (column headings) and adjust as needed.

Use your literature matrix to record details such as:

  • whether or not a source will be used in your review
  • the reason/s for inclusion/exclusion
  • which part of your research question the source is relevant to
  • the key ideas / themes in each source
  • other notes from your critical reading that might be useful in your synthesis

This will keep all of the relevant information in one place for ease of comparison, analysis and synthesis later.