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Literature Reviews: Home

An introduction to the Literature Review process and resources to help you to get started.


What is a Literature Review?

  • literature review investigates and appraises material that has been written on a particular topic. It can therefore serve as a framework for an ensuing study or piece of research, such as a thesis.
  • The idea of the review is to develop a good working knowledge of the research in a particular area.
  • It will raise questions and identify areas to be explored.

This guide will:

The University of Melbourne's Academic Skills Unit has published an online guide which gives a good summary of writing a literature review.

Relating the literature review to the rest of your thesis

A good literature review will:

  • present a clear case and context for the project which comprises the remainder of your thesis
  • provide a well-defined relationship between previous research and your thesis project, including how your study relates to previous studies and the literature in general
  • place your study in perspective (historically, geographically, politically)
  • evaluate promising research methods
  • relate your findings to previous knowledge and suggest further research
  • give your supervisor (and other readers!) an idea of your research interest

Keeping track of reading materials - referencing skills

The nature of a literature review is to be dependent on what other authors have said, so it is important that you develop good referencing skills. These skills should be put into use the moment you first pick up a piece of written material, by putting the publication details into your selected referencing system.

Referencing management programs can be used to:

  • store bibliographic records (eg details of books, chapters, journal articles, websites, conference papers, these, reports, etc); PDF files; other attachments (such as images); links and research notes added manually or imported from web-based search engines/databases
  • automatically generate citations and bibliographies in a number of standard referencing formats (eg APA 6, Chicago 16a, Vancouver)
  • search and retrieve bibliographic records from library catalogues and journal indexing databases
  • retrieve articles by querying the University SourceIt system for web locations
  • add your own notes and comments to individual references

The University Library has licenses for three referencing products:

There are also free and subscription reference management programs available on the web or for loading onto your computer. These include:

For more information, refer to the Library's Managing References guide.

The Annotated Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography

  • lists a collection of references that focus on a particular subject. Each citation is accompanied by a short paragraph that summarises, evaluates and critiques the source
  • can be regarded as an effective preparatory document for a literature review (but is not essential). You may find it a useful exercise to complete before commencing your review

There are a few online resources that can assist with the writing of an annotated bibliography:

  • Visit the online LibGuide to learn more about preparing an annotated bibliography.
  • The University of Melbourne's Academic Skills Unit has published an online guide encapsulating what an annotated bibliography is.
  • There is also an online tutorial which explains why an annotated bibliography is an integral part of the research process.

Selected reference titles

These references are useful for helping you write your literature review. Also refer to the Further reading section of this guide.

Further assistance

Library Research Consultations

  • are one-to-one appointments with librarians who can assist with your research-specific information needs. They are tailored to suit your interests and experience
  • are available to staff, Research and Higher-Degree (RHD) students; and Graduate and Honours students undertaking a thesis or original research
  • can be booked online

It is a good idea to get some help with your initial searching. The following resources will be of assistance to you:

  • Library Skills Classes - Check the list of free classes and sign up for a training session on how to use the library catalogues and bibliographic databases
  • Subject Specialist Librarians - Contact the librarian of your subject area for assistance in using library resources and with finding information and reading materials