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Literature reviews

Expert guidance from Study Advice at the University of Reading

A literature review is an important part of any research project, as it sets your research in context and identifies how it fits with the research that has been done before. You may be asked to write a literature review as part of a dissertation, thesis, or longer project, or as a separate assignment to develop the research, synthesis and analytical skills involved.

A key feature of any literature review is how you choose to group the literature into sub-sections or themes to enable comparison. This shows how you are conceptualising the topic. The structure you create helps you (and your readers) navigate and understand the literature. In a longer project, it is normal to refer back to the concepts in the literature review to help analyse your own results and provide potential reasons to explain what you have found. So it is important to set up these concepts clearly, and to explore and evaluate them in the literature review.

A literature review is a process (involving sourcing, reading, organising, and analysing the literature) and also a product (involving communicating your understanding and your interpretation of that literature). The advice in this guide will help you navigate both the research process and the production of the final literature review.