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Literature Reviews

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


Literature Review

  • investigates and appraises material that has been written on a particular topic
  • can serve as a framework for an ensuing study or piece of research, such as a thesis
  • raises questions and identifies areas to be explored.

This guide will:

The University of Melbourne's Academic Skills Unit has published an online guide and video, giving good summaries of writing a literature review.

The function and format of your literature review will depend on your academic level (eg undergraduate assignment, Masters dissertation or PhD thesis).

Your review could be:

  • essentially descriptive and topic focused;
  • analytical and summative; OR
  • an analytical synthesis covering all known literature on the problem

Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash

An Annotated Bibliography

  • is a list of references on a particular subject , each with a short paragraph that summarises, evaluates and critiques the source
  • may be useful preparation for a literature review, but is not essential

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

A literature review is dependent on what other authors have said, so it is important that good referencing skills are developed from the beginning.

Referencing management programs can be used to:

  • store bibliographic records (details of books, chapters, journal articles, websites, conference papers, theses, reports, etc) and attachments (such as PDF files, images, links and personal notes)
  • automatically generate citations and bibliographies in a number of standard referencing formats (eg Harvard, APA, Chicago)
  • search and retrieve bibliographic records from library catalogues and journal indexing databases
  • retrieve articles by querying the University SourceIt system for web locations

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:

More information: go to the Managing References guide.

Also refer to the Further reading section of this guide.

Library Research Consultations:

  • are tailored one-to-one appointments with librarians who can assist with your research-specific information needs
  • are available to staff, postgraduate students, and Honours students undertaking a thesis or original research
  • can be booked online

Other help can be obtained:

  • in 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
  • from Subject Specialist Librarians - Contact the librarian of your subject area for assistance in using library resources and with finding information and reading materials