How to Conduct a Literature Review

What is a Literature Review?

This article follows on from our article answering the question “What is a literature review?

A literature review is a critical evaluation of existing literature on a particular topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify gaps and inconsistencies in the existing research. Conducting a thorough literature review is an essential step in the research process and can help to ensure that your own research is original and adds to the existing body of knowledge on a topic.

How do I Conduct a Literature Review?

To conduct a literature review, start by defining your research question and identifying key terms and concepts related to your topic. This will help you to focus your search for literature and ensure that you are only considering relevant sources. Next, use a variety of databases and search engines to find sources that address your research question. Be sure to use advanced search techniques to narrow your results and only include sources that are relevant and of high quality.

Once you have a list of potential sources, read through them carefully and take detailed notes. As you read, look for common themes and ideas, as well as any gaps or inconsistencies in the existing research. Use this information to create an outline for your literature review, organizing your sources and ideas into logical sections.


Some tips for conducting a successful literature review include:

  • Start early: Conducting a thorough literature review can take time, so be sure to start the process as early as possible.
  • Be organized: Keep track of your sources and notes using a system that works for you, such as a spreadsheet or a bibliography management tool.
  • Be critical: Don’t just summarize the existing research – instead, evaluate it critically and look for gaps and inconsistencies.
  • Be concise: A literature review should be concise and to the point, so be sure to only include the most relevant and important information.

Further reading

What next?

In the next post we will look at the Dissertation Methodology section.

This post is part of a series of posts about each of the sections of a dissertation. Get access to them all from here:

Literature Review

What is a literature review?

The literature review is a review of the previous literature on your study topic. It looks only at secondary sources, so it should never be used for presenting your own results – that will come later in your own results section.

Why is the literature review important?

The literature review shows where your research sits within the context of your field of study. It demonstrates the previous research done in your area and allows you to identify or demonstrate gaps in the research that your study aims to fulfil. Finally, the literature review also provides information that you will use to build your own argument. You will  refer back to your literature review regularly throughout your dissertation.

You may also review literature on things not directly related to your topic, such as research methodologies.


You should try and get a good coverage of the previous studies in your area. It is important not to focus only on studies that appear to agree with your own hypotheses, but to include papers that might contain results that are not easily explainable with your hypothesis or that appear to contradict the consensus of opinion. Without testing your own results against the findings of such papers, the reliability of your work could be in doubt.

As the literature review is a major part of the paper, we will have a few posts on this issue, looking at where to find papers for a literature review, the various types of literature review and the differences between a literature review and an annotated bibliography.

Further reading

What next?

In the next post we will look at how to conduct a literature review, such as where to find papers and how to choose which papers to use.

This post is part of a series of posts about each of the sections of a dissertation. Get access to them all from here: