A review of relevant literature is one of the most important first steps when beginning a piece of research. A literature review identifies gaps in the current knowledge and provides context to your research and research questions.
Often it will underpin and help to justify your research design and choice of methodology.
You should continue to review the literature throughout your project, as you’ll need to interpret your results in the context of the relevant literature to support the discussion of your research and final conclusions.
Examiners will assess the quality and coverage of your literature when judging the overall thesis standard. It‘s expected that your review of the literature will comprehensively cover your area of inquiry, be up-to-date and reflect a process of critical engagement.
Your literature review is expected to reflect critical engagement and a synthesis of relevant information.
Critical engagement involves situating the literature within the context of your research, and that of others. It includes identifying its strengths, limitations and implications.
A synthesis of the literature requires an integration of the knowledge such that the separate pieces of evidence work to comprise part of a whole argument. These processes set a literature review apart from an annotated bibliography and are the hallmarks of a good literature review.
Generally, it is expected that your literature review will identify, interpret and discuss:
Generally, it‘s useful to approach a review of the literature in two stages:
This is important for analysing and interpreting your results and also to build on the original literature review. This ensures the final version in your thesis includes the most recent and relevant sources.
The literature search generally involves three categories of material:
Some research studies will actually use the literature as a source of data. Examples include investigations of methodologies, bibliometrics, analysis of literary works and some historical studies.
The following people and resources can often save you a lot of time by steering you in the right direction when searching for literature relevant to your research area:
One of the signs of a good literature review, and indeed a good thesis, is the appropriate application of referencing to acknowledge others’ ideas and work and the quality of the sources cited.
Any statements, assertions or arguments not referenced are assumed to be your own work or ideas.
However, if the idea or work did not originate from you and it’s not referenced it could be considered as plagiarism. When writing your thesis, you should ensure you don’t use another person’s ideas or words in a way that would suggest they are your own.
A referencing style appropriate to the discipline should be used consistently throughout the thesis for in-text and end referencing. Consult with your supervisors regarding referencing style.
There are many resources available to assist you with your referencing practices, including the GRS research training workshop on paragraphing and structuring your writing.
Turnitin software may be a useful tool to help you to detect any part of your work that has not been correctly referenced. For more information visit the Turnitin web page.
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