Archive for April, 2012

How to Write A Literature Review

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

It seems there are a lot of questions around this topic, especially among Engineering students.
But there are also a variety of resources available to quickly learn how to write such a document.

What goes into a literature review and why do I have to write one?
A literature review provides an overview of the literature, in other words, the work that has been done already in the area you are studying. It might also give you some ideas and helps to define your own study area. In most cases you won’t get a pass for repeating work that has been published already; so doing a thorough literature review helps you avoid that trap. A literature review should inform your research question, but if you do it well it will actually give you your research question.

An outline of what a literature review is, what to do for preliminary research, how to analyze the literature and finally some information on structure and writing has been put together into a short paper on Writing a Literature Review by my colleague Dr Aoife MacCormac from BDI. The Learning Centre of the University of New South Wales also provides a summary and short examples and you can find out How To Come Up With A Perfect Literature Review In Some Simple Steps.

A lot of advice on phraseology is given in The Academic Phrasebank from the University of Manchester. And if scientific writing is new to you, the Scientific Writing Booklet might help.

Then you need to find out which referencing system to use. If there are no guidelines, pick one and stick to it. The most common ones are APA and Harvard, but there are others around. UCD provides a guide for the Harvard Referencing Style, the University of Waikato provides an APA Referencing Guide. The University of Exeter provides a general introduction to Hardvard referencing. The main point is to follow one system and not to mix them in one paper.

If you want to see if someone has done a literature review already, ask Google Scholar ;) There are loads of literature reviews, for example on Photovoltaics and it also provides information on literature review itself.

If you are new to writing a literature review you can do this exercise and discuss the answers with your supervisor.