Approaching the literature review

Over the next two weeks we are focusing on Literature Reviews, so watch out for tips and ideas. If you have some experiences or suggestions of doing a literature review that you could share, please add them in the Comments, or email postgraduate.centre@aut.ac.nz to have your suggestions published as a post.

You probably believe that your research will be significant in contributing to knowledge in your field, but how can you support that belief? The challenge is to provide a solid justification. Support your topic choice by providing a review of research that has been done before. This becomes your ‘literature review’. Research builds on what has been done before, so past research reported in academic literature is what you need to source.

There is plenty of advice on how to use and cite literature. Databases are very helpful in getting you started and the AUT library has some tips on how to use the library for accessing literature.

The literature review is one piece of the jigsaw that will make up your thesis and provides the context for your work. It informs the reader as to the gap or space for your research topic and leads the way into what you have discovered.

Structuring your literature review can seem daunting, so the first step is to structure the review.

These steps could guide you in structuring your review:

1. Find models of reviews to help you

2. Problem formulation – which topic is under consideration and what are the constituent issues?

3. Literature search

4. Evaluation of findings

5. Analysis and interpretation of literature

If you like examining a process through diagrams, try this link.

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