Essential Literature Review Skills

Essential Literature Review Skills

What is “literature review”?

It is a survey or evaluation of mainly journal articles and books.

➢  Survey: a summary of knowledge to date.

➢  Evaluation: an assessment of the work done. Reviewing the literature means providing a summary, classification, comparison and evaluation of published resources, which include:

❖  Written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.

❖  Books and writings published on a particular subject.

❖  Leaflets and other printed matter used to advertise products or give advice

Why do we do it?


➢ To give a summary of the research topic.

➢ To determine research gaps.

Where is it located? 

Typically, the literature review section is located in first part of the main body.

  • Introduction
  • Main Body
    Literature Review
    ➢ Methodology
    ➢ Results and Analysis
  • Conclusion
  • References

Where can I find literature to review?

The common sources include:

✓ Latest journal articles

✓ Latest edition of books

✓ Research databases:

➢ Ebsco

➢ Emerald

➢ Proquest

➢ ScienceDirect

  1. Identify and use keywords
  2. Use search methods

How do I write what I have reviewed?

Example 1

  1. Select a relevant theme that is appropriate to answer the research question:

❖  Chronological: arrange the literature from the earliest to the latest and review it from the earliest.

Source: (Extracted on 18 June 2016)

Example 2

  1. Select a relevant theme that is appropriate to answer the research question:

❖  Issues: group the literature into several issues related to the research question and review it in each issue.


Example 3

  1. Select a relevant theme that is appropriate to answer the research question:

❖  Theories: classify the literature according to the theories used in the research studies and review it under each theory.

Source: (Extracted on 17 June 2016)

How do I write what I have reviewed?


  1. State the theme that have been selected and the rationale for the choice.
  2. Discuss the literature under sub-headings: time periods, issues, or theories respectively.
  3. Highlight research findings.
  4. Summaries / evaluate the literature.

Things to note when writing


  1. State/cite the literature under review.
    K. Long, M. Zubair and K. A. Ahmad. (2012) Static Thrust Measurement of Two Types of Perforated Solid Propellant Grain Configurations. Journal of Aerospace Engineering Volume 25 Issue 4. DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)AS.1943-5525.0000153.
  2. Use quotes only if what is said cannot be improved.
    “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
  3. Ensure that you do not plagiarize – use Turnitin

Useful Resources

▪  Anson, C. M. and Schwegler, R. A. (2010). The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers, Longman.

▪  Lamb, S. E. (2011). How to Write It: A Complete Guide to Everything You’ll Ever Write, Ten Speed Press.

▪  Troyka, L. Q. and Hesse, D. D. (2012). Simon and Schuster Handbook for Writers, Pearson.