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Doing Your Literature Review

Doing Your Literature Review
Traditional and Systematic Techniques

First Edition

February 2011 | 192 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

The literature review is a compulsory part of research and, increasingly, may form the whole of a student research project. This highly accessible book guides students through the production of either a traditional or a systematic literature review, clearly explaining the difference between the two types of review, the advantages and disadvantages of both, and the skills needed. It gives practical advice on reading and organizing relevant literature and critically assessing the reviewed field. Contents include:

  • Using libraries and the internet
  • Note making
  • Presentation
  • Critical analysis
  • Referencing, plagiarism and copyright

This book will be relevant to students from any discipline. It includes contributions from both a professor and a librarian, each offering expert advice on either the creation and assessment of literature reviews or the process of searching for information. It is also highlights the increasing importance of the systematic review for many disciplines and presents the specific challenges which it brings.


Who is this book for?

How is this book different?

The rationale and history behind the contributions from a researcher and from an information specialist

Features of the book

Layout of the book

What is a literature review?

Terminology used in this book

Different styles of review

Two styles or approaches

A critical approach

Knowledge and literature

Why and when will you need to review the literature?

The research question and the literature review

What is appropriate literature?

Choosing which style of review: a traditional narrative review or a systematic review

Project management

Searching for Information

Develop online searches by identifying key words and creating a search record

The range of information sources available for complex searches.

What do you need from a resource to make it appropriate for locating journal articles for your review?

Reading Skills

Be analytical in your reading

Where to start

Reading techniques - scan, skim and understand

Reading different types of material

Grey literature: non academic sources and policy reports

Recording and note making

From Making Notes to Writing


From notes to writing

Writing - critical writing and types of argument

Making a value judgment and bias

The Traditional Review
Overview of the debate

Types of review: critical, conceptual state of the art, expert and scoping

Draw up an analytical framework - how to sort the material

Moving to analysis and synthesis

The presentation of your review

Summarizing the gap - dare to have an opinion.

Writing up Your Review

A short summary

A self-standing review

Abstract, executive summary and annotated bibliography

Writing the review

Key words or phrases to help you move from stage 1 to stage 2

The 'so what' question, originality and making a value judgment

The Systematic Review


Development of the review protocol

Formulating the review question

Documenting your progress

Locating studies and sources of information

Selecting studies: inclusion and exclusion criteria

Appraisal - assessing the quality of research

Data extraction

Synthesis, drawing conclusions, what the review shows

Evolving formats of systematic review

Meta- Analysis

What is meta-analysis?

Can I use meta-analysis to summarise the results of my systematic review?

Undertaking your meta-analysis

Displaying the results of a meta-analysis

Is your meta-analysis free from bias?

Performing a sensitivity analysis

Referencing and Plagiarism

Why is referencing important?

What do you need to reference?

How many references should I provide?

When and how to reference

Referencing systems

Where to find citation information you need





Appendix 1: Further reading

Appendix 2: Critical review checklist

Appendix 3: Systematic review online resources

Appendix 4: Resources for meta-analysis


'Tasks, tips, examples, figures and summaries in each chapter give the book a "self-guided" feel appropriate in a textbook, and the language is rarely arcane. Four useful appendices and a fine index complete the work. Overall, this is a sound guide for the absolute neophyte in how to create useable literature reviews. Part 2 is especially recommended as a good discussion of the ways and means of writing reviews. The work is useful for students at most levels, and for those who teach research methods and want a clear guide for literature reviews for their reading lists' -
G. E. Gorman
Online Information Review

'The main strength lies in the book's practical nature. The authors place great emphasis on the importance of proper searching techniques and encourage the use of specialist librarians. Chapters on reading and note-taking skills contain useful detail often missing from similar books - such as which bits of an article to read first, and how to make and store relevant notes that will be usable later. The examples of how to improve specific passages of writing are very valuable.'

Jenni Brooks
Research Fellow at the Social Policy Research Unit, University of York

The book does what it promises: it is an accessible and practical book, which many researchers can benefit from to improve their literature reviews.

Willemijn Krebbekx, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Fantastic resource for students entering the research phase

Mrs Suzanne Caroline Barham
Education Department, Boston College
January 16, 2020

I find this title very rewarding to use both for the tutor and a student. It's suitable for understanding demands of a proper literature review, traditional or more systematic one.

Mrs Arja Hannele Kunnela
Education , JAMK University of Applied Sciences
March 4, 2016

Covers something all students need to think about across the course of the MA, and does so with a good level of clarity. Every step of getting on with a literature review is covered, and there's a good step-by-step approach to a lot of it.

The discussion of different types and purposes of 'traditional' literature review is likely to be a useful prop early on in a research skills module.

Dr Adam George Dunn
Winchester School of Art, Winchester School of Art
October 24, 2015

Essential for doing literature review

Mrs Mpho Mbeo
Business Administration , Central University of Technology
September 12, 2015

The book is recommended to students who have to write a literature review within their paper. Especially for writing their thesis (BSc).

Mr Michael Kuttner
Institut für Controlling & Consulting / Institute of Management Control & Consulting, Johannes Kepler University of Linz
July 5, 2015

This book provides an up to date overview of tackling literature reviews. Ideal for all researchers but maybe particularly useful for final year under-graduates and Masters students working on research projects and dissertations.

Mr Louis Martin
Law School, Staffordshire University
February 4, 2015

Thorough and accessible text supporting students working towards research.

Ms Caroline Brooks
Faculty of Development & Society, Sheffield Hallam University
January 19, 2015

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Jill Jesson

Jill Jesson entered higher education as a mature student. She ... More About Author

Lydia Matheson

Fiona M Lacey

Fiona M. Lacey is a Glasgow ... More About Author

For instructors

Also available as a South Asia Edition.

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