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Literature Reviews: Introduction

About this guide

Welcome to our Literature Review guide. This guide will help postgraduate students undertaking a review of the literature as part of their dissertation, thesis or project work.  It may also be helpful to staff reviewing relevant literature for a journal article or research proposal.

The guide focuses on a number of key stages in the literature process relating to searching and managing the literature. It will also provide useful links to relevant resources including books, videos and online resources.

What is a Literature Review

The DCU Academic regulations for postgraduate degrees by research and theses identifies the ‘critical analysis of existing research’ as a key element of a thesis. The Literature review chapter is where you will consider the existing literature and discuss, review and analyse studies, theories, perspectives relevant to your research question. The review will also provide the context and justification for your own research by highlighting gaps or limitations in previous research. It will demonstrate your authoritative understanding of the existing literature, identify seminal works, key methodologies and techniques used and present the reader with an understanding of how knowledge has evolved over time in the area being studied.

A good literature review requires you to conduct a comprehensive search. This guide will help you approach and plan your search in a systematic and effective way applying key search techniques as well as managing and organising your results in a coherent and helpful way.


Books on Literature Reviews

We have lots of books on conducting a literature review as well as books on writing a dissertation or thesis which include chapters on literature reviews. You can check Library Search to find titles of interest. Here’s a selected pick of titles available:

Useful Resources

SAGE Research Methods is designed for anyone doing or learning how to do research. It provides information on writing a research question, conducting a literature review, choosing a research method, collecting and analysing data, as well as writing up the findings. It covers methods used in the social and behavioural sciences, plus a wide range of methods commonly used in science, technology, medicine, and the humanities.

Check out the full guide or the Methods Map on Literature Reviews.

This short video from DCU Writing Centre has some useful advice for writing literature reviews: