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Search the literature: Scope your topic

Background reading

The more reading you do the better informed you and your research will be. Background reading will enable you to:

Identify gaps in the literature
  • Discover what research exists on the topic
  • Find areas not adequately covered
  • Discover areas to investigate further
Focus your research
  • Determine significance of your research topic
  • Explain how it will contribute to existing body of knowledge

Focus your topic

The following video provides information on the development of a research topic, to form research questions and define your approach to the research.

The literature review

A literature review provides a critical evaluation of the existing literature on a particular topic. It will determine and articulate what is known and unknown on the topic, providing context for your research.

A literature review should address
  • What research has already been undertaken in this area
  • Present results and conclusions of existing research
  • How findings will inform your investigation
  • Identify gaps in literature that warrant further inquiry
It is important to
  • Include the most current research on the topic
  • Avoid outdated or discredited material
  • Present a broad and unbiased review
  • Analyse, evaluate and contrast existing research
  • Examine design and methods, and the outcomes
  • Present your position in relation to the literature reviewed


Guides to assist with writing a literature review are available from:

You may also wish to view the following video Literature Reviews: an overview for graduate students created by NCSU Libraries or the What is a literature review? tutorial created by the University of Sydney.

Review articles

Examples of literature reviews across disciplines:

Web resources