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Edu 4001 - Professional Learning and Development in Education: Literature reviews

This guide has been created for education students undertaking the unit Edu-4001.

Literature review

A literature review is a method of identifying, evaluating and interpreting the work produced by researchers, and often involves critical appraisal of a piece of work.  

A literature review describes, compares, contrasts and evaluates the major theories, arguments, themes, methodologies, approaches and controversies in the scholarly literature on a particular subject. 

A literature review may be presented in two ways:

  • as a paper on its own
  • as an integral part of an article, research proposal, research report or dissertation.

For more information on literature reviews, watch the following videos:

When discussing a literature review, the 'Literature' component can include a range of sources such as:


  • journal articles
  • monographs or books
  • online databases
  • conferences proceedings
  • dissertations
  • empirical studies
  • reports (government and other bodies)
  • historical/archival records
  • statistical handbooks.

A Review article is similar to a literature review. It synthesizes current research on a specific topic. A review article usually:

  • summarises past research
  • identifies important authors in the field
  • outlines recent developments
  • points to gaps in a body of knowledge and
  • is well cited.

It does not report on original research!

Review articles are therefore a fantastic resource if you're looking for an overview of a particular topic or if you're looking to write a literature review. 

And because review articles are well-cited, they are often a great place to start your research and get acquainted with the topic.

If you are looking for examples of published literature reviews, there are a few basic techniques you could use:

Library catalogue - search the library catalogue using your topic keywords and the term "literature review", eg     early childhood AND "literature review"


Databases - some databases (eg ProQuest, ERIC) allow you to search on "Reviews" or "Literature Review". Do a topic search, then refine the results to "Literature Review" using the facet 'Document type' 


Journals - search review journals such as those listed below, as these tend to focus specifically on literature reviews. Eg,  Annual Reviews,  Review of Educational Research etc.


Theses - before starting your literature review, you may wish to look at a sample of theses.  Printed theses are housed at JCPML (on Curtin campus) while others are available online through eSpace. For more information, check out the library website on Theses.‚Äč

Here is a list of important tips that you might want to note when undertaking a literature review:

  • Engage in an effective and comprehensive literature search
  • Use the major publications in the field - there are so many articles available on your research topic. You need to be selective in what you use, so select the best in that field
  • Ensure you critically evaluate the literature; don't just summarize it!
  • References - keep bibliographical records of all sources referred to!

For more tips, watch this video

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Sage Research Methods Online

SAGE Research Methods Online

You will find detailed information about Literature Reviews in this resource.

To find Literature Reviews:

  • Click on the above link - SAGE Research Methods Online
  • On the SAGE landing page, select 'Design A Research Project'
  • On the Project Planner Page, navigate to the left side of the page and select 'Reviewing the Literature'. 

You will also find other useful information on this page such as:

  • Developing a Research Topic
  • Research Ethics
  • Data Collection and so much more.

Other useful resources on SAGE Research Methods eg: