Literature Reviews

Hints and tips to help you finish your review

The literature review is one of the first major milestones of a research project. It needs careful planning and organisation to ensure you have enough time to carry out the required work. Here are some useful tips that can make this process easier:

Before you start, schedule a meeting with your tutor to discuss:

  1. The type of literature you wish to review
  2. How you will find the literature
  3. A rough timeline for each step of the review ( for example; completion of first and final review)
  4. Your aim for the target grade you wish to achieve.


  • Start with a broad search of the literature until you finalise your research questions. Then you can become more specific.
  • Ensure you know your library passwords early on – this grants you access to many of the online journal databases. Do not rely upon the internet to supply all you references, as the majority will not be peer reviewed and its provenance may be questionable.
  • Don’t listen to others who say they haven’t started working yet and there’s “plenty of time left”. Remember that a literature review takes a lot of work and should be started early.
  • Make sure you set out guidelines for your literature review and stick to the word count.
  • Reference all the literature you find – you might need it later, even if it’s not obvious now.
  • Map out the key themes of the literature you find. This will help you develop a flow to your review.
  • Constantly check that you are being critical about the literature you are reviewing. Define the restrictions/limitations of the research you review.
  • Be ruthless. You might find it difficult to keep your literature review to your word count. Prioritise the importance of the research you find and remove anything that doesn’t add value to your review.
  • Revisit your literature review as your project or dissertation continues. You will discover new research and you should prepare to tweak your review up to the end of the project.


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