Skills Hub

Literature review

Literature = secondary sources that you have selected (peer-reviewed journal articles and books)

Review = examining critically 

A literature review IS

  • Your selection of the literature
  • A summary with critical analysis of existing literature 
  • Synthesis of a range of different arguments
  • Your interpretation, based on evidence

A literature review is NOT

x Everything that has been written on your topic  

x A descriptive summary 

x Your personal opinions

Aim of a literature review

Gives an overview of current knowledge

Demonstrates awareness of relevant literature

Highlights similar and contrasting views

Explains what has influenced you

Showcases your research and writing skills

Activity: description or analysis? 

To achieve a good mark, your literature review should be analytical rather than descriptive. 

Look at two excerpts from literature reviews on the University of Guelph site – scroll down to Student A and Student B. Identify which excerpt works better, and why. 

 

 

Marking scheme

Here is an example marking scheme for a 60–69 mark:

Shows evidence of reading a wide diversity of material

Primary and/or secondary research is clearly explained

Reflects relevant and coherent research used to support and develop arguments

Clear evidence of critical engagement

Good writing skills, with well organised, accurate footnotes and/or bibliography that follows the accepted style of the subject.

Other criteria are used too, including the word count, correct referencing system and academic writing style.

‘Don't feel like you should be comparing where you're at with others. It's not a competition, you'll get a lot more from the process by sharing your issues (no matter how trivial you think they are), brainstorming, even ranting, than you'll ever get from asking everyone how much they've written, or boasting that you're nearly finished.’ (Josie, Third-year Global Studies)

 

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