A literature review is an essential part of a research project. It discusses previous research on a topic. Some reasons to conduct a literature review include:
To understand what is currently known about a topic.
How does the research you propose to undertake fit into a larger picture.
To offer an overview of significant literature published on a topic.
To see what has and has not been investigated.
Typically, literature reviews involve doing a comprehensive search for the literature, and can be a cyclical process involving the use of primary (original research), secondary sources (summaries of original research such as review articles, textbooks, etc.), and tertiary sources (e.g. translations).
Sample of Published Literature Reviews
As a starting point, to find literature reviews on your topic, search in a database related to your topic (e.g. PsycINFO) and include these keywords in your search. Below are some sample searches:
"literature review" AND [your topic here]
"literature review" AND "social work" AND [your topic here]
Sample articles with literature review methodologies:
"Diana Ridley describes how to carry out a literature review in a systematic, methodical way, providing useful strategies for efficient reading, conducting searches, organising information and writing the review itself. Examples of best and worst practice drawn from real literature reviews are included throughout to demonstrate how the guidance can be put into practice." - publisher's description
This new edition of the best-selling book offers graduate students in education and the social sciences a road map to developing and writing an effective literature review for a research project, thesis, or dissertation. - from the publisher
"An excellent and accessible text that will help all students and scholars to develop a strong review and enable them to outline and analyse the key ideas for their study. The structure of the book is really well thought out and the chapters are written in a way which readers will find helpful and easy to understand. I would highly recommend this book to research students." Professor Mark Brundrett, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
"This useful guide educates students in the preparation of literature reviews for term projects, theses, and dissertations. The authors provide numerous examples from published reviews that illustrate the guidelines discussed throughout the book." - publisher's comments