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Literature Reviews

An introduction to the Literature Review process and resources to help you get started.

Who will benefit from this guide?

This guide is written for undergraduates and postgraduate, course work students who are doing their first literature review.

Higher degree research candidates and academic researchers, please also refer to the Resources for Researchers library guides for more detailed information on writing theses and systematic reviews. 

What is a literature review?

A literature review is an examination of research in a particular field. 

  • It gathers, critically analyses, evaluates, and synthesises current research literature in a discipline,


  • indicates where there may be strengths, gaps, weaknesses, and agreements in the current research.

It considers:

  • what has been done,
  •  the current thinking,
  • research trends,
  •  principal debates,
  • dominant ideas,
  • methods used in researching the topic
  • gaps and flaws in the research.

Different Types of reviews

You may be asked to complete a literature review that is done in a systematic way, that is like a systematic review.

Mostly, the literature review you will be asked to do will be integrative – that is, conclusions are drawn from the literature in order to create something new, such as a new hypothesis to address a question, a solution to a complex problem, a new workplace procedure or training program.

Some elements of what you are asked to do may be like a systematic review, particularly in health fields.

Systematic approach does not mean a systematic review.

A true systematic review is a complex research project:

  •  conducted in a scientific manner,
  • usually with more than one person involved,
  • they take a long time to complete
  • are generally a project in themselves.

For more information have a look at the Systematic Review library guide.

If you would like to know more about different types of reviews, have a look at the document below: 


At the core of a literature review is a synthesis of the research. 

While both analysis and synthesis are involved, synthesis goes beyond analysis and is a higher order thinking.(Bloom's taxonomy).

Looking at the diagram below, it is evident that synthesis goes well beyond just analysis. 



  • Analysis asks you to break something down into its parts and compare and contrast with other research findings.
  • Synthesis of multiple sources asks you to make connections, linking information across sources to identify
    • where they agree and disagree
    • the major themes, arguments, ideas in a field
    • the questions raised and those yet to be answered.
  • This will show the relationships between different aspects of the research findings in the literature.
  • It is not a summary, but rather is organised around concepts and themes, where there is a combining of elements to form something new.


Watch this short clip from Utah State University which defines how to go about achieving synthesis. 



Synthesis: True or False. 

Quick Quiz: check your understanding of synthesis from the video by deciding which of these statements are true or false.