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RMIT University Library - Learning Lab

Read and research


Reading and researching

To produce a good literature review you must show that you have researched and read widely. This section will take you through the key processes of researching your literature review.

Reading with and for a purpose helps you to quickly locate, evaluate and read relevant research. There are two stages in this process.

First stage

Look at the structure of the text, e.g. the Table of Contents, the Abstract, headings and sub-headings, to see if the text is suitable for your purpose. This will help you to locate relevant research quickly.

Second stage

If the text appears to be relevant for your purposes, then you can read it in-depth to find specific research to support your literature review.

These techniques enable you to identify appropriate material by reading widely and to gain a broad understanding of the available literature on your topic.


You must be objective in your research. Remember the reason you are reading is to be able to give an evaluation and critique of the literature chosen. Do not just select the parts of the literature that agree with what you think is right.

It is important to critically evaluate your readings to establish their relevance and credibility for your research topic. After all, you are basing your theoretical framework and your literature review on what you have read.

You can find a checklist of critical questions to keep in mind when you evaluate your readings.

It is important that you make notes as you read. You should think about and include the following in your notes.

  • The main points/theories/key issues raised in the text, e.g. book or article.
  • Details of any quotes, or page references that you think may be good to use in your literature review.
  • All bibliographic information, e.g. author, date, title of book, publisher/journal, page numbers, etc. For further information see guidelines for presentation of written work.
  • The author's stated or implied purpose.
  • The conclusions the author has made.
  • The points that support the conclusions.

It is also useful to write down your own thoughts on/about your readings. This will help you when you start to write.

Use your summaries and notes to identify relationships and links in the research literature.

You should now be able to identify:

  • The similarities and differences between various authors and their research.
  • What research agrees and disagrees?
  • What major questions remain unanswered?
  • What are the possible directions for future research?

To organise your research, cluster similar research together, e.g., what information is similar or different. A useful technique for doing this is to draw a mind map and organise the research into major points under each theme.