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RMIT University Library - Learning Lab

What is a literature review?


The literature review is the place where you demonstrate that you belong to a scholarly community. Who are you? Who do you relate to in the field? How, and why? Can the reader distinguish your voice in the scholarly throng?

Education professors Kamler and Thomson use a war metaphor to show how threatening it can be to claim membership of a scholarly community through writing:

"...literature reviews are the quintessential site of identity work, where the novice researcher enters what we call occupied territory including  possible ambushes, barbed wire fences, and unknown academics who patrol the boundaries of already occupied territories.”

(Kamler & Thomson, 2006, p. 29)

Scholarly identity

Identity is complex and constantly evolving (Kamler & Thompson, 2006).

Our scholarly identity is shown through our writing and thinking.

As writers:

  • We know the Discourse in order to challenge the Discourse.
  • We use a direct linear structure as a foundation.
  • We incorporate the ideas of others.

As thinkers:

  • We know our position in the Discourse.
  • We know how our ideas relate to the Discourse.
  • We maintain a balance between 'appreciation and criticality' when assessing the work of others.


Voice of Authority (PDF 100KB)