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RMIT University Library - Learning Lab

Writing a literature review


This resource provides you with tips and guidelines for researching and writing a literature review.

What is a literature review?

In many university courses, students need to write literature reviews as part of their studies.

A literature review is:

  • a review of writings, or literature, on a particular subject/topic
  • a review of the most relevant, recent and scholarly work in the subject/topic area
  • a piece of writing that supports, evaluates and critiques your research topic.

A literature review is not:

  • a summary of articles, texts or journals; or
  • an analytical, opinionative or argumentative essay.

The purpose of a literature review is to:

  • establish a theoretical framework for your topic/subject area
  • define key terms, definitions and terminology
  • identify studies, models, case studies, etc., supporting your topic
  • define/establish your area of study, i.e. your research topic.

The three key points of a literature review are:

  • what the research says (theory)
  • how the research was carried out (methodology)
  • what is missing, i.e. the gap that your research intends to fill.
The next step in planning your literature review is to read and research.

In this tutorial