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BIO323 Research Skills Guide: Literature Review

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What is a literature review?

Once you have defined your topic, the next step is to start a literature review. A literature review summarises, interprets and critically evaluates material that has already been published on a topic. The purpose is to establish current knowledge of a subject, identify gaps, inconsistencies and relations in the literature as well as outline areas for additional research and/or define a topic of inquiry.

Adopted from Charles Sturt University Library. (2017). Literature review.  Retrieved from

The Charles Sturt University Research Office has information on its web site to help you with the steps to writing a literature review.

There you can find links to resources from other universities, including:

Searching for literature

Literature searching is an important aspect of the literature review. It is important to conduct an extensive literature search.

  1. Identify the field and context in which your work is situated
  2. Think about the keywords, theories and methodologies in the field
  3. Research what other information is published for your topic, so you don't duplicate information
  4. For your topic, take a look at who are the key authors/experts or organisations in the field.

Basic steps to conduct a literature search:

  • Analyse the research topic - plan and think about the key concepts, consider synonyms, broad and narrower terms and limiting your results, eg English only, date range, etc.
  • Search the library catalogue and databases to find books, articles, theses and other materials
  • Read and evaluate the search results. If needed, modify your search strategy
  • Analyse, interpret and discuss the findings and conclusions of the sources selected
  • Cite your references. EndNote is a good resource for this.

Adapted from the University of Canberra Library. Information for Research Guide. Retrieved from


Library & Academic skills help!

You will find some very useful information for your Assessment task about literature reviews in these two Library Resource Guides:

  • EBP - especially look at the tabs on Types of Research, and Literature Reviews.
  • Literature Review - some detailed help on the types of literature reviews, developing a search strategy and appraising your results.

Also check out the Library's Training Tutorials and Videos which include lots of information on improving your research skills and using journal databases.

And of course - contact the Library if you have any questions about information resources and how to use them!

The Academic Skills Team provides free support services to assist you including individual appointments with Academic Skills Advisers, Assignment Feedback Services, workshops, online discussion boards, study guides and tips, and more. The team has also made some academic writing resources specific to this area:

   For more assistance, check them out at the Academic Skills Support page

Helpful resources

Randolph, J. J. (2009) A guide to writing the dissertation literature review. Practical Assessment Research & Evaluation. 14(13) 1-13

Sage Research Methods Online - stream videos

The Sage Research Methods Online database has a number of quality resources to support you with writing your literature review.

These are just a selection to try:

Jensen, E. (2017). An introduction to literature reviews [Streaming video]. Retrieved from SAGE Research Methods.

O'Leary, Z. (2017). Am i the only one struggling to write a literature review [Streaming video]. Retrieved from SAGE Research Methods.

Charles Sturt University acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands on which its campuses are located, paying respect to Elders, both past and present, and extend that respect to all First Nations Peoples.Acknowledgement of Country

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