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Higher Degree Research (Faculty of Business, Justice, Behavioural Sciences): Literature Reviews

A guide to support Higher Degree Research candidates with preparation of Research Proposal and Draft Literature Review for RES701, RES702 and RES703

What is a literature review

Literature reviews summarise, interpret and critically evaluate 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.

If you are interested in further information about conducting literature reviews check out the Literature Review Guide.

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

What's the difference between reviews?

Researchers, academics, and librarians all use various terms to describe different types of literature reviews, and there is often inconsistency in the ways the types are discussed. Here are a couple of simple explanations.

  • The image below describes common review types in terms of speed, detail, risk of bias, and comprehensiveness:

Description of the differences between review types in image form

"Schematic of the main differences between the types of literature review" by Brennan, M. L., Arlt, S. P., Belshaw, Z., Buckley, L., Corah, L., Doit, H., Fajt, V. R., Grindlay, D., Moberly, H. K., Morrow, L. D., Stavisky, J., & White, C. (2020). Critically Appraised Topics (CATs) in veterinary medicine: Applying evidence in clinical practice. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7, 314. is licensed under CC BY 3.0


  • The table below lists four of the most common types of review, as adapted from a widely used typology of fourteen types of reviews (Grant & Booth, 2009).  
Traditional (narrative) literature review Identifies and reviews published literature on a topic, which may be broad. Typically employs a narrative approach to reporting the review findings. Can include a wide range of related subjects. 1 - 4 weeks 1
Rapid review Assesses what is known about an issue by using a systematic review method to search and appraise research and determine best practice. 2 - 6 months 2
Scoping review Assesses the potential scope of the research literature on a particular topic. Helps determine gaps in the research. (See the page in this guide on Scoping reviews.) 1 - 4 weeks 1 - 2
Systematic review Seeks to systematically search for, appraise, and synthesise research evidence so as to aid decision-making and determine best practice. Can vary in approach, and is often specific to the type of study, which include studies of effectiveness, qualitative research, economic evaluation, prevalence, aetiology, or diagnostic test accuracy. 8 months to 2 years 2 or more

Grant, M.J. & Booth, A. (2009).  A typology of reviews: An analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91-108.

See also the Library's Literature Review guide.

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