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Environmental Science

This guide will provide resources and assistance to students majoring and/or taking classes in Environmental Science within the Department of Biology and Earth Science.

Planning your Literature Review

While planning your review, in addition to finding and analyzing the reviews in dissertations, you might ask yourself questions such as the following:

  1. What is my central question or issue that the literature can help define?

  2. What is already known about the topic?

  3. Is the scope of the literature being reviewed wide or narrow enough?

  4. Is there a conflict or debate in the literature?

  5. What connections can be made between the texts being reviewed?

  6. What sort of literature should be reviewed? Historical? Theoretical? Methodological? Quantitative? Qualitative?

  7. What criteria should be used to evaluate the literature being reviewed?

  8. How will reviewing the literature justify the topic I plan to investigate?

From: Writing the successful thesis and dissertation: entering the conversation, by Irene L. Clark

source: Kent State University's Literature Reviews Libguide

Organizing the Review

Categorizing the Literature

When categorizing the writings in the review, the researcher might consider

  • the methodology employed;
  • the quality of the findings or conclusions;
  • the document’s major strengths and weaknesses;
  • any other pivotal information.

He/She might consider such questions as:

  • what beliefs are expressed?
  • Is there an ideological stance?
  • What is being described? Is it comprehensive or narrow?
  • Are the results generalizable?

Remember that you are relating other studies to your study. How do the studies in your lit. review relate to your thesis? How are the other studies related to each other?


Literature Review -Created by North Carolina State University Libraries

Watch this video for more information about writing a literature review.

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the principal research about the topic being studied.

The aim of a literature review is to show "that the writer has studied existing work in the field with insight" (Haywood and Wragg, 1982). It is not enough merely to show what others in your field have discovered. You need to view the work of others with insight to review critically. An effective review analyses and synthesizes material, and it should meet the following requirements: (Caulley, 1992)

  • Compare and contrast different authors' views on an issue
  • Group authors who draw similar conclusions,
  • Criticise aspects of methodology,
  • Note areas in which authors are in disagreement,
  • Highlight exemplary studies,
  • Identify patterns or trends in the literature
  • Highlight gaps in and omissions in previous research or questions left unanswered
  • Show how your study relates to previous studies,
  • Show how your study relates to the literature in general,
  • Conclude by summarising what the literature says.

A literature review has a number of purposes. It enables you to:

  • Set the background on what has been researched on a topic.
  • Show why a topic is significant to a subject area.
  • Discover relationships between ideas.
  • Identify major themes & concepts.
  • Identify critical gaps & points of disagreement.
  • Help the researcher turn a network of articles into a coherent view of the literature.

Source: University of Melbourne's Literature Review Libguide

Literature Review Samples