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Literature reviews

A key role of the University Library is to support the literature reviews of students and staff. The library provides access to the academic literature, and to librarians who can assist with some aspects of the review process. Key contacts:

What is a literature review?

Academic research is not done in isolation, it connects with the work and ideas of others, creating an ever-changing network of knowledge and exploration. Research is often recorded in the literature – formal academic publications such as books or journals, or less formal “grey literature” such as conference papers, theses and reports. Before starting their research, academics will search for, read and review the existing literature to see what has already been published on their topic so that they can position their own work in the existing research landscape, taking into account the work that has been done by others before. 

The term literature review can describe a product or a process. As a product, the literature review is part of an essay, report or publication where the researcher summarises and reports on the literature they have read relating it to their own research question, setting the context for their work.  As a process, the literature review involves a methodology or series of steps that a researcher will undertake to enable them to identify, appraise and summarise the relevant publications and studies relating to their topic.

Types of review

The value of literature reviews for informing clinical decision-making and evidence-based practice has led to a plethora of methodologies and standards, causing some confusion over the definition of a "systematic review". These articles help clarify the different types of review, and provide guidance on the most appropriate methods for information retrieval for each:

Recommended Library books on literature searching

Recommended Library books on systematic reviews