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Advantages and disadvantages of literature review

Advantages and disadvantages of literature review

This comprehensive article explores some of the advantages and disadvantages of literature review in research. Reviewing relevant literature is a key area in research, and indeed, it is a research activity in itself. It helps researchers investigate a particular topic in detail. However, it has some limitations as well.


What is literature review?


In order to understand the advantages and disadvantages of literature review, it is important to understand what a literature review is and how it differs from other methods of research. According to Jones and Gratton (2009) a literature review essentially consists of critically reading, evaluating, and organising existing literature on a topic to assess the state of knowledge in the area. It is sometimes called critical review.


A literature review is a select analysis of existing research which is relevant to a researcher’s selected topic, showing how it relates to their investigation. It explains and justifies how their investigation may help answer some of the questions or gaps in the chosen area of study (University of Reading, 2022).


A literature review is a term used in the field of research to describe a systematic and methodical investigation of the relevant literature on a particular topic. In other words, it is an analysis of existing research on a topic in order to identify any relevant studies and draw conclusions about the topic.


A literature review is not the same as a bibliography or a database search. Rather than simply listing references to sources of information, a literature review involves critically evaluating and summarizing existing research on a topic. As such, it is a much more detailed and complex process than simply searching databases and websites, and it requires a lot of effort and skills.


Advantages of literature review


Information synthesis

A literature review is a very thorough and methodical exercise. It can be used to synthesize information and draw conclusions about a particular topic. Through a careful evaluation and critical summarization, researchers can draw a clear and comprehensive picture of the chosen topic.


Familiarity with the current knowledge

According to the University of Illinois (2022), literature reviews allow researchers to gain familiarity with the existing knowledge in their selected field, as well as the boundaries and limitations of that field.


Creation of new body of knowledge

One of the key advantages of literature review is that it creates new body of knowledge. Through careful evaluation and critical summarisation, researchers can create a new body of knowledge and enrich the field of study.


Answers to a range of questions

Literature reviews help researchers analyse the existing body of knowledge to determine the answers to a range of questions concerning a particular subject.


Disadvantages of literature review


Time consuming

As a literature review involves collecting and evaluating research and summarizing the findings, it requires a significant amount of time. To conduct a comprehensive review, researchers need to read many different articles and analyse a lot of data. This means that their review will take a long time to complete.


Lack of quality sources  

Researchers are expected to use a wide variety of sources of information to present a comprehensive review. However, it may sometimes be challenging for them to identify the quality sources because of the availability of huge numbers in their chosen field. It may also happen because of the lack of past empirical work, particularly if the selected topic is an unpopular one.


Descriptive writing

One of the major disadvantages of literature review is that instead of critical appreciation, some researchers end up developing reviews that are mostly descriptive. Their reviews are often more like summaries of the work of other writers and lack in criticality. It is worth noting that they must go beyond describing the literature.


Key features of literature review


Clear organisation

A literature review is typically a very critical and thorough process. Universities usually recommend students a particular structure to develop their reviews. Like all other academic writings, a review starts with an introduction and ends with a conclusion. Between the beginning and the end, researchers present the main body of the review containing the critical discussion of sources.


No obvious bias

A key feature of a literature review is that it should be very unbiased and objective. However, it should be mentioned that researchers may sometimes be influenced by their own opinions of the world.


Proper citation

One of the key features of literature review is that it must be properly cited. Researchers should include all the sources that they have used for information. They must do citations and provide a reference list by the end in line with a recognized referencing system such as Harvard.



To conclude this article, it can be said that a literature review is a type of research that seeks to examine and summarise existing research on a particular topic. It is an essential part of a dissertation/thesis. However, it is not an easy thing to handle by an inexperienced person. It also requires a lot of time and patience.

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Last update: 08 May 2022


Jones, I., & Gratton, C. (2009) Research Methods for Sports S, 2nd edition, London: Routledge

University of Illinois (2022) Literature review, available at: (accessed 08 May 2022)

University of Reading (2022) Literature reviews, available at: (accessed 07 May 2022)

Author: M Rahman

M Rahman writes extensively online and offline with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He holds an MSc in Tourism & Hospitality from the University of Sunderland. Also, graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BA in Business & Management Studies and completed a DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Life-Long Learning Sector) from London South Bank University.

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