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What is literature review?

What is literature review?

Researchers need to become familiar with the appropriate concepts and the past work concerning their chosen subject. This is where a literature review becomes relevant and important. A number of writers have attempted to define it and come up with some very good ideas and concepts.

A literature review is the background to the research, where it is important to demonstrate a clear understanding of the relevant theories and concepts, the results of past research into the area, the types of methodologies and research designs employed in such research, and areas where the literature is deficient (Gratton & Jones, 2009).


According to the University of Reading (2015) a literature review is a select analysis of existing research which is relevant to the topic the researcher has selected, showing how it relates to his/her investigation. It explains and justifies how the investigation may help answer some of the questions or gaps in the area of research.


Sources of literature

Researchers may use a number of sources for the review. Journals, newspapers, industry magazines, past research work are some of the popular sources. The Internet has made the life easier for the researchers. Almost all types of information are available online; however, some sources may restrict researchers to have an access to certain information.


How to select relevant literature for review?

Researchers need to follow a number of criteria in order to assess the reliability and relevance of existing literature. For example, the source of the literature needs to be reliable. If the authors are experts in the field, their work is usually reliable. Likewise, if their work has been referenced in some other work, it increases the credibility of the work.


How to write a literature review?

The review should begin with an introductory statement where the topic under investigation will be identified and a context for the review will be outlined. The introductory statement should be followed by the main body, where the literature is critically reviewed. The review should come to an end with a concluding statement.


Common mistakes in literature review

There are some common mistakes that researchers may make while reviewing literature. For examples, some people may think that the review is about making a list of past studies. Likewise, others may not spend enough time to identify the best sources for the review.


Finally, reviewing literature is a very important step in research process. It provides an overview of the relevant theories and concepts and focuses on research questions. Therefore, it is very important for the researchers to spend enough time to select the best and most relevant literature for the review.


Last update: 07 May 2022


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

Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2007) Research Methods for Business Students, 4th edition, UK: Pearson Education Limited

University of Reading (2015) Starting a literature review, available from (Accessed, 02 February 2015)

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.