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The Literature Review

The Literature Review
A Step-by-Step Guide for Students

Second Edition
Additional resources:

July 2012 | 232 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
This second edition of Diana Ridley's bestselling book provides a step-by-step guide to conducting a literature search and literature review, using cases and examples throughout to demonstrate best practice. Ridley outlines practical strategies for conducting a systematic search of the available literature, reading and note taking and writing up your literature review as part of an undergraduate research project, Masters dissertation or PhD thesis.

New to this edition are:

  • Examples drawn from a wide range of disciplines
  • A new chapter on conducting systematic reviews
  • Increased guidance on evaluating the quality of online sources and online literature
  • Enhanced guidance in dealing with copyright and permissions issues.

This book also comes with a companion website containing a wide range of examples of successful literature reviews from various academic disciplines.

SAGE Study Skills are essential study guides for students of all levels. From how to write great essays and succeeding at university, to writing your undergraduate dissertation and doing postgraduate research, SAGE Study Skills help you get the best from your time at university. Visit the SAGE Study Skills hub for tips, quizzes and videos on study success!

What Is A Literature Review?

The Literature Review At Different Degree Levels

Why Is It Important To Undertake A Literature Review As Part Of Your Research?

Where Do We Find The Literature Review In A Dissertation Or Thesis?

Structuring Your Literature Review

Task 1.1 Choosing A Literature Review Approach



The Multiple Purposes of a Literature Review
The Multiple Purposes

Historical Background

Contemporary Context

Theoretical Underpinnings

Definitions And Discussion Of Terminology Used In The Research

Signalling A Gap In Previous Research And Using This To Justify Your Own

The Significance Of A Problem For Research

Task 2.1 Reflecting On Your Own Research


Sources of Information and Conducting Searches
What Is A Literature Search?

What Are The Purposes Of A Literature Search?

Sources Of Information

Evaluating Online Sources Of Information

Different Types Of Research

Tools For Finding Relevant Sources

The Process Of Conducting A Literature Search

The Use Of Key Words And Boolean Logic

Keeping Up To Date: RSS Feeds And Email Alerts

Social Bookmarking

Task 3.1 Tracking And Recording Your Search


Reading and Note-Taking Strategies
Techniques For Reading Efficiently

Increasing Your Reading Speed

Reasons For Note Taking

Techniques For Note Taking

Three Main Formats for Note Taking

Your Own Comments

Handwritten Notes VS Computer Notes

Making Connections Between Different Texts: Using Key Words

Making Connections Between Different Texts: A Tabular Comparison

Techniques For Writing A Summary

Task 4.1 Applying The Principles To Your Field


Reference Management: Keeping Records and Organising Information
Managing The Process

A Record of Key Word Searches

A Record of Bibliographic Details

A Personal Library

Copyright Legislation

Bibliographical Software Packages

Task 5.1 Record Keeping For Your Own Research


Structuring the Literature Review
The Processes Involved In The Creation Of A Literature Review

Beginning To Write

The Structure Of The Literature Review

Developing The Structure Of Your Review

Task 6.1 Structuring Your Own Literature Review

The Relationship Between The Introduction And The Literature Review

Task 6.2 Reflecting On Your Own Research Field


In-Text Citations
Why Do We Reference?

What Is Plagiarism?

What Type Of Information Requires A Reference?

Referencing Systems

Integral And Non-Integral References

Disciplinary Differences in Refernce Type

Types Of Citation

Disciplinary Difference in Citation Type

Choice Of Reporting Verb

Disciplinary Difference in Reporting Verbs

Tense Of Reporting Verb

Choice Of Tense In The Clause Or Sentence Where The Information Is Reported

Effective And Unacceptable Citations

Text Matching Software: Turnitin

Task 7.1 Analysing Reference Techniques In Your Own Research Field


Being Critical
The Difference Between Critical Reading And Critical Writing

Being Critical In Writing

How Different Researchers Adopt A Critical Approach In Their Writing

Task 8.1 Critical Writing In Your Own Research Field


Foregrounding Writer Voice in Your Writing
What Is Writer Voice?

The Organisation Of The Text

Unattributed Assertions Followed by Support from Citations

Summary and Evaluation of Source Material

Overall Summary at End of Section or Chapter

The Use Of Personal Pronouns

The Choice Of Citation Pattern

The Evaluative Potential Of Different Reporting Verbs

Evaluative Adjectives, Adverbs And Phrases

A Mixture Of Evaluative Strategies

Task 9.1 Reflecting On The Writer's Voice In Your Own Research


The Continuing Process
The Literature Review Process

Referring To The Literature In Your Discussion Chapter

Task 10.1 Reflecting On Making The Connections In Your Own Research


Findings Support an Existing Theory

Comparing a New Model and an Existing Theory

Explaining a Finding Using the Literature

Contribution of Current Research to Exisiting Theory

Interpreting the Data Using the Literature

Application of Theory to the Findings


A Systematic Literature Review
What Is A Systematic Literature Review?

The Process Of Conducting A Systematic Literature Review

What Is A Meta-Analysis?

Narrative Synthesis

An Example Of A Systematic Review

Appraisal Of A Systematic Review

Task 11.1 Searching For And Critiquing A Systematic Literature Review In Your Field


Further Reading

Electronic Guides


SAGE Study Skills hub

Visit the SAGE Study Skills hub for tips, resources and videos on study success!

A good introduction for undergraduates and above.

Mr Dave Langcaster
Faculty of Business & Science, Hull College
March 22, 2014

This was an interesting and easy to use book

Mr Maurice Slaven
Family & Community Studies Department, Anglia Ruskin University
March 20, 2014

Very useful as a text on one element of a dissertation

Miss Donna Luck
early years, Northampton University
March 7, 2014

A very clear, easy to read text, providing students with excellent guidance for completion of dissertation projects. This book is suitable for undergraduate and postgraduate students and will enhance research and writing skills.

Miss Tracy Ramsey
Social Work Department, Liverpool Hope University
February 17, 2014

A very useful and readable guide for research students about the tricky stage of their dissertation when they have to review existing literature. Deals well with the dilemmas students face, e.g. how to avoid just telling the reader everything you know about a subject.
I recommend this to all my research students and students following research methods training courses.

Professor David Wray
Warwick Institute of Education, Warwick University
February 9, 2014

Used and recommended occasionally with students who I see on a one-to-one basis

Mr Rupert Walsh
School of Languages and Area Studies, Portsmouth University
February 7, 2014

Useful references and ideas. Will help students on post graduate courses who have little research experience

Mr Stefan Brown
Department of Health and Social Care, Royal Holloway, University of London
February 6, 2014

An excellent read for students new to Lit Reviews - not only Business related research projects

Mr Steve Billcliffe
Business Faculty, Abingdon & Witney College
January 26, 2014

A useful text for students completing dissertation projects. This comprehensive text outlines clearly and carefully the requirements for producing an excellent literature review.

Miss Tracy Ramsey
Social Work Department, Liverpool Hope University
July 24, 2015

This is an excellent book for my students.

Dr Olatunde Aremu
School of Health and Bioscience, University of East London
November 21, 2013

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

For instructors

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