Starting and creating a literature review can be a tricky problem. For a start you need to know what your review should achieve and what sources you are going to use. The first step is always to revisit the research Aims and Objectives and ask yourself:
1. What do you want to find out?
2. What do you want to know about the topic?
3. What would help you write your thesis?
It can be easy to forget that the literature review also helps you to understand a topic. So it’s not only a requirement of a thesis, it is a learning experience for you.
For example, if my aim were to research “User Generated Content in the context of museums”, the literature that would interest me would be in these areas:
1. User Generated Content – defining what it is and how it is used?
2. User Generated Content in the context of museums – are any museums using it? Are there journal papers on the subject? Has someone already reviewed the area?
3. What alternatives are there to User Generated Content – as it’s a relatively new topic then what did museums use before?
Even if your research aim is to only look at one particular topic, then use this topic as a starting point and start writing these down.
By now, you hopefully have a written list of possible topics so I recommend writing a short overview of these topics of about 200-300 words in total. The process of trying to write about these topics, will make you focus on what you need to know and what literature you need to be reading! Use coursework notes or your own experience and if you are stuck, then right down what you need to know. It’s unlikely that you know nothing about your research topic, so try to take a few minutes to think about what it is you are trying to achieve and write this down.
Try to make your research topics clear before starting a literature review. This will make it easier and avoid you becoming overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available to you. So returning to my example, I’d start by using the search terms:
Keyword Search 1: User + Generated + Content + museums
Keyword Search 2: User + Generated + Content + museums + review
Keyword Search 3: Website + content + museums
Keyword Search 4: User + Generated + Content
This should give me enough journals and information to start writing a draft review.
Now from these searches, start to create headings for each of your main topics. As this is in draft format then it doesn’t matter too much about the order. You’ll find that once you start writing, the logical order will become clearer. It’s very easy to quickly copy and paste words from one section to another, so the key thing here is to make sure your headings reflect what is in your Aims and Objectives!
A really good hint here is to search for a review on your subject, in a well-known journal database such as EmeraldInsight or ScienceDirect. If it’s a popular topic, then there will be reviews on it. These are invaluable as the previous researcher will already have identified gaps in the literature and categorised the main headings.
As you write each part of the review, remember to write a brief introduction and conclusion at the end of each heading. The introduction may only be 50-100 words but it is important to explain why this area of the literature is being covered and how it relates to the Aims Objectives. Similarly the conclusion briefly lists the main findings and helps to confirm that the work is relevant to the Aims and Objectives.
So to recap, an example of how to start is:
1. Write a short overview of what you need to know based on your Aims Objectives and discuss this with your tutor or supervisor (200-300 words)
2. Search journal databases using keywords relating to your research
3. Search for a review on your topic (great if you can find one!)
4. Identify key topic headings and split your chapter into sub-headings
5. Write a draft review under each headings, with an introduction and conclusion at the end of each topic
Remember that your supervisor should always be able to help you. Ask them to review your work as you go along to make sure it’s OK and on the right track.
Free Example of Literature Review Format in PDF – Download