A literature review is a scholarly written paper which scopes and critiques existing literature that has been produced on a topic or theme by scholars and researchers. It identifies and critiques key ideas, theories and methods in a field of study, often identifying research gaps. It can help you link a topic to a wider field of enquiry and to articulate research questions more clearly.
A literature review may be used as a standalone assessment or as part of a larger piece of work (such as a dissertation or project.)
- assess your capacity to identify and locate key sources in a field of research
- evaluate your ability to summarise key concepts coherently and concisely (e.g. via tighter word limits).
- assess your ability to critique and evaluate arguments, theories or claims made in existing research and to identify existing gaps or weaknesses in the literature
- evaluate your engagement with scholars/experts in your discipline
- develop your insight into methodologies/experimental approaches and results appropriate to your disciplinary area
- develop your understanding of current research in a particular field
- develop information literacy which is a key digital capability
- Demonstrate your understanding of a subject area and where/how your own work adds to an existing body of knowledge
Key considerations when writing a literature review for assessment
When writing a literature review as part of an assessment, always refer to the guidelines and requirements provided by your lecturer, keeping the following points in mind:
- Is the literature review being used for formative or summative assessment purposes (or both!)
- If your literature review contributes to your final grade (i.e. is being used for summative assessment), how much is it worth?
- What criteria is being used to assess your review? Has a rubric been provided?
- Are there any Trinity guides/supports that might be useful to review before starting the review? For example on research, referencing or critical thinking?
- What readings/resources should you use? Have you been given a reading list? Do you need to find your own extra sources?
- When writing notes make sure to include what source you are citing from, so you don’t have to go searching later on!
- Write a plan before starting the review. Each paragraph should be a new idea.
The VLE Assignment Tool and Turnitin are accessible through Blackboard.
Google Docs and MS Word are accessible via myzone
Examples of a literature review
A student perspective on literature reviews