1. Remember that the purpose of a literature review is to demonstrate the context for your own research and should lead your audience to
understand WHY your research question is a relevant one to be examined.
2. Within your question there will be terms for you to operationalize. These terms are often good places to start for literature reviews as you’ll
refer to previous research to formulate those definitions.
3. When trying to find sources for your literature review, use the reference pages of other sources. Make sure that you include sources that are
current as opposed to those published 20 years ago. Your sources should be from the last 5 years, with exceptions for foundational theory work
that might be older.
4. When organizing your literature review, use key themes and findings to create your headings and sub‐headings.
5. Remember that you always want to examine your sources critically, synthesize the different works together, and show how they connect to your
own research. Ultimately, you are looking for the strengths and weaknesses of other research and how it relates to your own.
6. You should always include a brief summary of each source to give context to your analysis. Mention methodology, sampling, key issues, terms,
concepts, findings, etc.
7. When synthesizing the sources, you could include:
Summarizing a source
Comparing and contrasting views
Identifying sources with similar views
Identifying areas of disagreement
Showing gaps in knowledge
Using exemplary studies
Identifying underlying theory
Showing how a study relates to earlier/later work(s)
8. Make sure that you fully explain the significance of that research to justify why it is relevant for your research question.
1. At this stage, you should already have an idea of your research question or hypothesis as well as the methodology you are planning to use for
your study. You should now start exploring the literature and brainstorm different components of your topic. For example, if your overall topic is
criminal profiling, you could create a mind map of the different ways this relates to policing. (This will also help you in the planning and writing
2. When examining sources to determine which you will use, scan them quickly for content and make notes of the main concepts. Make note of
the way different researchers have conducted their research. To see how these sources relate to each other, you could also create a table
showing the key components of each source.
3. When writing your literature review, remember that you need to include:
Background information explaining why this topic and your research is important – the context of your research question
A statement of your research question or hypothesis
Headings and subheadings on key themes to keep you focused and provide signposts for the reader
An introduction and conclusion