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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 guide to the literature review provides a step-by-step guide to conducting a literature search and literature review, and guides the reader in how to write up a literature review as part of a PhD thesis or Masters dissertation.

Ridley outlines practical strategies for reading and note taking, and guides the reader on how to conduct a systematic search of the available literature, and uses cases and examples throughout to demonstrate best practice in writing and presenting the review.

New to this edition are examples drawn from a wide range of disciplines, a new chapter on conducting a systematic review, increased coverage of issues of evaluating quality and conducting reviews using online sources and online literature and 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 a wide range of academic disciplines.

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!

'The Literature Review is a clearly written and easily accessible self-guided introduction packed with detailed examples. It's especially useful for budding researchers unfamiliar with crafting literature reviews that support strong theory development and empirical testing. I recommend it to every first-year doctoral student' -
Michael R. Hyman
Distinguished Achievement Professor, New Mexico State University

Excellent book, providing very good guidance on how to conduct a literature review.

Dr Dafni Papoutsaki
Brighton Business School, Brighton University
April 7, 2022

Provides specific guidance on doing a literature review which is relevant to UG and PG students.

Ms Wilma Garvin
Royal Docks Business School, University of East London
August 21, 2020

This text will support our trainees with their M-level study. A very useful text.

Ms Lis Bundock
Education, Brighton University
September 10, 2015

My students have found this book so helpful. The step-by-step approach offers clarity and helps build students' confidence in conducting a literature review.

Dr Dzintra Stalmeisters
Counselor Education , Derby University
April 21, 2015

Thank you very much for this insepction copy. This book is current and comprehensive. It includes useful consideration of referencing software. It has a particulalry easy to follow format with lots of text boxes and excercises. It is particularly useful for those new to literature searching.

Annie Pettifer
Department of Nursing and Midwifery, Coventry University
March 11, 2015

This is an excellent book, clearly written and suitable for undergraduate students.

It outlines the purpose of literature review and gives good information about note taking and how be critical.

This book should help my students with the part of the research process to often struggle with.

Mr Peter Wisener
Hospitality Tourism and Sport, North West Institute
July 1, 2014

Excellent guide. A must read for postgraduate learners.

Ms Melody Harrogate
EHS, Derby univeristy
June 10, 2014

This book provides detailed insights into carrying out the reserach for a literature review. Also it provides excellent step-by-step guidance in the writing process.

Faculty of Education, Winchester University
April 23, 2014

Helpful for students at all levels. The framework is useful for students trying to grasp a complicated procedure. The systematic literature review chapter is a nice addition. A great resource for students.

Miss Rebecca Wheeler
Department of Psychology, Coventry University
April 7, 2014

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1