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Law (Postgraduates)

What is a literature review?

A literature review provides a comprehensive review of the literature in a specific area of interest. It enables you to:

  • investigate previous research and find out what’s been done before
  • consider theoretical frameworks
  • identify ‘gaps’ in existing knowledge to find out if your study is worth doing
  • determine/clarify/justify your research question/problem
  • select the most appropriate methodology (if applicable).

Importantly, a literature review sets the context for your study and provides the framework for interpreting the results of your study. A literature review, like an essay, has an introduction, body and a conclusion.

Excerpt taken from: Student Learning Zone, Writing a Literature Review

Conducting a literature review

Skills for searching the literature

A good search strategy is essential to get the best results and to feel confident that you have found all relevant material for your Literature Review.

See Database search tips for helpful, timesaving tips.

Finding and searching using the most appropriate descriptor or subject heading in a database ensures you find ALL the relevant material on that topic within that database.  

Keep records of where you search and what search terms you used, so you don't waste time repeating searches at a later date!

Checklist of sources for your literature review

In order to be sure you have done a really comprehensive search of the literature, here is a checklist of sources/types of information for you to use.  

Books:  Search the SCU catalogue and Libraries Australia which searches ALL library catalogues throughout Australia. The National Library of Australia and all the State Libraries are deposit libraries, so you can be sure you are seeing everything that has been published in Australia, including theses, reports and conference papers. Request an Inter-Library Loan for items not held at SCU. (Note: not available to offshore students.)

Electronic books: Google Books and other online book collections which are available from our eBooks collections page.

Journal literature: Use databases to find relevant scholarly articles that are unavailable without an SCU login. To find suitable databases for your area of research, see the LibGuides. Databases searches are essential to ensure that you have retrieved all relevant literature in your field. Google Scholar can also be used to locate articles.

Citation databases: e.g. Scopus and Web of Science allow you to trace the works of particular authors and provides citations to related articles. These sources provide both peer-reviewed research literature and quality web resources.

Websites of Organisations often contain useful links to other quality web resources. Find a key organisation in your subject area (government agency, nongovernmental organisation, scholarly society, research institute, professional or business association). Find their website and look for links.

Grey Literature: Unpublished source material is an essential resource for some research projects but is often extremely difficult to locate and access. See your Liaison Librarian for assistance.

'How to' books

Using mind maps

As you review books, journals and other literature, make a list of the keywords and search terms that you have used. It is often useful to list the terms that aren't useful / relevant, as well as the ones that are.

You may wish to create a mind map of all of the terms that apply to your topic before conducting your literature search. This mind map can then be used to guide your literature search, and ensure that you discuss pertinent concepts in the review itself.

This mind map and its sections can also be the subsections that you use for storing the results of your research.

Some Mind Mapping Tools Available on the Internet

Useful Sites