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Writing a Literature Review

This guide will help you get started on your literature review by providing basic information on what a review is, how to write it and where to do the research.

Defining the Topic

Identifying a well-defined research topic is the first step for writing a literature review. The topic should cover something from the research field that needs to be explored. This will ensure that your contribution will be valuable, that you are providing readers with a different angle or perspective on an issue or problem.

Ideally, your topic should tackle or explore a problem that is just the right size. A topic like “mothers and postpartum depression” is too broad; there will be too much information out there to write a concise literature review. However, a topic such as “maternal postpartum self-criticism and anger” looks at a problem faced by women who are experiencing the so-called baby blues. This gives you a niche within the research field to focus on and explore.

Limiting the Scope

Often a broad topic can be narrowed by adding one or more criteria, which can include:

  • time
  • gender
  • age group
  • population group
  • culture/ethnicity
  • location
  • theoretical framework
  • methodology (e.g., qualitative or quantitative, fieldwork/ethnography)
Too Broad Try
Smoking cessation Mindfulness therapeutic intervention in aiding smoking cessation
Social media in college and university  The use of social media in university classrooms for educational purposes
The culture of raising, slaughtering and consuming animals The politics of sight and power dynamics in animal rights organizations' undercover investigations of factory farming and animal slaughter


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