WST 6001: Feminist Research Methodology

Brief outline of How to do a Literature Review

Literature Review Basics

What is a Literature Review?

Literature reviews are designed to do two things:

1) give your readers an overview of sources you have explored while researching a particular topic or idea

2) demonstrate how your research fits into the larger field of study.



1) Decide on a topic and identify the literature base you will review

-Become familiar with the relevant databases for that subject

-Identify search terms that capture your subject

-Start with general search terms and experiment with different terms noting which work

-Identify the important studies on the topic

-Redefine your topic if necessary. Try to narrow it to a specific interest area with the broad area


2)  Analyze the literature (Your role is to evaluate what you’ve read.)

-Usually a review covers the last 5 years of literature on a topic

-Skim the articles to get an idea of the purpose and content.

-Group the articles into categories and sub-categories

-Take notes: Define key terms, key statistics, identify useful quotes

-Note strengths, weaknesses and emphases

-Identify trends or patterns

-Identify gaps in the literature

-Identify relationships between studies, which led to others etc.

-Stay focused on your topic


3) Synthesis

-Identify your area of focus and say why it is relevant or important to the topic

-summarize the contributions of important studies/articles to the topic

-evaluate the current “state of the art” point out gaps or inconsistencies in research or theories     point out areas of possible future research

-provide some insight into the relationship between the central topic of the literature review and a larger area of study

-write a conclusion that clarifies how the material in the review has supported your proposition in the introduction