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PG Cert Learning and Supporting Teaching in Higher Education: Literature searching - Literature Review - Referencing

What is a literature Search?

A literature search is a systematic and comprehensive search for information.

The information you search for will inform, underpin and /or shape your research. It will enable you to find out what has already been written in your subject area and enable you to identify the main trends. 

The information can be contained in books, journal articles, reports, case studies, policy documents, conference proceedings etc.

Literature Search Planning Worksheet

Before you start your literature search use the worksheet below to plan what you are going to do.

Planning your literature search in this way should help you work in a more systematic fashion and will provide you with a record of what you have done for when you write up your research methods.

Why do a Literature Review?

You will need to read and review what other people have written about your subject area for three of reasons:


(1) You need to set the work you have done into context.


(2) You need to show why you are doing this particular project – why did this work need to be done? How does this work fit into the other work that has been done? Why is it interesting? Who would like to know the results?


(3) It can also be helpful to look around the problem for helpful ideas, and compare your work to prior research.


A literature search needs to be systematic and focussed. It must also be evaluative – you need to critically evaluate each reference you find to determine if it is worth pursuing.


When writing assignments it is important to reference your work properly.
There are three main reasons for doing this:

  • You need to acknowledge the work that is not yours, and so avoid committing plagiarism.
  • It enables other people to read the documents that you have read.
  • It shows the breadth of knowledge that you have consulted.

There are two parts to referencing:

  1. The citation is included in the text. It shows that what you have written is not your own idea (or research). If you do not correctly cite other people’s work, you are plagiarising.
  2. The reference is included in a list at the end. It gives the full details of what you have cited, so that someone else can read what you have read.

Use Cite them right for Harvard referencing. Here is a link to a 'sample text and reference list using the Harvard style'.  Use this link for further information on plagiarism, and referencing



RefWorks - is an online research management tool, where you can gather your references in one place, as well as generate citations and bibliographies.

Create an account to use RefWorks -

Refworks Libguide, by Proquest -


Free Academic Internet Resources

 As well as the information skills available from library  there are also many useful free resources available online.

SafariSkills in Accessing, Finding and Reviewing Information, which is an online tutorial that will help you develop your information skills.

The Study Space - advice on how to develop study skills