A literature review is an evaluative report of information found in the literature related to your selected area of study. The review should describe, summarise, evaluate and clarify this literature. It should give a theoretical base for the research and help you determine the nature of your research.
During the course of your studies you may be required to carry out a literature review on a specfic topic. A literature review will often form part of your dissertation.
Emerald's "How to guides.." are very useful for help starting research, In particular their guide on literature reviews: How to write a literature review.
For guidance on literature reviews in Criminology and the Social Sciences, see: Denney, A.S. and Tewksbury, R. (2013) ‘How to Write a Literature Review’, Journal of criminal justice education, 24(2), pp. 218–234. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/10511253.2012.730617.
The first step in your literature review is to carry out a literature search.
While many studies include background literature reviews to gather existing evidence before undertaking their own primary data collection, others may use literature reviews as a method themselves. This involves critically appraising the available evidence already constructed on a topic and drawing conclusions, and is a type of secondary, or desk-based research. You may choose this method for your undergraduate or postgraduate dissertation.
Studies that use literature reviews as a method include:
For more information on this topic, see Dr Myrna Papadouka's excellent workshop: Literature Reviews as a Research Method (MDX users only). This article also contains a useful summary of different types of reviews.
If you come across one of these published literature reviews in your own topic, you can use these to help you gather the existing evidence, before going on to conduct your own research.