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Academic Writing

Information designed to assist students in identifying different types of academic writing, and the purpose behind each.

Literature Review Diagram (text only is below the image)

Diagram of the literature review process. Full text and transcription is below the image.

Image taken from The University of New South Wales. "Getting Started on Your Literature Review." Retrieved 17 August, 2012 from

[The following is a transcript of the text in the diagram image above]

Some of the questions the review of the literature (literature search and review on your topic) can answer:

What are the key sources?

What are the major issues and debates about the topic?

What are the political stand pointpoints?

What are the origins and definitions of the topic?

What are the key theories, concepts, and ideas?

What are the epistemological and ontological grounds for the discipline?

How is the knowledge on the topic organized?

What are the main questions and problems that have been addresses to date?

How have approaches to these questions increased our understanding and knowledge?

Adapted from Hart, C. (1998). Doing a literature review: Releasing the social science research imagination. London, Sage. P. 14. Source: The Learning Centre UNSW hppt://


The structure of a literature review is usually fairly straightforward, with an introduction, review, and conclusion, but there are several different ways to organize the sources being reviewed including:

Chronologically, by publication date


According to Methodology

The organization of the review section can reveal important trends or advancements in the field and is evidence of a deliberate and educated choice made by the author.


A literature review is an evaluative account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers.  The purpose of a literature review IS NOT to create an original argument and support your position with scholarly research (this is the typical college research paper assignment), but instead to summarize the available research in the field to assess the value of the research already done by others, identify prevalent trends and discover what research remains to be done in a particular subject area.  Literature reviews direct the formation of new research questions and are routinely included in the opening sections of scholarly research reports.  A successful literature review must be defined by a guiding concept such as a specific research objective.   

Elements of the Literature Review

There are many different ways to organize your references in a literature review, but every review should have certain basic elements. 

Introduction – an overview of the topic, and the author’s objectives in completing the literature review.

Review – works divided into categories according to whatever structure the author is using (thematic, historical, by methodology ect.) and a comparison of each work in the context of the others.

Conclusion – the author’s analysis and evaluation of the reviewed works.

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