Literature Review - what is a Literature Review, why it is important and how it is done

  • Strategies to Find Sources

Evaluating Literature Reviews and Sources

Reading critically, tips to evaluate sources.

  • Tips for Writing Literature Reviews
  • Writing Literature Review: Useful Sites
  • Citation Resources
  • Other Academic Writings
  • Useful Resources

A good literature review evaluates a wide variety of sources (academic articles, scholarly books, government/NGO reports). It also evaluates literature reviews that study similar topics. This page offers you a list of resources and tips on how to evaluate the sources that you may use to write your review.

  • A Closer Look at Evaluating Literature Reviews Excerpt from the book chapter, “Evaluating Introductions and Literature Reviews” in Fred Pyrczak’s Evaluating Research in Academic Journals: A Practical Guide to Realistic Evaluation , (Chapter 4 and 5). This PDF discusses and offers great advice on how to evaluate "Introductions" and "Literature Reviews" by listing questions and tips. First part focus on Introductions and in page 10 in the PDF, 37 in the text, it focus on "literature reviews".
  • Tips for Evaluating Sources (Print vs. Internet Sources) Excellent page that will guide you on what to ask to determine if your source is a reliable one. Check the other topics in the guide: Evaluating Bibliographic Citations and Evaluation During Reading on the left side menu.

To be able to write a good Literature Review, you need to be able to read critically. Below are some tips that will help you evaluate the sources for your paper.

Reading critically (summary from How to Read Academic Texts Critically)

  • Who is the author? What is his/her standing in the field.
  • What is the author’s purpose? To offer advice, make practical suggestions, solve a specific problem, to critique or clarify?
  • Note the experts in the field: are there specific names/labs that are frequently cited?
  • Pay attention to methodology: is it sound? what testing procedures, subjects, materials were used?
  • Note conflicting theories, methodologies and results. Are there any assumptions being made by most/some researchers?
  • Theories: have they evolved overtime?
  • Evaluate and synthesize the findings and conclusions. How does this study contribute to your project?

Useful links:

  • How to Read a Paper (University of Waterloo, Canada) This is an excellent paper that teach you how to read an academic paper, how to determine if it is something to set aside, or something to read deeply. Good advice to organize your literature for the Literature Review or just reading for classes.

Criteria to evaluate sources:

  • Authority : Who is the author? what is his/her credentials--what university he/she is affliliated? Is his/her area of expertise?
  • Usefulness : How this source related to your topic? How current or relevant it is to your topic?
  • Reliability : Does the information comes from a reliable, trusted source such as an academic journal?

Useful site - Critically Analyzing Information Sources (Cornell University Library)

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The Library, Technological University of the Shannon: Midwest

Evaluating the literature

  • PMID: 10296573

The ability to read critically and evaluate research literature will increase in importance as the dietetic profession builds a research base to support practice. In this article, the "who, why, what, where, and when" of critiquing the literature are presented. An overview of "how" to critique the literature is outlined in a 10-step process that emphasizes effective time use. At each step, a decision is made to continue reading the article or to go to the next article or journal. The process includes examination of: 1) the journal and the title of the article; 2) the authors' names; 3) the abstract; 4) the introduction; 5) the objective of the study; 6) the methods; 7) the results; 8) the discussion; and 9) the conclusions. The 10th step, reached only if the article satisfactorily addresses the previous nine, is to attempt to use the information in practice.

  • British Columbia
  • Dietetics / standards*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Literature*
  • Professional Competence*


ACAP Pathfinder: Literature Review

  • What is a Literature Review?
  • Examples of Literature Reviews
  • The Research Question
  • Types of Literature
  • How to Search
  • Recording the Search
  • Reference Management

Evaluating the Literature

evaluation of the literature

A key step in writing the literature review is working out what literature should be included. You should only use literature that is highly relevant to your topic. It is better to select a limited number of sources that are central to your topic rather than trying to collect a large number of sources that are not as closely connected.

You may also need to justify why you have included some works and not others. For example, some studies may be superseded by recent evidence or theories and are now out of date. Primary sources are preferred over sources that another person had cited (secondary sources). If you do come across a useful secondary source, try to find the primary source it is referring to, so that you can read it first-hand.

Use the following resources to help you test and evaluate the literature you find. 

Understand & Evaluate Research Articles

Understand & evaluate research articles.

Finding eBooks from Student Learning Support on Vimeo .

evaluation of the literature

Appraising Research Papers

evaluation of the literature


evaluation of the literature

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Literature Review - Finding the Resources

  • The Literature
  • Search Tools
  • Formulating your search statement
  • Buliding on what you have found
  • Keeping Track

Evaluating your sources

Scholarly journals vs. non-scholarly journals, evaluate websites, critical reading.

  • Academic Reading
  • Citing Sources

Before deciding whether or not to incorporate what you have found into your literature review, you need to evaluate the resources to make sure that they contain information which is valuable and pertinent . This is especially true when the resources you retrieved are not collected by an academic library, but conveniently accessible through Internet search. Web resources need more careful thought to ensure their quality. Thus it is always a good practice to begin your search using CityU LibraryFind and databases for more authoritative and reliable resources.

Evaluation Criteria

Accuracy, authority, objectivity, currency and coverage are the five basic criteria for evaluating information from any sources.

It has been mentioned on " The Literature " page of this guide that a literature review generally consists of scholarly works. In addition to dissertations and theses, scholarly journal articles are another important sources to be incorporated in a literature review.

Many Library databases contain articles of various types of periodicals, including scholarly journals, magazines and newspapers. Most of these databases allow you to further limit your search results to "Scholarly Articles" so that you can view only academic research articles that in general report current original research.

  • EBSCOhost Databases
  • ProQuest Databases

The document below assists you in distinguishing scholarly journals from non-scholarly journals:

  • Types of Periodicals - Scholarly vs. Non-Scholarly Periodicals

Bearing in mind that the Web is a vast network of unfiltered information sources, (i.e., anyone can put anything on it, bypassing editorial or peer review). It is of utmost importance that we evaluate information on the Web before it is used and cited.

Here are some quick hints that can help you decide whether the information given in a particular web page is reliable or not:

  • Look for information about the author, e.g., links that say "Who we are", "About this site", etc.  
  • See if the author/web master provides e-mail address or other contact information so that he or she can be contacted for enquiries or further information.  
  • .com / .co -- a commercial site (may be trying to sell a product)
  • .edu  / .ac -- an educational institution (usually reliable but may not if it is a personal web page of a member of the institution)
  • .gov  -- a government department or agent
  • .net -- network access provider
  • .org -- a non-profit organization (may or may not be biased)  
  • a "~" in the URL usually indicates it is a personal web page e.g., The quality of information can vary greatly among personal web pages.

For more about evaluating information, visit the following sites:

Critically Analyzing Information Sources , from Research & Learning Serivces, Cornell University Library.

Evaluating Resources , from UC Berkeley Library.

Fake News, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Learning to Critically Evaluate Media Sources , from Cornell University Library.

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Literature review

A general guide on how to conduct and write a literature review.

Please check course or programme information and materials provided by teaching staff , including your project supervisor, for subject-specific guidance.

What is a literature review?

A literature review is a piece of academic writing demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the academic literature on a specific topic placed in context.  A literature review also includes a critical evaluation of the material; this is why it is called a literature review rather than a literature report. It is a process of reviewing the literature, as well as a form of writing.

To illustrate the difference between reporting and reviewing, think about television or film review articles.  These articles include content such as a brief synopsis or the key points of the film or programme plus the critic’s own evaluation.  Similarly the two main objectives of a literature review are firstly the content covering existing research, theories and evidence, and secondly your own critical evaluation and discussion of this content. 

Usually a literature review forms a section or part of a dissertation, research project or long essay.  However, it can also be set and assessed as a standalone piece of work.

What is the purpose of a literature review?

…your task is to build an argument, not a library. Rudestam, K.E. and Newton, R.R. (1992) Surviving your dissertation: A comprehensive guide to content and process. California: Sage, p49.

In a larger piece of written work, such as a dissertation or project, a literature review is usually one of the first tasks carried out after deciding on a topic.  Reading combined with critical analysis can help to refine a topic and frame research questions.  Conducting a literature review establishes your familiarity with and understanding of current research in a particular field before carrying out a new investigation.  After doing a literature review, you should know what research has already been done and be able to identify what is unknown within your topic.

When doing and writing a literature review, it is good practice to:

  • summarise and analyse previous research and theories;
  • identify areas of controversy and contested claims;
  • highlight any gaps that may exist in research to date.

Conducting a literature review

Focusing on different aspects of your literature review can be useful to help plan, develop, refine and write it.  You can use and adapt the prompt questions in our worksheet below at different points in the process of researching and writing your review.  These are suggestions to get you thinking and writing.

Developing and refining your literature review (pdf)

Developing and refining your literature review (Word)

Developing and refining your literature review (Word rtf)

Writing a literature review has a lot in common with other assignment tasks.  There is advice on our other pages about thinking critically, reading strategies and academic writing.  Our literature review top tips suggest some specific things you can do to help you submit a successful review.

Literature review top tips (pdf)

Literature review top tips (Word rtf)

Our reading page includes strategies and advice on using books and articles and a notes record sheet grid you can use.

Reading at university

The Academic writing page suggests ways to organise and structure information from a range of sources and how you can develop your argument as you read and write.

Academic writing

The Critical thinking page has advice on how to be a more critical researcher and a form you can use to help you think and break down the stages of developing your argument.

Critical thinking

As with other forms of academic writing, your literature review needs to demonstrate good academic practice by following the Code of Student Conduct and acknowledging the work of others through citing and referencing your sources.  

Good academic practice

As with any writing task, you will need to review, edit and rewrite sections of your literature review.  The Editing and proofreading page includes tips on how to do this and strategies for standing back and thinking about your structure and checking the flow of your argument.

Editing and proofreading

Guidance on literature searching from the University Library

The Academic Support Librarians have developed LibSmart I and II, Learn courses to help you develop and enhance your digital research skills and capabilities; from getting started with the Library to managing data for your dissertation.

Searching using the library’s DiscoverEd tool: DiscoverEd

Finding resources in your subject: Subject guides

The Academic Support Librarians also provide one-to-one appointments to help you develop your research strategies.

1 to 1 support for literature searching and systematic reviews

Advice to help you optimise use of Google Scholar, Google Books and Google for your research and study: Using Google

Managing and curating your references

A referencing management tool can help you to collect and organise and your source material to produce a bibliography or reference list. 

Referencing and reference management

Information Services provide access to Cite them right online which is a guide to the main referencing systems and tells you how to reference just about any source (EASE log-in may be required).

Cite them right

Published study guides

There are a number of scholarship skills books and guides available which can help with writing a literature review.  Our Resource List of study skills guides includes sections on Referencing, Dissertation and project writing and Literature reviews.

Study skills guides

Literature reviews

  • Introduction
  • Conducting your search
  • Store and organise the literature

Evaluate the information you have found

Critique the literature.

  • Different subject areas
  • Find literature reviews

When conducting your searches you may find many references that will not be suitable to use in your literature review.

  • Skim through the resource - a quick read through the table of contents, the introductory paragraph or the abstract should indicate whether you need to read further or whether you can immediately discard the result.
  • Evaluate the quality and reliability of the references you find - our page on evaluating information outlines what you need to consider when evaluating the books, journal articles, news and websites you find to ensure they are suitable for use in your literature review.

Critiquing the literature involves looking at the strength and weaknesses of the paper and evaluating the statements made by the author/s.

Books and resources on reading critically

  • CASP Checklists Critical appraisal tools designed to be used when reading research. Includes tools for Qualitative studies, Systematic Reviews, Randomised Controlled Trials, Cohort Studies, Case Control Studies, Economic Evaluations, Diagnostic Studies and Clinical Prediction Rule.
  • How to read critically - business and management From Postgraduate research in business - the aim of this chapter is to show you how to become a critical reader of typical academic literature in business and management.
  • Learning to read critically in language and literacy Aims to develop skills of critical analysis and research design. It presents a series of examples of `best practice' in language and literacy education research.
  • Critical appraisal in health sciences See tools for critically appraising health science research.

evaluation of the literature

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  1. Literature review and its process

  2. Formative assessment

  3. Albert Einstein-High Value Man #shorts

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  5. Ultimate literature ll Most beneficial literary work for you

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  4. Evaluating Literature Reviews and Sources

    A good literature review evaluates a wide variety of sources (academic articles, scholarly books, government/NGO reports).

  5. Evaluating the literature

    The process includes examination of: 1) the journal and the title of the article; 2) the authors' names; 3) the abstract; 4) the introduction; 5) the objective

  6. Evaluating Sources

    The overall purpose of evaluating sources is to make sure that your review has the most relevant, accurate, and unbiased literature in the field

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    Critically evaluating the literature will help you decide on the quality, relevancy and currency of the information. Remember, always follow the assessment and

  9. Evaluating the Literature

    A key step in writing the literature review is working out what literature should be included. You should only use literature that is highly

  10. Evaluating Sources

    Evaluate websites · Look for information about the author, e.g., links that say "Who we are", "About this site", etc. · See if the author/web

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