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Literature reviews

A standard section of a thesis or major project is the literature review. As the name suggests, if you're completing a literature review, you will be examining the existing literature on a chosen topic, which will allow you:

  • to identify gaps in current knowledge;
  • to avoid reinventing the wheel (at the very least this will save time and it can stop you from making the same mistakes as others);
  • to carry on from where others have already reached (reviewing the field allows you to build on the platform of existing knowledge and ideas);
  • to identify other people working in the same and related fields (they provide you with a researcher network, which is a valuable resource indeed);
  • to increase your breadth of knowledge of the area in which your subject is located;
  • to identify seminal works in your area;
  • to provide the intellectual context for your own work (this will enable you to position your project in terms of related work);
  • to identify opposing views;
  • to put your own work in perspective;
  • to provide evidence that you can access the previous significant work in an area;
  • to discover transferable information and ideas (information and insights that may be relevant to your own project); and 
  • to discover transferable research methods (research methods that could be relevant to your own project). (Bourner & Greener, 2016, pp. 8-9) 

Please see below for additional resources on writing a literature review. 

Literature review resources

The Literature Review (8:14 mins , Royal Roads University)

  • This narrated whiteboard video aims to demystify the process of writing a literature review and provide suggestions for how to get organized to write. The video uses a cocktail party analogy to illustrate the approach. Click for transcript.

Get Lit: The Literature Review ( by Dr. Candace Hastings, Texas A&M University Writing Center)

Literature Reviews (University of Waterloo)

SAGE Research Methods (requires login with RRU username and password)

Literature Review Tutorial (American University Library)

Sample outline: See the sections relating to the literature review section of a major research paper in Outlining a Research Paper (©2011 Amy L. Stuart, Associate Professor, University of South Florida)

Sample literature review: Critical Thinking and Transferability: A Review of the Literature (Reece, 2002)

To search for additional information, please visit WriteAnswers and search the FAQs. If you're a RRU student, you can also use the WriteAnswers contact form to send your questions directly to the Writing Centre. We'll send you a private reply as soon as we can, which is typically within one business day of receiving the message.


Bourner, T., & Greener, S. (2016). The research journey: Four steps to success. In T. Greenfield & S. Greener (Eds.), Research methods for postgraduates (pp. 7-12). John Wiley & Sons.