Skip to Main Content
Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Menu Search

Writing a Literature Review

This guide will help you get started on your literature review by providing basic information on what a review is, how to write it and where to do the research.

Defining the topic

Identifying a well-defined research question is the first step for writing a literature review. It should focus on something from the research field that needs to be explored, where there are gaps in the information. This will ensure that your contribution is valuable and that you are providing readers with a different angle or perspective on an issue or problem.

Your topic needs to be given careful consideration. A research question like “why are social networking sites harmful?” is too broad; there will be too much information to write a concise literature review. Change it to “how are online users experiencing or addressing privacy issues on Twitter and Facebook?" and it is more specific. It gives you a niche within the research field to focus on and explore.

Limiting the scope

Sometimes a broad topic can be narrowed by using one or more extra criteria, which can include:

  • time
  • gender
  • age group
  • population group
  • culture/ethnicity
  • location
  • theoretical framework
  • methodology (e.g., qualitative or quantitative, fieldwork/ethnography)
Too Broad Try
Smoking cessation Mindfulness therapeutic intervention in aiding smoking cessation
Social media in college and university  Use of Instagram and Twitter in university classrooms for educational purposes
Effect on the environment from global warming Effect of glacial melting on penguins in Antarctica

How you narrow the scope can be done in two broad ways, detailed in Developing a Search Strategy:

  1. add more search strands using AND to give fewer results (see Combining your terms: search operators)
  2. use "filters" in a database to eliminate results from outside those limits (see Using methodological search filters)