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Library Essentials

Literature review

What is a literature review?

A literature review summarises and analyses the literature you have found through your research. In a literature review, the literature itself is the subject of discussion. The aim of a literature review is to show your tutor that you have read, and have a good grasp of, the main published work concerning a particular topic or question in your field.

A literature review is not a straightforward summary of everything you have read on a topic. It is an evaluative analysis of what has been discovered in your field. The review should describe, summarise, evaluate and clarify this literature.

Planning a literature review

You can make a start on your review by identifying what you need to know to inform your research:‚Äč

  • What research has already been done on this topic
  • What are the sub-areas of the topic you need to explore?
  • What other research (perhaps not directly on the topic) might be relevant to your investigation?
  • How do these sub-topics and other research overlap with your investigation?

A You Tube video by the University of Derby explaining what is a literature review 

Literature searching

What is a literature search?

For your assignments, projects and dissertations you will need to perform a literature search.  A literature search is a well thought out, organised search and evaluation of literature available on a topic. 

A well-structured literature search is the most effective and efficient way to locate sound evidence on the subject you are researching.  'Literature' can include journal articles, newspaper articles, official publications, conference proceedings, archives, book chapters etc.

Planning a literature search

To research efficiently, all searches should involve analysis, planning and using reliable sources. You should think about the following when planning your search strategy:

  • Establish the scope of your topic.
  • Analyse and plan a research question.

  • Think of keywords to assist you in your search.
  • Identify Where you are going to search (catalogue, databases, journals...)
  • Identify What you are searching for (books, journal articles, online sources...)

Where should I search?

There are a number of different types of resources you can search and what you choose depends on your research topic. Here are some suggestions below:

Further help

Detailed information on conducting a search and maximising your strategy can be found in our Library Guides:

Evaluating sources

An important part of your research is identifying the key and important sources on your topic and choosing which ones to include and analyse in your dissertation, project or thesis. Rather than just summarising the key arguments, it is useful to analyse them and make connections between them

One method you can use to evaluate your search results is by using the CRAAP test. Ask yourself the following questions: 

If you need further guidance on how to evaluate your research literature you can arrange a one-to-one appointment with your subject librarian.

  1. Currency

    • When was it published or posted? Has it been updated or revised?

    • Is it important to have current information or will old information do?

    • Do the links still work?

  2. Relevance

    • Does it relate to your question? Is it at an appropriate level?

    • Have you compared it with other sources?

    • Are you comfortable citing this?

  3. Accuracy

    • Where does it come from? Is it supported by correct evidence?

    • Can you verify it in another reliable source?

    • Does it seem balanced, unbiased and free from errors?

  4. Authority

    • Who is the author/publisher/source? What are their credentials?

    • Is the source trustworthy? Is there contact information?

    • If it is a website, what is the source? For example: government (.gov), university (.ac), organisation (.org)? 

  5. Purpose

    • What is the purpose of the information?

    • Is it fact, opinion or propaganda?

    • Does the information appear objective and impartial?

A short video tutorial on evaluating journal articles


What is Copyright?

Copyright gives protection to the owner of the rights to an original work. The owner will often be the creator, although this is not always the case.

This means that individuals who want to reproduce the original work of others may need to seek permission to do so.

How does Copyright affect me?

If you copy material which is not your own during your studies it is important that you are aware of copyright and its restrictions.

  • You are permitted to re-use copyrighted material if it's for one of the following purposes:
    • your own private study
    • non-commercial research
    • criticism and review - to make a critical point, to support an argument, for example in an essay, dissertation or thesis, or when answering an examination question.
  • Do not exceed safe copying limits. You may copy/scan…
    • a single chapter from a book
    • a single article from a journal issue
    • 5% of the whole work, even if this is more than a single chapter
  • Do not share copies
    • by making multiple photocopies
    • by email
    • via an online network (such as social media)
  • Always acknowledge the source of any copies you make. Cite Them Right Online provides guidance on how to cite and reference your sources. There are print copies of Cite Them Right Online available to borrow from the library.

If you need further information about reusing material you can access our Copyright guide for students and staff. It contains in depth information on how to use a variety of resources appropriately.  

Fair dealing

Here is a soundless video on the copyright concept of Fair Dealing . See below for the transcript.

Transcript: Copyright: Fair dealing

[Image of an iphone camera lens]. “Did you know that you can make copies of extracts from library books and journals using a mobile phone camera as well as a photocopier or scanner?”

[Image of a traffic stop sign] “BUT...”

[Image of a photocopier with book being photocopied.] “How much material by other people are you allowed to copy?”

[Image of an untidy desk (files, papers, pen, container of paper clips, etc.)] “As much as you need (but no more), up to about 5-10%.”

[Image of kitchen scales] “This is known as ‘Fair Dealing’, and is intended to strike a balance between your needs as a scholar and the creator’s livelihood.”

“For more information please see City’s Copyright Guide:”

[On screen text] “Credits

  • •‘iphone6+ camera bump’ by Omar Jordan Fawahl (CC BY-SA 2.0). Accessed from Flickr 17/08/2017.
  • ‘Sens interdit’ by Carlos ZGZ (Public Domain). Accessed from Flickr 17/08/2017.
  • ‘Let’s digitize’ by Mace Ojala (CC BY-SA 2.0). Accessed from Flickr 17/08/2017.
  • ‘Work prep’ by FergieFam. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Accessed from Flickr 17/08/2017.
  • ‘Scales’ by Mauro Cateb (CC BY 2.0). Accessed from Flickr 17/08/2017.”

Academic Skills Team

If you need help with practical skills to help you with your projects and dissertations you can contact the Academic Skills Team

They aim to help develop your skills so that you can learn more effectively.

The range of help includes:

  • Study skills, such as reading strategies and essay planning
  • Writing skills, including critical thinking
  • Meeting the assessment criteria of your assignment
  • Time management
  • Revision and exam techniques
  • And much more

They offer one-to-one academic skills tutorials, by appointment, to all City students.

In addition, group workshops are held throughout the year on range of study skills topic. These sessions are open to all students.

You can find out more about making appointments and workshops times on the Academic Skills webpages.