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Types of Assignment

How to start, plan and structure your work

Literature Review Essay or Literature Review Report?

The term "Literature Review" is one you might hear often but its meaning can be unclear, this is because it depends on the assignment it is being attached to.

  • Essays tend to be more topic focussed and use the academic literature to evidence and support different subject points in an attempt to back up the assignment topic.
  • Literature Reviews and Systematic Reviews are more analytical and focus on the articles themselves.

Depending on your level of study and the type of assignment this will indicate the level of analysis required. If you are unsure please speak to a Librarian for support.


The below image / file may be useful in identifying what level you need.

Article Review Scale

Literature review: Things you need to know...

  • Be clear about the area you want to research - You need a specific title, aims and objectives.
  • Decide on what you need to read - Set yourself some constraints (inclusion criteria) for instance think about: date published, country of origin, which websites are valid?
  • Write in the academic style - You are stating what other people have found out about a particular subject, consequently you will be including lots of citations in your work, and will have a substantial reference list.  


Use the correct format.

  • Introduction - Why this subject is important to investigate?
  • Methodology (or inclusion/exclusion criteria) - What methodology (what steps) did you use?  What have you have done to find published work?  Why did you choose to read the work you did?  Why did you reject some authors?  Where did you look for information?  Why?
  • Findings - What have you found out?  Plan your work into a logical sequence. You will need to consider how you are going to structure this section - Thematically, Chronologically, Methodologically or Theoretical. Be critical - Highlight exemplary studies.  Are there authors who you think are more scientific than others, more relevant to your objectives? Do some authors deserve more credence than others?  Are there gaps in the research?  Justify your comments.​​​​​​​
  • Conclusion - After doing all the research what do you conclude?  What is the current thinking?


Contact your Subject Librarian who can help you to develop an effective search strategy.


Critical Appraisal

Located all of the relevant research papers from your literature search?  

Critical  appraisal is the process used to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the articles you have found. Critical appraisal allows your to critically assess the quality of the Authors work and make judgments on the information presented. For examples authors may exaggerate their findings or there may be flaws in their research.  Critical appraisal assists you in making informed decisions about the quality of the research.

To start your appraisal process it can be useful to define the features within the article. It can be beneficial to use a guide which breaks down the journal elements into different categories, sometimes this is called a "top sheet" or a "review sheet". Check out our guide on Note Taking and in particular the factsheet on Journal note taking, 

At higher levels of study critical appraisal is often carried out using checklists that help signpost areas to look for while reading a paper. There are different types of checklist depending on the type of research you are reviewing. For more information check out our guide on Systematic Reviews.

Need to know more...

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