This guide provides an overview of the literature review and its place in a research project, thesis, or dissertation, and demonstrates some strategies and resources for finding the information you need using the U of I Library.
This chart lists some questions you should ask yourself before beginning a Literature Review. For example, the first row, "FOCUS," is asking what outcomes, methods, theories or practices your literature review is about. Are you tracking the outcomes of previous studies, the methods that have been used over time, or something else?
CATEGORIES (only some will apply)
Practices or Applications
(b) Conflict Resolution
(c) Linguistic bridge-building
Identification of Central Issues
Espousal of Position
Exhaustive with Selective Citation
Central or Pivotal
Practitioners or Policymakers
Source: “Organizing Knowledge Synthesis: A Taxonomy of Literature Reviews,” by H.M. Cooper, 1988, Knowledge in Society, 1, p. 109.
Cooper in Context
You don't need a definitive answer to all these questions, but they will help focus your research. Questions to consider:
Which of these characteristics seem to fit within your field?
What would you like your Literature Review/thesis/dissertation to accomplish?
Is your aim to influence theory within your field, or have specific application?
Who is your audience?
Does your field necessitate a particular perspective?
How does your field typically organize its findings?