The Literature Review




The Literature Search

The literature review is based on the assumption that knowledge accumulates, and that we learn from and build on what others have done.

" To demonstrate a familiarity with a body of knowledge and establish credibility. A good review increases the reader's confidence in the researcher's professional competence, ability, and background.
" To show the path of prior research and how a current project is linked to it.
" To integrate and summarize what is known in an area. Pulls together and synthesizes different results. Provides a taxonomy and indicates directions for future research.
" To learn from others and stimulate new ideas. Suggests hypotheses for testing. Helps other and future researchers to not "reinvent the wheel."

Types of Literature Reviews:
Self-study reviews - increase reader's confidence in the researcher as well as the researcher's confidence in his/herself.
Context reviews - place the current project in the big picture
Historical reviews - trace the development of an issue over time
Theoretical reviews - compare how different theories address an issue.
Methodological reviews - point out how methodology varies by study.
Integrative reviews - summarize what is known at a pint in time.

Writing the Literature Review

The purpose of the literature review is to document the state of the art (science), with respect to a particular question or problem. [See samples]


The literature review is itself a research method. It takes raw data (the annotated bibliography) and converts it into information (a critical appraisal). The review should:
" be organized around and directly related to a research problem / question you are thinking of developing
" organize and Synthesize the findings of previous researchers into a summary of what is and is not known
" identify areas of controversy in the literature
" formulate questions and require further research

The review is PROSE, not a list describing or summarizing one citation after another. Organize the review into sections that represent themes or sub-topics, or identify trends.

Outline of the Research Paper:

" Title Page
" Abstract; Keywords
" Introduction
" Review of the Literature
" The Current Study
" Methodology
" Results
" Analysis
" Discussion
" Conclusion
" Directions for Future Research
" References and/or Endnotes
" Appendices

Where Do We Find the Research?

Scholarly vs. Trade Publications - discuss

Annual Conferences

IS Journals [find the annual index]

Abstracts, Indexes
ABI; BPI; ACM Guide to Computing Lit; COMPENDEX -- Engineering Index

Follow the trail of references

Citation Index / Search

Using the Web for Research
Search engines
regular Google;
Personal pages of researchers
Pages maintained by research groups
ABI; Lexis/Nexis
ACM Digital Library
IEEE digital library

Method - Annotated Bibliography

Keeping track of sources: Index cards / database / MSWord document
Whatever you use, always make brief annotations - so that you don't have to read the whole paper again

Sample Literature Review Papers:

Alavi, M. and Leidner, D.E. (2001) Review: Knowledge Management and Knowledge Management Systems: Conceptual Foundations and Research Issues. MIS Quarterly, 25(1): 107-136

Friedman, L.W. "Systems Simulation: Design and Analysis of Multivariate Response Simulaitons: The State of the Art" Behavioral Science, vol. 32, 1987.




Help on how to conduce a computer science research project:

Last Updated February 2006