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Literature Review - Finding the Resources

This guide assists you in finding the resources for your literature review

The "literature" for your literature review

The type and amount of sources you need for your literature review may vary depending on the purpose of your literature review (see below) and your level of study. Therefore, you have to know very well the purpose and the type of your literature review.

Generally, a literature review consists of the following sources:

  • Scholarly writings
    • e.g. peer-reviewed journal articles (i.e. submitted papers reviewed and accepted by experts in the field)
  • Original research studies
    • often called "primary sources" which contain first-hand accounts and original data of research
    • e.g. research articles, dissertations
    • Although your literature review contains mostly original research studies, other sources such as books and encyclopedias are also helpful in locating relevant original research or in providing background information on a topic

Reasons for a literature review

Through a literature review, you can gain a thorough understanding of the knowledge and ideas established on a topic, so that you can:

  • Convey to your reader the current state of research in the field
  • Identify in previous research the gap which a new research question can address
  • Identify potential hypotheses and research methods for your research
  • Give evidence to justify the value and need for your research

Types of literature review

To meet different purposes, your literature review can be of various types. It can be:

  • A course assignment to show how much you know what others have discovered on a topic, and to analyze and evaluate the literature you read
  • A chapter-length review of literature included in your dissertation for you to establish a foundation for your own research topic and to show that your own research is in a particular context of what is known about a subject
  • A short literature review near the beginning of a research article to give your reader sufficient background and context to understand your work
  • A stand-alone review article to give your reader a comprehensive survey of the major researchers, discoveries, gaps, debates and directions in a field
  • A proposal for academic degrees or for funding to show that the proposed research builds upon and plans to fill the gap of existing research 

Are you ready?

Before you start your literature search focusing on scholarly writings and original research studies, ask yourself if you are ready. Do you know the topic of your research well enough to get started? If not, try first to get some background information of the topic.

Books are helpful!

A way to get background information is to read some books or reference materials on your research topic. Books generally give an overview of a topic or contain summary of research on a topic. Locate books on a topic using our CityU LibraryFind.

For example, if you are researching on crisis management, the following two books are good places for you to start with.

The book "Crisis communication: Theory and practice" written by A. J. Zaremba provides an overview of the topic "crisis communication". Another book "The handbook of crisis management" edited by W.T. Coombs and S.J. Holladay contains a summary of research on this topic written by multiple authors. 


Encyclopedias are also good sources for general background information. Below are some suggested general encyclopedias: