• The purpose of a literature review is to gather previously published and unpublished material in your research field.
  • Begin the review process by critically reading and evaluating the literature in order to increase and deepen your understanding of a topic. This will enable you to convey established knowledge and ideas, analyse and compare them, and also identify their strengths and weaknesses.
  • The four stages of a literature review are to:
    • formulate the research question or thesis statement,
    • search for and find appropriate material,
    • evaluate the material found,
    • analyse and interpret your findings.
  • A literature review should be directly related to and help to define the research question or thesis statement that you want to develop.
  • Some of the works you review should identify controversial areas in the literature and some should indicate research trends.
  • If your review is thorough, you will become aware of which areas have been well researched and areas where there has been little investigation. Limited research or a gap in research may indicate the direction of your future research path.
  • Your written literature review may take the form of a separate document, an annotated bibliography, or an introduction to your research proposal or paper or thesis.

Preparing to Search

  • Define the research question so that you can focus your search on material relevant to your purpose. You may only be interested in theory or methodology, quantitative research or qualitative research, or a combination of these.
  • Before beginning to search, think of the type of material you should be looking for such as books, journal articles, newspaper articles, commercial reports, government documents, unpublished dissertations and theses, statistical material, primary sources and so on.
  • Consider the scope of your literature which may be confined to a geographical area or a period of time.
  • Become familiar with the Library's resources to search for material.


  • Start by keyword searching Library Search for books on your topic.
  • The list of references at the end of useful books will help you to trace further readings.
  • Additional titles may be retrieved by using a Books search on Library Search.


  • Search for University of Waikato theses on Library Search. Link your keywords on your topic to the keyword thesis and the name of the department/school/discipline/subject.
  • From the Databases page, access the National Union Catalogue to search for theses from other New Zealand universities. Use Research Commons to search for more recent Waikato University theses. Search the WorldCat Dissertations and Theses database for theses and dissertations catalogued by OCLC member libraries worldwide.

Journal Articles

  • Search the Library Catalogue for relevant journal titles.
  • If we have access, the Catalogue record will direct you to the shelf location of the print journal and/or provide a link to the online journal.
  • The references at the end of useful articles will help you to trace further readings on your topic.
  • Request an interloan of the journal article if the Library does not have it.

Database Searching

  • Databases provide access to a range of information sources and are an efficient means of locating material on a particular topic, by an author, or in a journal.
  • Some databases provide access to specialist academic and professional material in a particular subject area e.g. ERIC (educational material); while others provide research and general information on many subjects e.g. Proquest.
  • Access is available to current University of Waikato staff and students with a valid login from the Databases link on the Library home page.
  • Alternatively, almost all the Library's databases (except those pertaining to Law or NZ material) may be search simultaneously through a Journal search in Library Search.

Citation Index Searching

  • Citation searching is a unique approach to searching the literature on your topic.
  • Use an article reference or an author's name to find articles that have been published at a later date and that have cited the particular article or specific author.
  • By moving from a known work to more recent articles that cite it, you are able to track the research literature on a topic forward in time. Conversely, by searching for the articles listed in the references of a known work, you can track research back in time.
  • Use the ISI Web of Science database to search the Science/Social Science/Arts and Humanities Citation Indexes online. For older material search the printed Citation Indexes in the Central Library. Scopus database also includes a similar function.

Evaluate and Analyse the Literature

  • When you are satisfied with the number and range of your sources, evaluate each source.
  • Finally interpret and discuss your findings in relation to one another and substantiate your conclusions.

Manage the Literature

  • EndNote and Zotero are available on all computers in the in the Library and computer labs on campus.
  • These tools manage, store, import and organise your references. They can import references to a WORD document and automatically create in-text citations and a list of references.
  • EndNote and Zotero tutorials are offered by the Library.
  • EndNote can be loaned overnight from the Service Desks of the Central Library, for downloading to your personal computer.

Meet Your Academic Liaison Librarian

Your Academic Liaison Librarian will help you identify relevant sources, indexes and abstracts, databases and citation indexes to find material on your specific topic.

The relevant Subject Portal for you field of research may also list some subject-specific resources that provide a useful starting point for your investigation.