With small-scale writing projects, the literature review is likely to be done just once; probably before the writing begins.
With longer projects such as a dissertation for a Masters degree, and certainly with a Ph D, the literature review process will be more extended.
You can find the contact details for the Information Librarian for your own area via the Library web pages.
This person can help you identify relevant sources, and create effective electronic searches: anything on your research area is a good start. You may also want to make a clear decision about whether to start with a very narrow focus and work outwards, or to start wide before focussing in. It is a good idea to decide your strategy on this, rather than drifting into one or the other.
Increased ease of access to a wider range of published material has also increased the need for careful and clear critique of sources.
Just because something is ‘published’ does not mean its quality is assured.
This Study Guide explains why literature reviews are needed, and how they can be conducted and reported.
Related Study Guides are: Referencing and bibliographies, Avoiding plagiarism, Writing a dissertation, What is critical reading? The focus of the Study Guide is the literature review within a dissertation or a thesis, but many of the ideas are transferable to other kinds of writing, such as an extended essay, or a report.
It is important that your literature review is more than just a list of references with a short description of each one. Merriam (1988:6) describes the literature review as: Merriam’s statement was made in 1988, since which time there has been further extension of the concept of being ‘published’ within the academic context.
The term now encompasses a wide range of web-based sources, in addition to the more traditional books and print journals.