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Accounting Library Guide: What is a literature review?

How to find information - a guide for Accounting and Auditing students

What is a literature review?

A literature review is:

  1. A list of books and journal articles,
  2. on a specific topic,
  3. grouped by theme,
  4. and evaluated with regard to your research. This evaluation would identify connections, contradictions and gaps in the literature you have found.

The purpose of a literature review, therefore, is:

  1. To get a feel for the agreed academic opinion on the subject (the connections).
  2. To discover the disagreements on the subject (the contradictions).
  3. To find opportunities, (the gaps), for developing and expressing your own opinions.


Selected reference titles

This section lists resources which may be of help in writing your literature review. 


Purposes of a literature review

The function and format of your literature review will depend on your academic level (eg undergraduate assignment, Masters dissertation or PhD thesis).

Your review could be:

  • essentially descriptive and topic focused
  • analytical and summative; OR
  • an analytical synthesis covering all known literature on the problem

Keeping track of reading materials - referencing skills

A literature review is dependent on what other authors have said, so it is important that good referencing skills are developed from the beginning.

Referencing management programs can be used to:

  • store bibliographic records (details of books, chapters, journal articles, websites, conference papers, theses, reports, etc) and attachments (such as PDF files, images, links and personal notes)
  • automatically generate citations and bibliographies in a number of standard referencing formats (eg Harvard, APA, Chicago)
  • search and retrieve bibliographic records from library catalogues and journal indexing databases
  • retrieve resources from Google Scholar

The University Library has licenses for three referencing products:

There are also free and subscription reference management programs available on the web or for loading onto your computer. These include:

More information: go to the Managing References guide.