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SMU Libraries

Dissertation / Thesis Research and Writing: 2. Literature Review

Guide to help students in researching and writing their thesis/dissertation

Cham, J. (2012). PHD Comics.

What is Lit Review?

Literature reviews are systematic syntheses of previous work around a particular topic. Nearly all scholars have written literature reviews at some point; such reviews are common requirements for class projects or as part of theses, are often the first section of empirical papers, and are sometimes written to summarize a field of study. Given the increasing amount of literature in many fields, reviews are critical in synthesizing scientific knowledge.

Salkind, N. (2010). Literature review. (2010). In Salkind, N. (Ed.). Encyclopedia of Research Design. Retrieved from


You may want to start your lit review from:

  • Databases that Library provides access to.
    Databases are convenient to use, once you know which databases to start with. Do ask your Research Librarian if you need help. Remember, your Research Librarians are here to help you, so feel free to ask them.
  • Journals
    Journals are pretty useful, especially if you know exactly which journals that you want to read or follow. If you just have a topic in mind, it's probably better NOT to start from the Journals.
  • Google Scholar
    If you are a fan of Google Scholar, make sure that you use all the important features such as Find it @ SMU Libraries, Proxify, and Google Scholar button.
  • Research Librarian
    Yes, the Research Librarians (human being, not a bot) can help you to navigate through all the jargon listed above

Do I Do My Literature Review Before I Decide on What Methods I'll Use?

Building on Previous Research

The use of electronic resources must comply with the Appropriate Use of Electronic Resources Policy and Singapore Management University Acceptable Use Policy