Using a Literature Review Map

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The purpose of a Literature Review is to identify the existing gaps in research that your work will address. They are often part of pieces of academic writing, such as a thesis or dissertation. They can also be a stand alone piece of research as part of an academic module or review articles in academic journals.

The Literature Review aims to:

  • Identify relevant pieces of work other academics have developed on the topic
  • Identify the existing terminology and methodology associated with the research
  • To provide the context for your research

In this blog we have two students, Dukula and Salma, members of the Library Student Team and each from a different faculty at the university, who have shared their experiences using the Literature Review Mind Map.

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Chemistry Student Example

Read Dukula’s experience below:

The idea of writing a literature review was initially very daunting to me. As a science student, I have limited experience in this style of writing as throughout my undergraduate degree I only wrote scientific reports. In my third year, I had to write a literature review on my research project but the guidance in the document provided by my course was limited. Initially, I had no clue how and where to start, nor did I have any idea on the structure or organisation of a literature review. Later on, I came across the templates and example planning documents on the My Learning Essentials website which helped me to understand the expectations, structure and writing style of a literature review.

The example template for chemistry was very useful for me in understanding how my topic could be separated into themes. For example, I thought that a literature review was just about writing what others have done in the area, but upon seeing how the topics were identified in the example template, I decided to break down it into even further sections which enabled me to get an even better idea of the topic I was given. Hence, I could develop a coherent argument in each section, understand and evaluate the research topics, and present ideas where it could be developed.

See the example template for chemistry below:

Worked example of a literature review map for Chemistry

This Chemistry example is available for download here. Text example also available here.

The history on how the research area was developed is vital in a literature review, as shown in the template I used a timeline to list all of the major breakthroughs in my area of research. This helped me to write the introduction and the conclusion, where I was able to understand where the research area might lead to in the future.

Presenting a coherent argument isn’t just writing a summary of what the research so far had accomplished. Prior to finding the Literature Review Map template, this is what I thought a literature review was. The template help me realised that a summary of the main findings is required but it also needs to be evaluated. Taking the template as an inspiration, I made a table with three sections listing the main findings of the research so far followed by their pros and cons. This way, I evaluated every article that was in my literature review.

I personally recommend the templates to anyone who is new to or already has experience in writing a literature review. It enabled me to develop my thought process during the execution of the project review; in which the feedback received commended all of the ideas I wrote above.

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Politics Student Example

Read Salma’s experience below:

Planning research is an intimidating task for me! I have not written many literature reviews. In essence the literature review is an analytic summary of the material within a topic or an area of study, and this applies to the social sciences as well!

In planning my undergraduate dissertation research, I used the Literature Review Map to look into the topic of research I wanted to explore more analytically in my dissertation. The research I was looking at is the ethics of revolutions, and particularly for this literature review map I engaged with political war theorists and the current debates around the ethics of war.

See the example template for sociology below:

Worked example of a literature review map for Sociology

This sociology example available for download here. Text example available here.

In creating this map, I had a clear picture of the literature and it really helped me in developing a deeper understanding of the topic. I found it useful when organizing the theoretical frameworks that shape the research, and particularly in finding the gaps in the research. I also realized that I need to narrow down my topic of research more, my research topic is too broad a subject area.

See Salma’s literature review map below:

Real worked example of Literature Review Map for Politics

I was talking to a friend in the process of her PhD research, and she remarked that this literature map is representative of the research process. It is common to start off with a broad area of research and then start to identify smaller research questions in the field. The map was useful at a specific point in my research where I was identifying gaps in the research in order to shape my own objective.

This template is great for when you’re just starting to go through the literature, and it helps solidify your understanding of the subtopics and narrow down your ideas for your research.

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The University of Manchester Library Student Team

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Library Student Team

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The University of Manchester Library Student Team

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