Doing a literature review

Barker, Meg (2014). Doing a literature review. In: Vossler, Andreas and Moller, Naomi eds. The Counselling and Psychotherapy Research Handbook. London: Sage, pp. 61–73.



The first stage of most research projects is to undertake a review of the literature to determine what research has already been conducted in this area. This review helps the researcher to hone their own research questions and to determine how they plan to conduct their research. The purpose of the literature review section of the final report of the research project is to summarise this previous literature and to provide a clear rationale for the current research in the light of what has been done before. This section is often called the 'introduction' in a research paper as it introduces the reader to the area, funnelling down from the broad topic under consideration and why it is important, through a critical consideration of prior research which identifies any gaps in the literature, to the specific research questions or hypotheses of the current study.

This chapter covers both the process of searching for relevant literature and the process of writing the literature review chapter, or introduction. It should be read in conjunction with the previous two chapters because the process of literature review runs parallel with the choice of research question, and obviously skills in reading and understanding research are necessary for conducting and writing up a literature review.

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