Skip to main content

Criminal Justice

What is a literature review?

Charles Seale Hayne Library - supporting your learning

Very simply, a literature review is a search and evaluation of the available literature in your chosen subject. There are 4 basic objectives:

  • to survey the literature.
  • to synthesise the information into a summary of current knowledge.
  • to critically analyse the information gathered by identifying gaps; showing limitations in theories, points of view, current knowledge; and, if appropriate, to identify areas for further research.
  • to present the literature in an organised, logical way that demonstrates familiarity with the existing body of knowledge and shows how your research is linked to, and/or builds on, the existing knowledge.

Doing a literature search

Charles Seale Hayne Library - supporting your learning

Doing a literature search requires planning, even simple searches will be better and more focused if you think before doing.

Define your terms. Think about the keywords, spelling, synonyms and how you might connect them. You can find some basic tips in this library guide here.

Search creatively. The library sources are one set of many! You may have access to other libraries (eg: hospital or professional society) as well as the Internet - all of which could extend your search results.

Library is primary! The library resources are purchased to support you. Use the databases, whilst you have access as a member of the University, and don't rely on an internet search engine. The library has subscriptions to some of the key journal resources that are not available for free and can also help 'get' articles from journals that it does not subscribe to.

Obvious versus obscure. If appropriate, don't limit yourself to obvious resources.

  • If you can't find full text in one resource or library do try others!
  • Check Primo to see if the journal can be accessed via another provider.
  • Selecting 'Full Text Only' in a database will only deliver content in that database that is available as full text and will exclude other results that may be full text in other resources.
  • Newspapers can be a source of current topical thinking, but are not always useful for in-depth analysis. Watch out for bias!
  • National and government organisation reports. Not well indexed in databases so can sometimes be difficult to find! Might require exploration of several websites. Might also be useful to check (link).
  • Up-to-date statistics might be available via specialist sites like