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ACAP Library Pathfinder: Literature Review

Learn about the process of searching, choosing, recording and evaluating information for writing a literature review.

Types of Literature

Your research question or thesis statement will inform the types of literature that will best suit the review. There are many different types literature and they come from a variety of sources. The resources described below provide you with a general outline of the types of literature available via the library. Go to the Choosing Resources page in the Information Skills guide to learn more about where and how to find these resources in the library and on the internet.

Research Literature

Some edited books, journal articles, theses and government publications will employ research paradigms and methodologies to support a hypothesis. Methodologies can be broadly categorised as longitudinal, qualitative or quantitative. Many of these publications are peer-reviewed, meaning they have been checked by a panel of experts before publication. Most library databases offer a peer-reviewed checkbox which will filter search results in this way. They will also allow you to filter results according to research methodology, focus group, geographical location and much more. Research literature is an essential component of your literature review.

Theory-based Literature

Literature that is informed and tested by research, these books, articles and reference sources will attempt to explain, describe, define and provide a background or theoretical framework for a field of inquiry. These sources may include the original works of primary theorists as well as works which build upon, critique and discuss these primary sources while connecting it to the latest research. This type of literature is also an important component of any literature review.

Philosophical Literature

Information sources such as books and articles, which deal with the underlying beliefs, attitudes and concepts that form the basic assumptions or building blocks within a profession or field of study.  This kind of literature formulates critical inquiry from either an ethical, epistemological, metaphysical or logical standpoint. The extent to which you use philosophical literature will depend on the focus and subject matter of your review but it may be useful when constructing a background or theoretical base in your writing.

Empirical or Practice-based Literature

Encompasses literature that may be sourced via library databases and the internet. Empirical literature is written by practitioners or experts in a particular field who wish to share their experiences and inform current practices in that area.  Literature types may include case studies, discussion papers, opinion pieces or reflective essays. These resources may be useful to contextualise or support your literature review but should always be used in conjunction with research literature. 

Statistical Reports

An important part of the research in any field of study, statistical reporting and datasets are useful for description, analysis and comparison in your literature reviews. When referring to statistical data in your reviews, ensure you source the most up-to-date research from reliable sources such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics, other government departments or authoritative institutions and organisations.  

Grey Literature

Grey literature describes both unpublished or published documents, which are not controlled by commercial publishers.  These sources include: Government and non-government reports, policy statements and papers; conference proceedings and theses; news sources and bulletins; and technical reports and standards. Again, depending on the focus of your review, this information may be used as supporting material to your primary resources, such as the research and theoretical literature.  Grey Literature can be accessed by conducting a Google search or directly from relevant government, organisational and institutional websites.