Literature review process

I spent my last Sunday working on the desk at home, facing my Sony Vaio for more than 8 hours. I was cleaning up my paper clutter when I saw this handouts from one of the workshops I attended earlier this year. It was a Doctoral Research Methodology Workshop conducted by Dr Edward Wong. It was from this workshop that Dr Edward had been telling us about literature review matrix. It was still at this page 5 when I found this handouts where there’s a diagram depicting the literature review process. I studied the diagram again and realized this is a good reference for all.

By looking at this diagram, it seems not so difficult to do the literature review. It’s more like an iterative process (and hard work!). I still remember being told to always start with my research questions and objectives. It’s even better if you can pin up the research questions and objectives where you can see them every day, so that you won’t deviate from your purpose. With that, we define what we want to search i.e. research keywords. With these keywords, we start our search and start to collect articles to be read and evaluate. Summarize the points after reading and put them in a literature review matrix (that’s what I do).

The only thing I haven’t really done right is the start drafting review. I have always thought to complete the search and reading before writing. However, after some times, I found it’s getting more difficult to define ‘complete search’. This stage has become an obstacle in writing. So now I have learnt to start writing even though I feel I haven’t read enough. It seems that while trying to write, I would found some other aspects that I want to talk about, hence I add new research keywords and search for more. Here’s when the process will continue to iterate until the final product of a written critical review of the literature.

I guess sometimes it really takes a lot of wrong turns to reach a destination when you are a novice. The more I err, the more I learn (I hope!). I believe I’m a much better learner now than I first started. Hope this diagram helps you (as much as it helps me) in the literature review process. 🙂


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