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A literature review can be thought of as both a method and a result. It entails looking for information about your topic within a specified database and then writing up a detailed synopsis of the relevant studies done on the subject.

Without a doubt, it’s about a subject that can be explored further by formulating a study question. Writing a literature review can be challenging for early career researchers who aren’t sure how to effectively format their review or how to write a successful research literature review.

Understanding the concept of literature review and the goal behind it might help researchers streamline this procedure.

This article provides a definition of literature review as well as guidelines for writing a comprehensive literature review for a research project.


The notion of conducting a solid literature review can be frightening if you are proposing a study topic that already has a large volume of previously published work, as a researcher will not only have to refer to journals, books, and articles, but also cite them! A literature review is a critical synthesis of information from various sources that are pertinent to your study issue.



Literature reviews can be broadly categorized based on their structure and formulation, including:

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Narrative or Conventional Literature Reviews

A narrative or conventional literature review is an in-depth, critical, and unbiased examination of the relevant literature. Research wouldn’t be possible without first laying the groundwork for the study with a thorough literature evaluation.


Scoping Reviews

The purpose of a scoping review is to determine the type and breadth of existing research. Scoping reviews are useful for doing exactly what their name implies: figuring out how much information there is out there on a specific issue.


Systematic Literature Reviews

To answer a well-defined research topic, a systematic literature review is conducted to identify and choose relevant studies. In addition, the criteria for a systematic review are spelled out beforehand in a predetermined methodology or plan.


Reviews by the Cochrane Collaboration

Cochrane reviews are the most rigorous type of review available, with superior reporting and methodology than that of other types of reviews. In addition, the dataset generated by the Cochrane Collaboration is used to provide a systematic comparison between the risk of bias (RoB) in Cochrane and non-Cochrane systematic reviews.



  • Boost the scope of your lookup

You have spent several days, maybe weeks, considering your study question. Because of this, it’s conceivable that you’re limiting your thinking too much. Your study question may have strict boundaries in your mind. This means you can miss out on research topics that are related to your work but don’t have a direct link to them.

Say you want to know if plastic can be made compostable, so you focus your research on that issue. You’ve searched the Internet for hours, but have come up with only two papers on the subject. It’s possible that if you look in more places, you’ll uncover papers that provide support for the fictitious study topic we introduced earlier.

You may, for instance, investigate the methods used to render plastic biodegradable or the usage of plastic and other synthetic materials in composting. Although neither of these is specifically connected to your research issue, it will provide you with solid foundational knowledge.

To begin, you may research what bioplastics are, which are comprised of natural components like corn starch and are therefore less harmful to the environment. This will not only aid in locating more pertinent reading material but will also assist in contextualizing your research issue within a broader conceptual framework and providing a rationale for the value of your study’s contribution.

  • Take care to employ appropriate keyword usage.

Your search for useful resources may be hampered by the use of unrelated or irrelevant terms. Your keyword phrases should be well-defined and narrowly tailored to the types of academic papers you’re interested in reading.

The next step after formulating a research question is to break down its primary ideas and construct a set of associated terms. If you’re using Google and want to narrow your search results to a specific topic or phrase, you can do so by enclosing the term in double quotation marks. This will let you find only the pages that you specify contain your key phrases.

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  • Dig into any items that seem to fit the bill.

It may be to your advantage to be restricted to a small number of sources since this will allow you to focus on thoroughly investigating the few articles included in your reference list. Since there is no need to check every reference, you can give careful consideration to each item.

You shouldn’t have to be picky or fear that you could be overlooking an article that ends up being crucial to your research. Furthermore, if there are not many resources in your particular area of inquiry, probably, many fundamental questions have not yet been addressed and answered.

If this is the case, you can leverage the gaps you uncover in the current literature to formulate a more focused or fruitful inquiry of your own.

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  • Follow the links in the information you do find.

To help readers find the prior relevant study on a topic, citations point them in the direction of that research. When you provide a reference or citation, you show your appreciation for the other works that served as inspiration for your own.

It is possible to go either forward or backward through an article’s citations. The reference lists of the articles you’ve found might be useful if you want to learn more about the topic. Backward searching is a technique that can help you uncover additional articles that are pertinent to your research.

Another option is to look at the articles that have referenced the papers you discovered. Forward searching is a method that can lead you to articles that weren’t returned by a standard search. Lastly, you may see if the authors of the articles you’ve located have published any other works. You can use the information you find here to supplement the sources you’ve previously collected.

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