Assignment Critical Review of Literature

IT Research Methods


The literature review is a documentation of the state of research on a given topic or given research area. Generally it will re ect the reviewer's understanding of the body of work existing in the eld. Furthermore it provides an excellent background to the eld of study or the topic being researched. It is also a major part of the thesis or research report that the student (researcher) submits for assessment. In essence it summarizes and synthesizes the ideas or concepts, problems, and solutions other researchers in the eld have produced over time [1]. The \critical" part of the review entails analysing, comparing and contrasting the various methods, techniques, paradigms, frameworks, theories, solutions , etc. that have been proposed in the papers (literature) that the researcher has collected. Of course the time frame the papers span needs to be bounded. In a real literature review the time might go back to 5 or 7 years and also pick up some old seminal works.

You will recall the six questions we discussed in the class; the questions you used in your annotated bibliography assignment. These questions are meant to help you quickly discern the essence of any paper you are reading. The answers to those questions are very useful for your literature review because they provide quick analysis that can aid the categorisation of the papers you have read. Obviously, a good literature review will entail the collection and review of many publications on the topic or research area. Depending on the level (Honours, Masters or Ph.D.) of the research being conducted, you may need to collect as many as one and ty hundred papers to produce a good review of the literature for your thesis.

In this assignment you are required to collect and critically review fifteen (15) papers.

Structure of literature review

The critical review of the literature is to be written as a logically presented prose as opposed to a set of dot points. Furthermore, there has to be a structure as one would expect in any well written document. There should be an introduction that gives the reader an idea of the general research area. What is the general problem? Why is it signi cant? What are the possible applications of the solution to the general problems? Next, there is the body of the document where discussion and critical analysis of the literature is presented in a chosen style (to be discussed later). Finally, there are the conclusion, recommendation and references.

The chosen writing style depends on the topic being researched. There are at least three main styles than can be adopted in the presentation of the body of the literature review [1], namely, chronological, thematic and methodological. These styles could also be mixed. In the process of collecting and annotating the papers you have read, it is possible that some trends will emerge in the way the body of work has developed. This is the knowledge categorization aspect of annotated bibliography. The answers to the question, \What is the problem?", might uncover a classi cation of problems. The answers to the questions \What are others doing about it?" and \What solution does the author propose?", might yield a classi cation of the methods, theories, frameworks and approaches to the solution. It is possible that a chronological trend can be easily observed in the development of the topic. These observations and classi cations give clues as to which style will be most appropriate. Use your judgement.

The chronological style will present the review in a manner that follows the time sequence of devel-opment. The thematic style is more suited to the situation where a classi cation based on the type of problems forms the basis of the review. On the other hand if the classi cation is based on the basic techniques used for solution, it might be better to use a methodological style of presentation. You may nd the book [2] useful as a guide in structuring your literature review.


You may nd the class lecture/slides on how to use LATEX handy. However, this assignment does not require that you use LATEX and BibTeX to typeset your document. If you are more comfortable with EndNote, you are encouraged to use it. There two citation styles from which you should choose. The IEEE or Harvard (also APA) styles are the relevant options for this assignment. As noted in the class, you cannot and must not mix the styles.

The need to maintain an accurate record of the publications that you read cannot be over emphasized.

  1. Publication title
  2. Authors
  3. Year and month of publication
  4. The publication (i.e.where it appears - journal, conference proceedings, book, etc.)
  5. Page numbers
  6. Volume and issue number

What needs to be done and submitted

You are to submit a "pdf\ document of about 2500 words (including references). This is about 10 pages of text (DO NOT EXCEED 10 PAGES) and should be formatted as follows:

  1. 1.5 cm margin (top, bottom, left and right)
  2. Times Roman font 12 (LaTeX default font if using LaTeX)
  3. Double spacing

Your assignment should have a suitable title; your name as well as student number should be indicated on your writing.

Place your critical review and the ten papers (excluding the ones used for annotated bibliography assignment) in a folder and use \Zip" or \Rar" archive utility software to compress the folder for submission.


  • Literature reviews," 2012. [Online]. Available:
  • Alley, The craft of Scientific writing, 3rd ed. Springer, 1997.