Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Literature Review

A literature review task requires the student to conduct an extensive and critical review of the literature related to a chosen topic. It is a rigorous assessment task that can be tailored to suit different levels of undergraduate and postgraduate study. With a similar structure and length to an essay, the focus of a literature review assignment is summary and critical analysis of the literature to demonstrate current knowledge and understanding of a topic.

A literature review can be delivered in the following ways during the COVID-19 situation as an alternative to a paper-based final examination:

  1. Non-time limited final assessment—often known as a ‘take-home’, the task is not performed under ‘exam-like’ time constraints and is provided to students at least several days before the due date. A common platform for submission of such a task is EASTS.

Pros and cons of literature reviews as an assessment task

Some advantages:

  • Asynchronous assessment task that enables deep engagement with subject content
  • Flexibility of topic choice promotes authenticity, relevance to individual students and increased engagement
  • Develops research skills relevant to the current state of knowledge and research in all disciplines
  • Structured style of writing that is similar to an essay
  • Scaffolds learning in early subjects in preparation for literature review requirements in capstone and research subjects
  • The literature research process promotes active learning
  • Can be developed as a group assignment
  • Aligns with learning outcomes and cognitive processes related to demonstrating knowledge and understanding, research, managing information, interpreting sources, review and analysis, critical thinking, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, judgement, reflection and academic writing.

Some limitations:

  • Requires clear instructions to help students stay focused on their topic and prevent time wasting.
  • The format may be unfamiliar to students.
  • The format may advantage those students who have well developed writing skills.
  • Group assignments are useful for the research component but can be difficult to assess individual contributions and outcomes.
  • Time-consuming to grade.
  • There is a need to ensure that there are adequate resources available.

Some considerations when developing a literature review as an assessment task

  • Ensure the topic is aligned with learning outcomes and subject content.
  • Consider limiting the outcomes to be assessed to assist students in maintaining focus.
  • Clearly define the topic of the article to be written and its scope.
  • Show and discuss examples of format, structure and style.
  • Ensure the length is appropriate for the level of study.
  • It can be useful to provide key reference articles on the chosen topic. Ensure that they are available through the library.
  • Provide examples of literature reviews to show the style of writing required.

Additional resources

Sample literature reviews:

  • The Effects of Communication Styles on Marital Satisfaction; Cyberbullying: How Physical Intimidation Influences the Way People are Bullied; and Living with chronic illnesses: How are those with a chronic illness treated by their families since their diagnosis? University of West Florida.
    Retrieved from https://libguides.uwf.edu/c.php?g=215199&p=1420828 on April 14, 2020.
  • Master of Psychological Sciences and Bachelor of Counselling examples. Australian College of Applied Psychology. Retrieved from https://libguides.navitas.com/literature-review/examples on April 14, 2020

The following resources are for students and are useful as instructional resources. They also provide guidance in terms of designing a literature review assessment:

Writing a Literature Review – RMIT Study and Learning Centre.
Retrieved from https://emedia.rmit.edu.au/learninglab/content/writing-literature-review on April 14, 2020.

Introduction to literature reviews – Monash University (2020).
Retrieved from https://www.monash.edu/rlo/graduate-research-writing/write-the-thesis/introduction-literature-reviews on April 14, 2020.

Literature Review: Synthesizing Multiple Sources – Indiana University, School of Liberal Arts (2020).
Retrieved from https://liberalarts.iupui.edu/uwc/files/documents/Lit_Review_Synthesis.pdf on April 14, 2020