Being clear about your purpose

The purpose

When considering how and where to start your literature search, it is first worth thinking about why you are looking for information. What is the purpose of your search?


You may be doing a literature search:

  • for a research proposal
  • for a literature review as part of a thesis or manuscript
  • for an assignment in an academic course
  • to update your knowledge
  • for professional development
  • to support a workplace activity.


Determining the reason for your literature search will help you select the types of materials needed. The Library has a wide range of materials available including books, journals, videos, newspapers, images, standards, case studies, theses, and more. This module will introduce you to some of these types of materials. To explore these further go to Library collections.

What is a literature review?

Test your knowledge



There are two main purposes for undertaking a literature review.

1) To show awareness of the present state of knowledge in a particular field, including:

  • seminal authors
  • the main empirical research
  • theoretical positions
  • controversies
  • breakthroughs as well as links to other related areas of knowledge.

2) To provide a foundation for the author’s research.  The literature review should:

  • help the researcher define a hypothesis or a research question, and how answering the question will contribute to the body of knowledge
  • provide a rationale for investigating the problem and the selected methodology
  • provide a particular theoretical lens, support the argument, or identify gaps.

This video provides an overview of what a literature review is. Watch this video and answer the question below.

Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students (9:39 mins)

“Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students” by libncsu is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0


Test your knowledge

Further information and resources on writing your literature review can be found in the Learning Lab.


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Research and Writing Skills for Academic and Graduate Researchers Copyright © 2022 by RMIT University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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