Selecting relevant literature: Focus and scope

It is necessary to be selective about what you choose to include in the literature review, and it is useful to think about how you will limit the scope of the literature you identify as you search. Points to consider to help you in limiting the scope of your literature are:

  • the relevance of research studies carried out in other countries to your research: it is necessary to reflect critically on whether the context that the research is so different from the one in which you will be working that the findings of studies in a particular geographical region would not provide any useful insights;
  • the time period within which work has been published: sometimes there is a case for including older sources, for example where a particular research study is of particular significance or where little recent work has been published in relation to a theme being developed in your review;
  • the age range of pupils / students in the studies you include.

Also it is important to critically evaluate the literature to identify whether a source is of high quality. Below are some criteria to help you to evaluate the quality of a piece of research published in a journal, or a research study accessed online:

  • Are the conclusions supported by evidence?
  • Does the research design give you confidence that the findings of the research are reliable and valid?
  • Are arguments clearly articulated and are conclusions clearly linked to the evidence presented in the results?

(Adapted from Walliman, 2009)