Identifying themes to structure your literature review

In order to develop the sections in your literature review you will need to be able to draw out the key themes from your reading. The following questions are designed to help you achieve this:

  • What do I already know?
  • What are the key concepts and definitions within this area of study?
  • What are the political standpoints and historical context?
  • What are the beliefs underpinning this area of study?
  • Why is it important to study this research problem and how does it relate to the current national/international priorities within education?
  • What are the key questions asked by other researchers in this area and how can these help me to develop my own research focus and questions?
  • What research strategies and methods have been used by other researchers in this area of study?
  • Can I learn from mistakes that have been made by other researchers?
  • What are the key theoretical perspectives in this area?
  • What are the key research findings?
  • How do these existing ideas from theory and research link together?
  • How can the literature help me to interpret my findings? E.g. Are there analytical frameworks that have been used by other researchers that I could use to analyse my findings?
  • Are there any conflicting research findings or areas of controversy?
  • Are there any gaps in the existing research?

(Adapted from Langdridge and Hagger-Johnson (2009); Bryman (2008); and Hart, cited in Punch, 2009)