Literature Review: Support for Higher Degree Research: Identify

Library & Learning resources support for research degree students

The identification of information needed to address the research interest.

The initial identification of your information need can seem daunting. It is easy to fall into the trap of too tight a focus on your precise interest without looking at the factors, elements, knowledge and concepts that contribute to current understandings. This may involve exploring ideas and understandings from multiple disciplines, not just your own. At this stage most researchers will not have their final research question. The purpose of the literature review is to explore current knowledge and understandings, thereby identifying the gaps and which research questions need to be asked or hypotheses tested.

The identification of information need is a dynamic learning process and may continue throughout your research as you discover new areas that need to be explored. Discussions with your supervisor and colleagues as well as any networks in which you participate are key contributors to your exploration of the information landscape.

You need to be able to:

  • Identify your current understanding of a topic, including where you need to improve that understanding
  • Identify a research focus and define it using simple terminology
  • Articulate current knowledge on a topic
  • Recognise your need for information and data to achieve a specific end and define limits to the information need
  • Identify and use background information to underpin the search
  • Take personal responsibility for a research project 
  • Manage your time effectively during your research