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Literature Surveys: Structure 1

The purpose of carrying out a Literature Survey is to demonstrate and develop your familiarity with other people's work relevant to the focus of your study. You usually survey their written work in books and in papers in academic journals, but a survey could also include speeches, documentary films or other outputs. There are many different kinds of Literature Survey, and, depending on what kind you are doing, you may have to include one or more of the following:

  • Citation - reference to the bibliographical details of the work you are referring to
  • Quotation - the exact words from the work you are using in quotation marks
  • Bibliography - a list of relevant works
  • Summary - a summary of the work(s) you are making use of
  • Evaluation - your analysis and interpretation of the work you are using and your understanding of its significance, positive and negative
  • Comparison - a comparison of the work you are referring to with other similar works and your own work: comparing and contrasting, using other people's work to support your own or as a springboard to give different opinions
  • Synthesis - integration of the work you are using with your own or others' writing
  • Conclusion - a final summing up of what has been found in your survey
  • Indication of a gap - an indication of what topic(s) or issue(s) have not been covered in the literature you have summarised and analysed. This shows what further research is necessary and may therefore be useful in justifying your own research.

Typical types of Literature Survey include:

  • annotated bibliography - bibliographical details followed by comments
  • anthology - a collection of literary texts selected according to a theme; the theme is identified and explained, and examples are selected
  • analytical bibliography - includes a list of texts analysed from a specific perspective
  • literature overview - a broad overview of many articles and/or other works
  • research methods review - identifies and summarises methods from a number of studies
  • literature review - analysis and synthesis leading to a conclusion and the identification of a gap, typically similar to the literature review chapter of a research project

The structure of a Literature Survey includes:

  • a full reference to the work(s) surveyed
  • a summary of the literature relevant to the focus of study
  • varying degrees of critical evaluation - see below
Degrees of Evaluation: Y- includes; ?-may include
  Cite Quote Summary Evaluate Compare Synthesis Conclude Gap
annotated bibliography Y   Y Y        
anthology Y Y   ?        
analytical bibliography Y ? Y Y ?   ? ?
research methods review Y ? Y ? ? ? ?  
literature overview Y ? Y ? Y ? Y  
literature review Y ? Y Y Y Y Y Y

Try the following tasks to find out more about the structure of Literature Surveys.

Task 1

Look at the typical types of Literature Survey described above and complete the task by adding descriptions.


Task 2

Look at the examples given below – Example 1, Example 2, Example 3, Example 4 and Example 5 – and identify the elements included.




thanks a lot who makes this kind of tasks

I know that there is APA, Chicago, MLA citation styles... Which are the most popular in Britain? We use citation generator at uni. To use automated software much easier and faster than create each bibliography each time by yourself.

Could you please tell me if I understood this exercise well? And if my notes are correct or not?

For example one: it an example of annotated bibliography
there is( Synopsis )which indicates summary
There is (rationale) which indicates evaluation
We have this sentence “more than a decade out of date” (Batty & Mikle: 2003) which indicates quotation
We have this sentence It is significant to my research as it suggests that doctors should make child abuse ‘[their] business’ (RCPCH: 2006.PP.iv) which indicate citation.
For example 2: it is an example of literature review
WE have this sentence :
Valentine (2001) highlights these issues by drawing on research of the printing industry as gendered, where men considered themselves to be physically better suited to the potentially ‘dangerous’ work involved, and the textile industry in Bradford, where the dexterity of Pakistani immigrants made them suitable workers (2001: 151) which indicates citation.
We have this :
“significant cause of inequality” (2002: 535) indicates quotation
We have these sentences: However, the interviews and focus groups revealed that this programme could “exacerbate the socially excluded position of lone mothers by forcing them off benefits and into low paid, low status childcare jobs” (2008: 242). Moreover, the nature of the New Deal attributes the relatively low skills of working class lone parents to “feminised occupational areas such as childcare” (2008: 243) further reproducing both class and gendered inequalities within the labour force. Which indicates comparison because there is (however, moreover) words.
There is (In conclusion) which indicates conclusion I don’t know why the exercise say that is wrong.
This sentence:/ It must also be noted that the scope of this review is highly limited. Therefore, future studies should incorporate a wider approach to the various inequalities of employment that are both present and absent in this examination./ Indicates gap ,I don’t know why the exercise say it is wrong.
Finally : I don’t know where is the evaluation and the summary in this article ???.

Example 3: this : It is research methods review
This sentence
/ 'Formal thought disorder refers to a set of interrelated language phenomena... that are construed as indicating that the form of underlying information processing is disorganized' (Linscott 2004: 2) /indicates citation.
This sentence:
/Detailed under Findings in this research are featured the findings of previous research, which have been amalgamated and reflected upon in the process of answering the current research question./ Indicates Synthesis
This word (Conclusions) indicates conclusion
This sentence/Within this research it has not been possible to arrive at any definitive conclusions and more experimentation and a more extensive review of the current literature would be needed to come to this agival./ indicates gap but the exercise say it is wrong
This sentence/Within the subgroup -in the experiment it was found that it was only those patients with thought disorder that were affected by this deficit in interactive context processing (Bazin et al 2000). This then disagrees somewhat with the findings of Linscott (2004) and implies that thought disorder does have an effect on the schizophrenic patient's pragmatic language ability./ indicates comparison
I don’t know where is the evaluation, summary.

Example 4: it is literature review
/What Fuller et al do not point out is that thereading scores are by far the lowest for all the areas at grades 4 and 8 (Figure 1:1186),/ indicates citation
This /No data was available, other than the previous research by Sutcliffe (2005), to demonstrate that schizophrenic patients performed better in reading tasks that involved automatic processing so this hypothesis remains untested as Sutcliffe's (2005) report focused on semantic priming and so is not only testing reading but semantic networks./ indicates gap but the exercise say it is wrong
/In a similar investigations / indicates comparison
/Conclusions/ indicates conclusion
Where is the evaluation and summary????

Example 5:
It is Research method review.

/ Abstract/ indicates summary
The science has emerged in recent years, with modelling techniques being used to forecast hydrologic, geomorphic and ecological effects (Doyle, Harbor and Stanley 2003:453)/ indicates citation
/Dam removal is also described by Leroy and Hart (2002:667) as “an excellent opportunity for comprehensive, cross discipline studies of riverine ecosystems”/. Indicates qoutation
/Comprehensive Studies / indicates synthesis
/Conclusion and considerations for the future /indicates conclusion and gap
/however (Gillenwater, Granata and Zika 2006:322); such studies need be comprehensive in all areas of the eco-hydromorphic interface/whilst Cheng (2005) used high resolution Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) / there are /however. Whilst / which indicate comparison
But I don’t know where is the evaluation??
Thank you for your efforts, I hope that I will not exhausting you with my question
Best wishes

There are mistakes in some of the answers.  e.g. example 3 has quotation but the answer says not.

Hello GEK,

Thank you for pointing this out.  You are correct - this answer was omitted from the key and I have updated the exercise to include it.

Thanks again,



The LearnEnglish Team