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ENSC 801: Methodological and Conceptual Basis for Environmental Studies

Read This!

The University of Guelph Library has an excellent step-by-step short guide to writing literature reviews. 

Finding Reviews

What is a literature review?

  • An account and evaluation of studies related to your topic
  • Found in theses & dissertations, primary journal articles, reports
  • May be published as book chapters or review articles

For information about other types of reviews, see the guide for Systematic Reviews & Other Syntheses.

What are the possible goals of a literature review?

1. Overview of a particular topic – the state of knowledge
2. Identifies problems/controversies about a particular topic – raises questions, but doesn’t  necessarily answer them
3. Historical account - the chronological development of a particular field of study
4. Theory evaluation – are theories valid?
5. Development of new theory

From: Baumeister, R.F. & M.R. Leary.  (1997) . Writing Narrative Literature Reviews.  Review of General Psychology, 1(3): 311 – 320.

Examples of Reviews

Review Articles
Bulkeley, H. Cities and the Governing of Climate Change. Annual review of environment and resources 2010, 35 (1), 229–253.

Matthew E. Kahn. Urban Growth and Climate Change. Annual review of Resource Economics 2009, 1(1):333–349.

Primary Journal Article

Hallegatte S, Ranger N, Mestre O, et al. Assessing climate change impacts, sea level rise and storm surge risk in port cities: A case study on Copenhagen. Climate Change 2011, 104(1):113-137.

Note that the Introduction of this article acts as the literature review.

Master's Thesis

MacLeod, S. P. Evaluating the Impact of Climate Change Mitigation Strategies on Water Distribution System Design and Optimization , M.Sc. thesis, Kingston, Ont, 2010.

Note that Chapter 2 contains the literature review for the thesis.

Analysing Citations

Review article analysisA quick way to find related research is to check a particular publication's reference list.  It is also possible to find papers that have cited that same paper: use the "cited by" feature that is available in Google Scholar and Web of Science.