Literature Review Research

  • What is a Literature Review?
  • Systematic Review
  • Literature vs Systematic Review

Systematic reviews vs. Meta-Analysis

  • Planning your Literature Review
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  • Citing your Sources

Systematic review or meta-analysis?

A  systematic review  answers a defined research question by collecting and summarizing all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria.

A  meta-analysis  is the use of statistical methods to summarize the results of these studies.

Systematic reviews , just like other research articles, can be of varying quality. They are a significant piece of work (the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at York estimates that a team will take 9-24 months), and to be useful to other researchers and practitioners they should have:

  • clearly stated objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies
  • explicit, reproducible methodology
  • a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies
  • assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies (e.g. risk of bias)
  • systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies

Not all systematic reviews contain meta-analysis. 

Meta-analysis  is the use of statistical methods to summarize the results of independent studies. By combining information from all relevant studies, meta-analysis can provide more precise estimates of the effects of health care than those derived from the individual studies included within a review.    More information on meta-analyses can be found in   Cochrane Handbook, Chapter 9 .

A  meta-analysis  goes beyond critique and integration and conducts secondary statistical analysis on the outcomes of similar studies.  It is a systematic review that uses quantitative methods to synthesize and summarize the results.

An advantage of a  meta-analysis  is the ability to be completely objective in evaluating research findings.  Not all topics, however, have sufficient research evidence to allow a meta-analysis to be conducted.  In that case, an integrative review is an appropriate strategy. 

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  • Last Updated: Sep 26, 2023 2:55 PM
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Literature Reviews

Analyze results.

  • What is a literature review?
  • Steps in the Literature Review Process
  • Define your research question
  • Determine inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • Choose databases and search
  • Review Results
  • Synthesize Results
  • Librarian Support

Analysis should lead to insight. This is how you will contribute to the field. 

  • Analysis requires that you have an approach or a point of view to evaluate the material you found.
  • Are there gaps in the literature?
  • Where has significant research taken place, and who has done it?
  • Is there consensus or debate on this topic?
  • Which methodological approaches work best?

Analysis is the part of the literature review process where you justify why your research is needed, how others have not addressed it, and/or how your research advances the field.

Tips for Writing a Literature Review

Though this video is titled "Tips for Writing a Literature Review," the ideas expressed relate to being focused on the research topic and building a strong case, which is also part of the analysis phase.

  • Last Updated: Oct 26, 2022 2:49 PM
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literature vs analysis

Close your eyes for a second and imagine unpacking a bag. As you take out each item, you see the inside of the bag more clearly. Eventually, when you have taken out and examined each item, the bag is crystal clear. Readers can unpack literature in a similar manner. Analyzing literature is the process of examining the text in detail…

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Close your eyes for a second and imagine unpacking a bag. As you take out each item, you see the inside of the bag more clearly. Eventually, when you have taken out and examined each item, the bag is crystal clear. Readers can unpack literature in a similar manner. Analyzing literature is the process of examining the text in detail to interpret it thoroughly. When readers examine various literary elements in a story, they reveal deep meaning in the text.

Analysing Literature, Unpacking, StudySmarter

Literary Analysis Definition

Literary analysis is the examination and evaluation of a literary work. When people analyze literature, they consider how the author used literary techniques to create meaning. Readers first critically read the text and examine elements like figurative language, syntax, diction, and structure. When looking at these elements, readers consider how the author used them to create meaning. They then make analytical claims about the text they can support by discussing specific evidence from the work.

  • Literary analysis is the examination and evaluation of a literary work.

Interpreting Literature

Analyzing literature allows readers to articulate their interpretation of a text. To interpret literature, readers should consider elements like the following:

Analyzing literature is a key task of l iterary criticism , which is the study and interpretation of literature. Literary critics conduct literary analyses that consider historical and sociocultural contexts and apply theoretical lenses to literary works. For example, critics in the field of feminist literary criticism analyze literary works through a feminist lens, meaning they investigate notions like gender inequality and the social construction of gender as they appear and operate in literature. Other famous types of literary criticism include Marxist criticism, postcolonial criticism, and deconstructionism.

Analysing Literature, Reading, StudySmarter

Literary Analysis Essay

Students often have to write literary analysis essays. These are essays in which a writer evaluates a literary text. For example, the following prompt asks the writer to craft a literary analysis essay:

In the second chapter of Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), the protagonist Janie has a meaningful experience under a pear tree. Write an essay analyzing how Hurston uses literary elements and techniques in this scene to convey Janie's dreams for her future.

The above prompt evaluates the writer's knowledge of literary devices and how authors use them. It also tests the writer's ability to analyze the passage from Their Eyes Were Watching God, so it partly depends on the writer's interpretation of the book.

Writing a Literary Analysis Essay

To write a literary analysis essay, readers should follow the following steps.

Read and Understand the Prompt

First, writers should read the prompt several times and ask themselves the following questions:

What is this prompt asking writers to write about?

Does the prompt specify any literary elements that should be considered?

Does the prompt articulate more than one task for writers?

Is this prompt asking about the text as a whole or a specific part of the text?

Use a pen or pencil to highlight keywords in the prompt. This will help you remember the main objective of the literary analysis essay.

Analysing Literature, Highlighter, StudySmarter

Critically Read the Text

Once writers understand the task they must complete for the literary analysis essay, they should carefully read the text they must write about. If the prompt is on an exam, they might have to consult a short passage of text. If the prompt is for an English class, they might have to turn to a book they have already read and review relevant parts.

While reading a text, make notes of essential literary elements. For instance, if you notice that an author consistently uses the same symbol, note all the places in the text where you see that symbol. This will make writing an analysis of the text easier because you will easily find evidence of how the author uses literary elements to create meaning.

Craft a Thesis Statement

Next, writers should construct a thesis statement that addresses all aspects of the prompt. A thesis statement is a defensible claim about the topic that can be supported with evidence. When writing a literary analysis essay, the thesis statement should be about the author's use of literary techniques in the text. You can find an example of a quality thesis statement related to the above prompt on Their Eyes Were Watching God further down.

A strong thesis stands alone as a summary of the whole argument. Readers should be able to read the thesis statement by itself and understand the main point of the essay. The above thesis statement is effective because the writer mentions the title and author of the text, the literary elements they will analyze in the essay, and a claim about the impact of those literary elements on the author's message.

Outline the Essay

Once writers establish their main claim, they can begin outlining how they will support their argument. If they are writing a five-paragraph essay, they should strive to find three distinct supporting points for their thesis and devote body paragraphs to each point. They should then try to find at least two pieces of evidence from the text to support each point.

Choosing short, significant pieces of evidence allows for more in-depth analysis than including long quotes. If you are running low on time when writing a literary analysis essay for an exam, skip the second piece of evidence in a body paragraph and move on to the next paragraph. That way, you at least have at least three supporting points.

Analysing Literature, Outline, StudySmarter

Write the Essay

Writers can then begin writing their analytical essays. They should use a formal academic tone and avoid slang, conjunctions, and colloquialisms. The focus should be on their unique analysis of the evidence they include.

If you are writing a literary analysis essay for a timed exam, you likely won't have time to create a detailed outline. Instead, once you have your thesis, quickly identify three supporting points. Jot them down on scratch paper, followed by page numbers or some keywords from relevant evidence. This will give you a loose idea of the flow of the essay without wasting too much time.

Literary Analysis Example

Imagine you are writing a literary analysis essay on the prompt about Their Eyes Were Watching God .

First, you should identify what this prompt is asking. The prompt asks writers to focus on a specific scene in the second chapter. You should underline that part of the prompt to remember the focus. The prompt also asks the writer to focus on the use of literary elements to comment on the protagonist's dreams. This tells you that your thesis should make a statement about specific literary elements and make a claim about Janie's dreams.

Next, you should turn to the text and identify the scene the prompt is referring to. You should closely read the text to unpack the meaning of individual literary elements. To do this, annotate the text, underlining key terms and literary techniques. Also, jot down notes about what you think the literary elements mean and how the scene connects to larger ideas in the text, such as Janie's character development or the themes of love and identity.

Analysing Literature, Pear Tree, StudySmarter

Consult your notes from the previous step to construct your thesis. What literary elements stuck out to you when you read the text? What do they seem to be suggesting about Janie's dreams? For instance, a strong thesis statement that addresses this prompt would look something like this:

In Chapter 2 of Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston uses vivid imagery, symbolism, and personification to portray Janie's idealistic dreams of a loving marriage.

Why is this a strong thesis? What does the writer do to make it stand alone as a summary of the argument and outline distinct supporting points?

Once you have your thesis statement, you can quickly arrange an outline to follow when writing. For instance, an outline based on the above would include a body paragraph for imagery, one for symbolism, and one for personification.

Finally, you can start writing. Select small pieces of relevant evidence and extract as much meaning as possible from each piece. For example, an excerpt would look like this:

In Chapter 2, the narrator explains that Janie spends all her time under the pear tree. She felt "called" to watch it turn "from barren brown stems to glistening leaf buds; from lead-buds to snowy virginity of bloom. It stirred her tremendously" (42). The imagery of the tree turning from barren to in bloom connects the pear tree to Janie's emerging sexuality. Hurston's choice to use words associated with sex in her description, like "virginity" and "stirred," reinforces that the tree symbolizes Janie's womanhood and reminds the reader of Janie's naivete and inexperience at this point in the novel. The way the tree and the intimate bees under it captivate Janie also suggests that at this point in her life, she has an optimistic viewpoint that marriage guarantees a tender, genuine connection.

Note how the above writer used short quotes and focused on the meaning surrounding specific words. This allows them to connect various literary elements and unpack how these literary choices create a specific meaning.

Literary Analysis - Key Takeaways

  • When analyzing literature, readers should note how different literary elements create meaning.
  • Writers should consider elements like theme, structure, tone, and figurative language when analyzing literature.
  • When writing a literary analysis essay, writers should read the prompt, critically read the text, craft a thesis, draft an outline, and then write the essay.
  • Readers should extract meaning from short but significant pieces of evidence when analyzing literature.

Frequently Asked Questions about Literary Analysis

--> what does a literary analysis look like.

Literary analysis involves critically reading and annotating a text and reflecting on how authors used literary elements to create meaning. 

--> What is good literary analysis?

Good literary analysis involves interpreting the meaning of short, significant pieces of evidence from a literary text. 

--> How do you write a literary analysis example?

To write a literary analysis, critically read the text and examine the meaning of literary elements setting, structure, and figurative language. 

--> How do you start a literary analysis essay?

To start a literary analysis essay, critically read the text and note the potential meaning of literary elements. Then construct a defensible claim that addresses the prompt.  

--> How do you start an analysis?

To start an analysis, identify literary elements like setting, text structure, and imagery. 

Final Literary Analysis Quiz

Literary analysis quiz - teste dein wissen.

True or False? When a reader analyzes literature it means they explain the plot.

Show answer

False. While reflection on the plot can be an aspect of literary analysis, analyzing literature involves a thorough examination of literary elements like theme and structure.

Show question

Deconstructionism is an example of what?

A literary element 

What is tone in writing?

The attitude the author expresses through writing

Rachel is analyzing her favorite book and asks herself: “Is the narrative linear or non-linear?” What literary element is she analyzing?

Text structure  

What is the first step when writing a literary analysis essay for an exam?

Read and understand the prompt  

What is a thesis statement?

The first sentence of a paragraph that states the topic of the paragraph  

What type of language should writers use when writing a literary analysis essay?

Formal academic language  

Simile, metaphor, and personification are all examples of what?

Figurative language  

What is theme in literature?

The universal idea

Strong literary analysis involves interpreting the meaning of _, significant pieces of evidence from a text.  

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literature vs analysis

What Is Literature Analysis?

Literature analysis intends to deeply examine one piece of writing. The term is applied also to the study of a group of writings, the sum of one writer’s works, a mode of writing and a particular genre of writing. Literature analysis attempts to study its subject’s themes, construction and style. The overall aim is to gain a better understanding of a piece of literature.

Any written work can be considered a form of literature. This includes personal letters and electronic messages online such as status updates. It is often associated with forms such as poetry and novels. Literature analysis, however, should not be confused with literary theory or the theory of literature, which is more philosophical and aims to fully define what exactly literature is. Literary theory has, however, influenced how an analyst approaches a book.

Studies in literature analysis can have both a narrow focus and a broad focus.

Studies in literature analysis can have both a narrow focus and a broad focus; they can also examine specific elements of a piece of literature. The study of a novel such as “Norwegian Wood” by Haruki Murakami , for example, can examine his use of style, his themes, his presentation of the context and his characters. A more general examination could study all of Murakami’s works as a whole, comparing “Wild Sheep Chase” with “Kafka on the Shore” or it could take on Japanese literature as a whole.

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The overall goal of literary analysis is to help the reader better understand a piece of literature.

A literature analysis of “Norwegian Wood’s” characters will see that Murakami has used more character names than usual, especially in naming the lead character when he usually refers to him or her as ‘boku,’ meaning ‘I.’ Studying characters allows an analyst to see how characters are presented, whether they are presented in a realistic manner or are exaggerated caricatures.

Literature analysis often involves comparing multiple texts.

Context in a novel is a matter of realism versus perception. Literature analysis focusing on the context or milieu of “Norwegian Wood” would look at how Murakami presents 1960s Japan and whether his portrayal is accurate. Such analysis is often important for historical settings to determine a level of accuracy; when they are semi-biographical as with Murakami’s book, it becomes a matter of finding a personal opinion of those times.

Literature analysis might focus on the motivations of the characters in a novel.

One book can portray a single theme. One writer can repeat the same theme in a number of books. Writers are also capable of using different themes in one book or across a series of books. Studying themes intends to find a larger message or idea being discussed.

Style and influences are two different elements of literature analysis. Investigating the style examines how a writer presents the story. Is it in first person or third person? Is it written in the active tense or the past tense? Influences, meanwhile, come from other pieces of writing or the author’s own biography. In the context of “Norwegian Wood,” influences range from Murakami’s love of American literature to his own experiences as a kid in the 1960s.

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Discussion Comments

@pastanaga - I can kin of sympathize with both sides of it. I've been studying writing for a while and after I started it was difficult to enjoy a book because I'd always be looking for the flaws and finding dozens of them. They were things I'd never notice if I hadn't tried to be a writer myself.

But then I realized that I was kind of doing it wrong. I should be looking for the good stuff, not just the mistakes. Now I feel like I appreciate books more than I ever did because I can see more depth in them than I did before.

@irontoenail - I think there is a right way and a wrong way to look at literature. A literary analysis essay should be making the text larger, not smaller. It should be revealing things and making connections that you might not have thought about, otherwise.

It shouldn't be harping on trivial stuff. It's the same as a good book. If you can see the end coming well before the end, then it's too obvious. If the end comes and it makes no sense, then it's too obscure (or just plain bad). But if the dots connect and suddenly you can see something new, then that's a good thing.

I really don't like this kind of thing. Whenever they made us do any kind of analysis in school, it would completely ruin the book for me (not that the books were ever that riveting in the first place). The analysis of literature just seems to suck all of the joy out of something and make it formulaic.

Not to mention that I suspect the teachers were making up half the stuff they say the authors put in there with the intent of showing particular themes. Sometimes a sky is described as blue because the sky is actually blue, not because the author wants to show how sad the character is.

Post your comments

Studies in literature analysis can have both a narrow focus and a broad focus.

  • Help and Support
  • Research Guides

Literature Reviews - Research Guide

  • Critical Reading and Analysis
  • Literature Reviews Home
  • Planning your Review & EBP
  • Searching for Literature
  • Managing your Results
  • Writing your Review
  • Systematic Literature Reviews
  • Systematic Reviews

Critical Reading & Analysis

  • Critical Reading
  • Analysing Sources

Author Analysis

  • Journal Analysis
  • Note Taking

A critical reader:​ ​

  • Does not believe everything they read​ ​
  • Questions what they read​ ​
  • Rereads if necessary​ ​
  • Understands the influence of style​ ​
  • Analyses arguments​ ​
  • Discounts arguments that are unsupported or based on faulty reasoning

When reading critically, focus on the purpose of your literature review:

  • Think about what you expect from the article or chapter, before reading it
  • Skim the abstract, headings, conclusion, and the first sentence of each paragraph
  • Focus on the arguments presented rather than facts
  • Take notes as you read and start to organise your review around themes and ideas
  • Consider using a table, matrix or concept map to identify how the different sources relate to each other
  • Note four to six points for each study that summarises the main points and conclusions
  • Be as objective as possible

Critical Appraisal

Critical appraisal is the process of carefully and systematically examining research to judge its credibility, its value and its relevance in a specific context.

The aim of critical appraisal is to understand the strengths, weaknesses, and potential for bias in the research. Validity, applicability, and clinical importance should be considered during critical appraisal to ensure that research evidence is used reliably and efficiently and false conclusions are not drawn.

Why do we need to critically appraise the literature?

Critical appraisal is necessary to:

  • Assess benefits and strengths for research against flaws and weaknesses
  • Decide whether studies have been undertaken in a way that makes their findings reliable
  • Make sense of the result
  • Know what these results mean in the context of the clinical decision being made
  • Assess the usefulness of  the evidence for clinical decisions

Analysing your sources

Abstract : this is what the author wants the reader to take away from their article - what is the starting point? ​ ​

Introduction : provides background and a starting point - how does it guide the reader?​ ​

Materials and methods : often overlooked but very important - is the methodology understandable, reproducible, direct and robust?

Results : summary and analysis of the data but the statistical reporting is just as important as the words ​ ​             - what do the tables, figures and legends actually report? ​ ​             - what do you think the data means?* ​ ​             * decide before reading the discussion​ ​

Discussion : author draws conclusions – how does this correlate with your conclusions?

The  Measuring Research Quality and Impact Research Guide - Research Impact  has more detailed information on analytics.


Consider the following criteria:

Were the objectives achieved? ​ ​

Hypotheses tested? ​ ​

How do these results relate to other studies you have found?​ ​

Do the authors openly discuss any limitations of their study?​ ​

What else needs be studied in the future?


Read critically​ ​

Note 2-4 bullet points for each study that summarises the main points and conclusions​ ​

Use matrix to analyse findings, relevance and importance of each text​ ​

Draw attention to studies that are important, influential or that bring a new understanding or method of studying your area of research

  • Literature Analysis Worksheet
  • Literature Review Matrix

Citation Analysis

Citation Analysis is the process whereby the impact or "quality" of an article is assessed by counting the number of times other authors mention it in their work.​ ​

Citation analysis involves counting the number of times an article is cited by other works to measure the impact of a publication or author. The caveat however, is that there is no single citation analysis tool that collects all publications and their cited references. For a thorough analysis of the impact of an author or a publication, look in multiple databases to find all possible cited references.​ ​

The  Measuring Research Quality and Impact Research Guide - Research Impact  has more detailed information on citation analytics.

Databases such as Scopus and Web of Science can be used to:

  • locate the papers of a specific author
  • compare the research output of more than one author

The  Measuring Research Quality and Impact Research Guide - Research Impact has more detailed information on author analytics.

The h -index


  • The h -index is not a static value – if discussing an author’s h-index, you need to specify the date on which the h -index was calculated.
  • The h -index is also calculated by other databases/resources and may vary from the h -index given by Scopus – if discussing an author’s h -index, you need to specify the source of the h-index.

To locate papers of an author in Scopus:

Scopus Training Videos

Discover prolific authors on a topic | How to search for authors by topic

Assess an author’s impact | How to assess an author's impact

Keep track of another author’s activity | How to keep track of an author

Investigate another author’s citations | How to create citation overviews in Scopus

Web of Science Core Collection

To locate papers of an author in Web of Science Core Collection (WoS CC):

Source / Journal Analysis

Databases such as Scopus and Web of Science  (including CAB Abstracts ) can be used to determine the quality of journals in a discipline or field of research.

The  Measuring Research Quality and Impact Research Guide - Research Impact has more detailed information on journal analytics.

To search for journals on a subject

To compare  journals or source publications

Scopus  Training Videos

How to compare sources

Overview of journal metrics in Scopus

CiteScore metrics in Scopus

The Scopus Search Guide  clearly describes how to search for papers on a subject or specific papers.

The Web of Science Core Collection Quick Guide clearly describes how to search for papers on a subject or specific papers.

Note taking 

Taking clear, legible notes will help to focus your critical reading and analysis of your literature review sources. When taking notes, avoid plagiarism by:

  •  keeping track of the difference between information from your sources and from your own ideas
  •  providing clear references, including page numbers

Note taking methods

Some effective methods of note-taking include:

  • Outlining method: Use headings, sub-headings and bullet points to organize topics
  • Cornell method: Use two columns - in one column write your summary of the authors' conclusions and evidence, and in the other column write down your own analysis and other comments
  • Charting method: Create a list of topics or points you want to write about - use a column for each one. As you read, add references and make notes in the appropriate column
  • Sentence method: Simply write down new ideas and bits of information as a numbered  sentence
  • Mapping method: Write down key concepts and terms, with related ideas radiating out from these

You may consider using the matrix below for your note taking and analysis:

Critical Reading & Analysis Checklist

  • Does your literature review highlight flaws, gaps, or shortcomings of specific texts or groups of texts?
  • Have you identified areas that have not yet been researched or have not yet been researched sufficiently?
  • Does the literature demonstrate a change over time or recent developments that make your research relevant now?
  • Are you able to discuss research methods used to study this topic and/or related topics?
  • Can you clearly state why your research is necessary?
  • << Previous: Managing your Results
  • Next: Writing your Review >>
  • Last Updated: Aug 16, 2023 11:56 AM
  • URL:

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Writing a Literature Review: Read and Analyse the Literature

  • Select a Topic
  • Search the Literature
  • Read and Analyse the Literature
  • Write the Review
  • Referencing This link opens in a new window

Read the studies you have found

Gathering and reading information to write your literature review is a process that can take a while - but keep the end goal in sight.

  • Critically read each source, look for the arguments presented rather than for facts.
  • Take notes as you read and start to organise your review around themes and ideas.
  • Consider using a table, matrix or concept map to identify how the different sources relate to each other.
  • TIP: Read your papers in chronological order, from the earliest publication to the most recent. This will allow you to see how previous research influences and forms the foundation for contemporary research. It will also help you to identify where and when 'breakthroughs' have occurred in the research, and importantly where the gaps are in the research.

Source -

Critical analysis of the studies

Critical analysis is a way or examining the research to assess its validity and relevance. It is an essential step in making sense of the research evidence.

Ask the following questions:

  • What are the key terms and concepts?
  • How relevant is this article to my specific topic?
  • What are the major relationships, trends and patterns?
  • How has the author structured the arguments?
  • How authoritative and credible is this source?
  • What are the differences and similarities between the sources?
  • Are there any gaps in the literature that require further study?

Source -

literature vs analysis

Using a Review Matrix

Once you have read and critically appraised your articles, using a review matrix can help you to compare and contrast research, note important information or issues, and track ideas or research over time. There are many methods and matrices to help you synthesize research. You can develop your own matrix or choose from the many examples found online. Any matrix though, should respond to your research area and the types of research you are reviewing.  Below are two common examples.

Critical Appraisal Checklists

  • CASP Critical Appraisal Too l Critical Appraisal Skills Programme offers eight free critical appraisal tools designed to help when reading research.
  • Critical Appraisal Sheets From the Centre for Evidence-based Medicine.
  • Systematic Reviews: Checklists for review articles. From BMJ.


literature vs analysis

  • << Previous: Search the Literature
  • Next: Write the Review >>
  • Last Updated: May 31, 2023 5:03 PM
  • URL:


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