What is Literature Survey? (Expert Deep Dive)

A literature survey is a summary of previous research on a topic. It includes books and other scholarly articles. Nonetheless, a literature survey involves reading, analyzing, and interpreting the body of literature

The main purpose is to understand the works and ideas of different authors (what’s already written). Therefore, the topic should be of relevance.

Key points

  • Literature survey acknowledges the works of other researchers but does not present new results.
  • It is also a way to know their contribution to a wider culture. 
  • Researchers familiar with the literature or those with little knowledge conduct a literature survey.

But what exactly is a literature survey? Find out below. Besides that, you will get to understand the purpose of the literature survey, types of literature survey, key things to include, the literature survey of a project, and any project for that matter.

What is Literature Survey? (Expert Deep Dive)
Ancient imaginary library

What is meant by a literature survey?

A literature survey studies different works and then provides a descriptive summary and critical evaluation based on the topic. 

The structure should appear in a manner that will present ideas logically and chronologically. On top of that, It can range from a review of a few research papers to a full-length discussion.

What is a literature survey of a project?

A literature survey of a project is a research of scholarly sources on a certain topic. It provides an overview of the existing knowledge to identify gaps, methods, and theories. A good literature survey of a project summarises, evaluates, synthesizes, and analyzes sources to give a clear picture of the main concept. 

What is a literature survey for any project?

A literature survey for any project displays the analysis and research made in any field of your interest. You need to consider some parameters and the length of the project as the results are already published.

It is a vital aspect since it gives clear guidance in the area of your research. You’ll get to set a goal for your analysis – thus formulating a problem statement. Writing a literature survey for any project includes writings from different analysts. 

Also, you should present an account of how the research has influenced your work.

What are the types of literature surveys?

There are different types of literature surveys. It all depends on your research approach. Among them are:

Argumentative literature survey

This type of literature survey examines literature selectively to refute the agreement. The focal point is developing a literature body that establishes a contrarian viewpoint. One thing to note is that when used to make a summary claim, it can introduce the problem.

Historical literature survey

Historical surveys examine research in a given period. The research involves several steps such as:

  • The start of a problem
  • Concept
  • Theory
  • Phenomena in the literature
  • Tracing its evolution

This helps research in a historical context to match the developments and identify future paths.

Integrative literature survey

The integrative literature survey brings out new knowledge from the topic at hand. It reviews, synthesizes, and critiques representative literature in an integrated manner to generate new perspectives. A good review should meet the standards of the primary research. 

Methodological literature survey

Methodological literature survey doesn’t focus on what someone said but on how they bring out the content. It involves studying different research levels applicable in your field and the theories of principles to get the one that matches your objectives.

Theoretical literature survey

This literature survey aims to identify the cause corpus of theory resulting from an issue or concept. It helps in coming up with existing theories, how they relate, and the investigation’s extent. 

It is vital since it showcases that the theories lack enough information to explain emerging problems.

Systematic literature survey

It involves an overview of existing evidence concerning a research question

It uses specific methods to identify research, collect, report, and analyze data from review studies. Generally, it focuses on a specific question. For instance, “To what extent does A influence B?” This video explains well.

What is the purpose of the literature survey?

A literature survey will help you demonstrate your familiarity with the main topic. Typically, the main topic is essential since it is what explains the work. In addition, understanding the subject will pave the way for new findings.

A literature survey is vital since it helps build knowledge in your field. Typically, it comes down to many things, such as concepts, experimental, and research methods. In addition, you will know the angle leading to further developments from the experiments and methods. 

Additionally, you’ll get an insight into how the concepts are applicable in the real world and fill the gap. It enhances a better understanding of how to present and discuss findings. Moreover, since it involves reading, you’ll develop good concentration and achieve the same style, hence successful writing.

A literature survey will help identify key questions about a topic that needs further research. In the long run, a researcher may come across areas that need further details. Here, the researcher will follow up the current study with a new one.

Furthermore, it helps assess the state of the research based on the topic. After settling on the area to work with, researching will help determine the research’s known extent. 

You’ll get to know the experts that have written a lot on that topic. For instance, if person A has written thirty topics and person B has five, then it’s clear that the one who has written 30 topics is more knowledgeable.

What should the literature survey contain?

A literature survey must contain some important elements. However, it all depends on your main objective. Here are the key things to include:


The introduction gives an idea of the main topic. So, you need to define it and state the right context for reviewing the literature. Also, establish the point of view, review the literature, and then state the organization and the scope of the survey. 

For instance, in the literature review by Jessica Hagen-Zanker, the introduction clearly defines the main topic.


Another important element is the body which contains a discussion of the sources. For this reason, it should appear chronologically, thematically, or methodologically. So, organizing it according to the main themes provides insight between the topic and subject. 

For instance, poverty in third world countries and poverty as a whole. Lastly, move from a general view to the focal point. Similarly, you can divide it into subsections.

As you write, follow these steps:

Summarize and synthesize: Outline an overview of the key points for each source, then combine them as one.

Analyze and interpret: take points and add interpretations while discussing the importance of the findings.

Evaluate: This involves outlining the strengths and weaknesses of your sources

Construct well-structured paragraphs: While doing this, apply topic sentences and transitions to connect, contrast and compare.


To conclude what you have gained from the works, summarize the important aspects of the body, evaluate the current state key, pen down important areas, and then connect them to the current knowledge.

The final word

If you are doing a thesis or a project, you must conduct a literature survey. 

This will help you understand the current development in your work and existing problem-solving methods and compare them to know the one that suits your area.

But what is a literature survey? A literature survey is an overview of the existing knowledge to identify methods, theories, and gaps in the current research. To come up with the best literature survey, you need to search, evaluate, identify an outline and then pen it down. This aids in bringing out the picture of the state of knowledge on the topic

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