Literature review refers to the collection of scholarly information about any research problem/topic
  • It is a systematic gathering of information, analysing and reviewing documents from written or done by other scholars that have a relation to your problem being investigated
  • It is a requirement for ay researcher to do a preliminary background search of information about a problem so that one discovers what has been done and what the gap in the field of study is.

This chapter contains only one item, i.e. literature review.


Purpose of literature review

  • To identify what is already known  in your area of study
  • To justify why you need to study the problem you are interested in since it identifies the gaps.
  • To orient the reader on how the research will be used to make discussion of the findings.
  • To know what has been reported so that you report on what needs to be reported on.
  • Forms part of the research process.

Sources of literature review

  1. Primary data sources
  • This is where we get the data from the first hand information especially the people who existed, observed and witnessed  the occurrence of a certain event
  1. Secondary sources
  • This is where we get the literature from the second hand information like published data, articles books, etc written by people/Authors who were not present when these events were happening.

Examples of secondary sources

  • Journals
  • Articles
  • Text Books
  • Reports
  • Government documents
  • References quoted in books
  • Abstracts
  • Grey literature- any written material but not published
  • Internet –computer search etc

UNMEB PAST EXAM: Outline 10 reasons why you reviewed the literature?

  1. Contextualization and Background: Literature review provides a historical and theoretical context for the research, helping readers understand the evolution of the topic and its relevance. Literature review helps you understand the story of your research topic. It’s like reading the background of a patient’s medical history before treating them.

  2. Identification of Gaps: Reviewing existing literature helps researchers identify gaps or unanswered questions in the field, highlighting areas where further research is needed.

  3. Building a Theoretical Framework: Literature review helps in constructing a solid theoretical framework by integrating relevant theories and concepts from previous studies. Imagine you’re learning to give injections. By reading about how experienced nurses do it, you gain insights into different techniques, potential challenges, and safety tips.

  4. Defining Research Problem and Objectives: A comprehensive literature review guides researchers in formulating a clear research problem and specific objectives by identifying the key issues in the field. It’s like checking if someone has already tried a certain medication for a specific condition. If they have, you can learn from their successes and failures.

  5. Research Design and Methodology: Literature review aids in selecting appropriate research designs and methodologies by examining how previous studies were conducted and what methods were employed. Literature review is like using a map. It shows you the path others have taken and helps you decide which route to follow.

  6. Avoiding Redundancy: By being aware of what has already been done, researchers can avoid duplicating efforts and ensure that their study contributes something new to the field. Imagine if nurses gave the wrong dosage of a medicine just because they didn’t know it was dangerous. Reading about such incidents helps you avoid making similar mistakes.

  7. Establishing Credibility: Referencing established works in the literature lends credibility to the research and positions it within the broader academic discourse. Let’s say you’re learning about hand hygiene. By reading about how infections spread in hospitals due to poor hand hygiene, you realize why your study is important.

  8. Enhancing Researcher’s Knowledge: Literature review expands the researcher’s understanding of the topic, allowing them to gain insights, viewpoints, and nuances they might not have considered. magine you need to measure a patient’s heart rate. Reading about different types of equipment helps you choose the right tool for accurate results.

  9. Validation of Hypotheses: Literature review helps validate research hypotheses by examining whether previous findings support or contradict the researcher’s proposed ideas. It’s like drawing lines between related dots. Literature review helps you see how different studies connect and how your research fits into the bigger picture.

  10. Contribution to Knowledge: A comprehensive review of the literature highlights the research’s unique contribution to the existing body of knowledge, demonstrating its significance and relevance. Just like nurses investigate symptoms to diagnose patients, researchers investigate what’s known to find gaps. This way, you can contribute new information, like a detective solving a medical mystery.

What do we find in a Literature Review?

  1. History of the Problem: This section delves into the historical context of the research issue, tracing its development over time.

  2. Magnitude and Distribution of the Problem: This part presents data and statistics on the prevalence and distribution of the problem across different populations.

  3. Severity of the Problem: Here, the impact and consequences of the problem on individuals and communities are discussed.

  4. Methodology Used by Other Researchers: This section outlines the methods, approaches, and techniques employed by previous researchers.

  5. Hypotheses and Variables: It discusses the research questions or hypotheses examined in previous studies and the variables under consideration.

  6. Research Designs: The overall design or structure of prior research studies is explained.

  7. Sample Size and Characteristics: The number of participants and their characteristics in previous studies are mentioned.

  8. Research Tools Used: This part highlights the tools, instruments, or surveys used to gather data in earlier research.

  9. Findings of Previous Research: The key findings and conclusions of earlier studies related to the topic are summarized.

  10. Sample Size Determination: The method by which researchers determined appropriate sample sizes is discussed.

  11. Limitations of Previous Research: This section acknowledges the limitations and shortcomings of the reviewed studies.


Writing the literature

  • Ensure to use the most recent literature especially not more than 10 years from the present year of study
  • Divide your work into themes according to your objectives e.g

2.0 introduction
2.1 literature related to objective one
2.2 literature related to objective two
2.3 literature related to objective three

  • Adhere to the institutions guidelines of citations and referencing e.g APA format, Harvard format of referencing.
  • When reviewing literature always ensure to keep a file of all the cited and referenced work.
  • The rationale behind this is that you may need to refer to this work from time and again.

Guidelines for Conducting a Literature Review:

  1. “A fight of win or loss”: It’s important to remember that a literature review involves finding supporting or contrasting references for your statements. Therefore, avoid writing paragraphs without at least two references to back up your claims.

    • Example:

      “A study done in Botswana showed that male
      adolescents are at higher risk of suboptimal adherence to
      ART than females (Ndiage, Nyasulu, Nguyen, Lowenthal, .et al, 2013). This is in conflict with a similar study done in South Africa, which indicated that being a female is a major risk of poor adherence (Wasti, Simkhada & Teijlingen, 2012).”

      • Literature review is full of comparisons and similarities of
      results from studies done by other researchers in different
      parts of the world.
      • It’s more of paraphrasing.
      • Where possible state the results (figures) of the study
      your are paraphrasing

  2. Comparisons and Similarities: A literature review involves drawing comparisons and identifying similarities in research outcomes across various studies conducted by researchers worldwide.

  3. Emphasis on Paraphrasing: The literature review heavily involves paraphrasing and synthesizing existing research findings to provide an integrated understanding of the topic.

  4. Incorporating Results: Whenever possible, include the results or figures obtained from studies you are referencing. This helps in presenting a clear picture of the outcomes and insights from those studies.

    • Example: ‘A study done in South Africa showed that patients were significantly more likely to be adherent on the efavirenz (taken once a day) than the nevirapine (twice a day) -based regimen. 38.2% (696 of 1,822 patients) maintained 100% adherence versus 30.1% (301 of 999 patients) in the nevirapine-based arm. (Theos, 2007)”
      • As you quote in literature review indicate; the name of
      study. Author, year, setting (where it was done), target
      population and Results as seen in the above example.

Whenever you are writing someone’s work, you have to acknowledge the person who did the work, and in research, we call that REFERENCING.


Whenever you use someone else’s words or ideas in your research paper, you must indicate that this information is borrowed by quoting the source of information in the paper its self (in text referencing), and at the end of the paper (reference list).This applies to written sources you have used such as books, articles web pages, E.T.C. Reference is used to tell the reader where ideas from other sources have been used in the research paper.
Importance of referencing:

  • – Referencing gives credit to others for their work and ideas.
  • – Referencing gives your argument evidence, credibility and
  • authority.
  • – Referencing allows the reader to track down the original work if they choose to read more about it (a reference act as a sign post that tells the reader the source of facts, theories and opinions).
  • – It shows the reader how your argument relates to the big picture.
  • – If you do not acknowledge another writer’s work or ideas you could be accused of plagiarism (plagiarism is the intentional or unintentional presentation of another’s work as your own).
  • – It shows the reader that you created a solid argument.
  • – It is a way of distinguishing your ideas from those of other sources.
  • – To reinforce your argument.
  • – To allow fact-checking.
Types of referencing/ citation style for a research paper.

The two commonest styles used are;

  1. APA (American psychological Association) style.
  2. MLA (Modern Language Association) style.

Other styles are;

  • Vancouver style / author-number system)
  • Chicago style
  • Turabian style

NB: With all referencing styles, there are two parts to referencing;
citing (in-text referencing), and the reference list.

APA (American Psychological Association)

It is a style of referencing (The most commonly used style in research). APA recommends in-text citation (referencing) that refers readers to a list of references (at the end of your work on a separate paper).


APA in-text referencing

APA in-text citation style uses the author’s Last name (sur name) and the year of publication and at times (but not all times) a page number.

“Diabetes mellitus is associated with development of hypertension” (Kayizzi & Serugo, 2015, p. 36)
Diabetes mellitus is associated with development of hypertension (Kayizzi &. Serugo, 2015).

Kayizzi and Serugo (2015) reported that “Diabetes mellitus is associated with development of hypertension” (p. 36)
– APA uses the ‘author-date’ style of referencing.
– When directly quoting from a source, you must include page number(s) and close the quote in double quotation mark.
– If you are referring to an entire work, include only the Author’s last name and year of publication. If you are referring to part of a work you must include page.


APA referencing list
  •  The reference list should appear at end of your work on a separate page.
  •  Only include references you have cited in your work.
  •  All references should have a hanging indent. That is, all lines of a reference subsequent to the first line should be indented.
  •  In general references should be in alphabetized by last name of first author of each work.

Example of referencing list:
Journal article
Kayizzi, G., & Serugo, I. (2005). Diabetes mellitus is associated with development of hypertension. The lacent, 9 , 36.

Note the Sur name ( Kayizzi), first initials (G).,& sir name of 2nd author (Serugo), initial (I).year of publication(2005) title of the article (Diabetes mellitus is associated with development of hypertension). Name of the journal in italic( The lacent)Volume(9) page(36)

Text book
Kayizzi, G.(2014) Managing Diabetes Mellitus. Kampala:
Ink co. 

Note the title of book is underlined or bolded, and then
the city and publisher come last.

How do reference or cite?

  • This is the recognition of statements or findings of another author  that have been used in your literature of research or any other write up.
    • Referencing refers to the list of all authors whose work has been used to build up your research and it comes at the end of research.
    • Citation refers to the acknowledgement with in the text/your work.
  • Note: All cited authors must appear in the reference list
Importance of citation
  • To avoid plagiarism
  • To recognise the efforts and the ideas of the original authors
  • Enable the reader find the location of the quoted ideas/work.
  • Demonstrate your ethics and integrity in research.
  • Showed you have widely and extensively searched/read about your topic.
Ways of citing
  • Citing with in the text
  • Quotations
  • Foot notes

Ways of  Citing in Research

Citing Within the Text

There are two methods for citing within the text:

  1. Parenthetical Citation: In this method, the author’s last name and the year of publication are placed at the end of a paraphrased statement, both enclosed in parentheses. For instance: The research demonstrated a significant correlation between class performance and absenteeism (Sabiti, 2019).

  2. Narrative Citation: This method involves placing the author’s name and publication year at the beginning of the sentence. For example: According to Sabiti (2019), there exists a noteworthy correlation between class performance and absenteeism.


Quoting directly involves using the exact wording of the author’s statements without alteration. Direct quotations are preferred for:

  • Ensuring accuracy in conveying the original message.
  • Utilizing exceptionally clear statements.
  • Adding emphasis and authority, especially when quoting from a recognized author.


Footnotes are used to display references at the bottom of the page rather than at the end of the main text. Its role is to provide additional information to the reader and to indicate the source of the idea. They serve two primary purposes:

  1. Providing Additional Information: Footnotes offer supplementary details to enrich the reader’s understanding of the content.
  2. Source Indication: Footnotes attribute ideas to their sources, ensuring transparency and proper citation. 

For example; the likelihood of acquiring HIV can be expected from people with multiple sexual partners 1.

In this case number 1 represents the first citation of your work and will appear as your number one list of references.

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