Searching and Selecting Diagram

“Telling the story” of your field is a process that involves selection and ordering of the material you include and how it is positioned.

The diagram below may help you understand the decision-making process on the material you search for, and selecting the most vital studies.



There has to be a line that divides the material you include in your literature review and that which you omit:

  • Inside this circle will be all the studies selected for your literature review.

  • Studies outside the circle have been searched and considered, but excluded.

  • At the centre of the circle is the research question, with those closest to it likely to be examined in greater depth.

  • The literature included that is more peripheral or general - or with only selected information or relevance – is likely to be given limited or surface attention.

  • Peripheral studies may simply appear as back-up citations to indicate you are aware of a range of work on a particular idea, concept or element in your own research.

  • Unpacking and critically evaluating the studies closest to your research question is where you need to devote most effort.