All research, whatever the discipline, needs to be situated in relation to what has already been done in the field.
Reviewing the literature helps you:
For comprehensive literature searching it is important to be systematic in your approach. This includes developing a plan for your search (including the search terms you will use and the resources you will search), and keeping records of the searches you carry out. The process is listed in steps below, but much of it is iterative rather than linear.
You might have heard the term 'Systematic Review'. A systematic review goes further than a literature review in that it aims to locate and evaluate all studies, published and unpublished, relevant to a specific research question.
Systematic reviews use explicit, systematic methods to minimise bias and enable verification and replication. Those produced by the Cochrane Library are often considered to be the 'gold standard'. For more information on systematic reviews please see the Library's Systematic Review guide.