UTS Library

Literature Reviews: Topic

In this guide:

Choose, define and refine your topic

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a narrowly defined topic and frame it as a research question. Your research question pinpoints what you want to find out and gives your work a clear focus and purpose.

To get a sense of the scope of your topic, you may require an initial review of the literature.

  • Preliminary search to gather background information

 - Use books and reference sources to get a general overview, e.g AccessScienceSafari Tech Books Online (ProQuest)
 - Find some review articles from a database, e.g. Web of ScienceScopus.
 - Read some highly cited articles, and articles published on top-ranked journals
 - Find top researchers' publications

  • Make a concept table:

Sample topic: Using machine learning to improve medical diagnosis 

Main terms

machine learning

 medical diagnosis



 computer-aided diagnosis   CAD

Related terms

any aspects, components, methodology or technologies related to the keywords

image recognition

pattern recognition


data mining

data analysis

deep learning

 computer-aided detection

 medical image analysis

 medical image processing

 lung cancer diagnosis

 liver caner diagnosis
  • Ask yourself: 

- What subtopics relate to the broader topic?
- What questions do these sources raise?
- What do you find interesting about the topic? 

  • TQR (topic, question, rationale) method

Once you've laid a foundation for your topic, use the following method, modified from The Craft of Research by Booth, Colomb, and Williams, to develop a research question or problem: 

    • Name your TOPIC: I am studying [what]...
    • Ask and indirect QUESTION about your topic: ...because I want to know [who/how/why]

Identifies what you do not know or understand about your topic.

    • Provide a RATIONALE: ...in order to understand [how/why/what]

Answers the "So what?" question, indicating why you and (more importantly) your audience will be interested in your research problem.