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Why NVivo Is the Leading Choice for Qualitative Data Analysis Among Researchers

Qualitative data analysis can be a daunting task, especially when dealing with large sets of data. This is where NVivo comes in handy. NVivo is a software package designed to assist researchers in analyzing qualitative data. In this article, we will discuss why NVivo is the leading choice for qualitative data analysis among researchers.

What is NVivo?

NVivo is a software tool developed by QSR International that helps researchers organize and analyze their qualitative data. The software provides a range of features and tools that assist researchers in managing complex data sets, including text, audio, video, and images.

Features of NVivo

One of the key features of NVivo is its ability to handle different types of data formats. The software can handle text-based documents such as emails, interviews, focus group transcripts, and surveys. It also supports multimedia files such as videos and audio recordings.

Another feature that makes NVivo stand out is its coding capabilities. The software allows users to code their data using different methods such as thematic or content analysis. This feature streamlines the process of identifying patterns or themes within the data set.

NVivo also has advanced search capabilities that allow users to search for specific keywords or phrases within their data set quickly. Additionally, it has visualization tools that enable users to create graphs and charts to present their findings visually.

Benefits of Using NVivo

The benefits of using NVivo are numerous. Firstly, it saves time by automating many aspects of the research process; this includes transcribing audio recordings and coding text-based documents.

Secondly, it increases accuracy by reducing errors associated with manual transcription or coding processes; this means that researchers can trust their results more confidently.

Thirdly, it enables collaboration between team members working on a project from different locations; this feature allows individuals to work on the same project simultaneously, increasing productivity.

Lastly, NVivo provides a range of support resources. This includes online tutorials, webinars, and user forums that connect users with other researchers who use the software.

In conclusion, NVivo is an essential tool for researchers looking to analyze qualitative data. Its features and capabilities make it the leading choice for handling complex data sets across a range of disciplines. The benefits of using NVivo include increased accuracy, time-saving automation, collaboration capabilities, and access to support resources. With NVivo, researchers can analyze their data more efficiently and effectively than ever before.

This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.


what is literature review in qualitative research

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  • How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods?
  • Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).


The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.


If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources


A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

  • Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility


  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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Literature Reviews

  • Qualitative or Quantitative?
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  • Review Articles/ Annual Reviews...?
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Qualitative researchers TEND to:

Researchers using qualitative methods tend to:

  • t hink that social sciences cannot be well-studied with the same methods as natural or physical sciences
  • feel that human behavior is context-specific; therefore, behavior must be studied holistically, in situ, rather than being manipulated
  • employ an 'insider's' perspective; research tends to be personal and thereby more subjective.
  • do interviews, focus groups, field research, case studies, and conversational or content analysis.

reasons to make a qualitative study; From https://www.editage.com/insights/qualitative-quantitative-or-mixed-methods-a-quick-guide-to-choose-the-right-design-for-your-research?refer-type=infographics

Image from https://www.editage.com/insights/qualitative-quantitative-or-mixed-methods-a-quick-guide-to-choose-the-right-design-for-your-research?refer-type=infographics

Qualitative Research (an operational definition)

Qualitative Research: an operational description

Purpose : explain; gain insight and understanding of phenomena through intensive collection and study of narrative data

Approach: inductive; value-laden/subjective; holistic, process-oriented

Hypotheses: tentative, evolving; based on the particular study

Lit. Review: limited; may not be exhaustive

Setting: naturalistic, when and as much as possible

Sampling : for the purpose; not necessarily representative; for in-depth understanding

Measurement: narrative; ongoing

Design and Method: flexible, specified only generally; based on non-intervention, minimal disturbance, such as historical, ethnographic, or case studies

Data Collection: document collection, participant observation, informal interviews, field notes

Data Analysis: raw data is words/ ongoing; involves synthesis

Data Interpretation: tentative, reviewed on ongoing basis, speculative

  • Qualitative research with more structure and less subjectivity
  • Increased application of both strategies to the same study ("mixed methods")
  • Evidence-based practice emphasized in more fields (nursing, social work, education, and others).

Some Other Guidelines

  • How to Design Graphs and Tables (Univ. of Oregon's guide)
  • Critical Appraisal Checklist for an Article On Qualitative Research

Quantitative researchers TEND to:

Researchers using quantitative methods tend to:

  • think that both natural and social sciences strive to explain phenomena with confirmable theories derived from testable assumptions
  • attempt to reduce social reality to variables, in the same way as with physical reality
  • try to tightly control the variable(s) in question to see how the others are influenced.
  • Do experiments, have control groups, use blind or double-blind studies; use measures or instruments.

reasons to do a quantitative study. From https://www.editage.com/insights/qualitative-quantitative-or-mixed-methods-a-quick-guide-to-choose-the-right-design-for-your-research?refer-type=infographics

Quantitative Research (an operational definition)

Quantitative research: an operational description

Purpose: explain, predict or control phenomena through focused collection and analysis of numberical data

Approach: deductive; tries to be value-free/has objectives/ is outcome-oriented

Hypotheses : Specific, testable, and stated prior to study

Lit. Review: extensive; may significantly influence a particular study

Setting: controlled to the degree possible

Sampling: uses largest manageable random/randomized sample, to allow generalization of results to larger populations

Measurement: standardized, numberical; "at the end"

Design and Method: Strongly structured, specified in detail in advance; involves intervention, manipulation and control groups; descriptive, correlational, experimental

Data Collection: via instruments, surveys, experiments, semi-structured formal interviews, tests or questionnaires

Data Analysis: raw data is numbers; at end of study, usually statistical

Data Interpretation: formulated at end of study; stated as a degree of certainty

This page on qualitative and quantitative research has been adapted and expanded from a handout by Suzy Westenkirchner. Used with permission.

Images from https://www.editage.com/insights/qualitative-quantitative-or-mixed-methods-a-quick-guide-to-choose-the-right-design-for-your-research?refer-type=infographics.

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Starting Literature Review in Qualitative Research: An Illustration Using the Mirror Effect

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Mirroring is a group phenomenon. Through action, people can recognize themselves, or a characteristic of themselves (usually the repressed side), reflected in the verbal and nonverbal behaviors in others as if they were looking into a mirror. It is a fundamental process in the development of the ego. By distinguishing themselves from others, clients discover their own identity, which is what makes them individual. Positive, benign mirroring is implemented as a way to develop new self-image through the “constructive act of recognizing self in others, and others in self….

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Ho, W.Y. (2019). Starting Literature Review in Qualitative Research: An Illustration Using the Mirror Effect. In: Tsang, K., Liu, D., Hong, Y. (eds) Challenges and Opportunities in Qualitative Research. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-5811-1_2

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what is literature review in qualitative research

  • Literature Review

What is a Literature Review?

As part of their research program, many students are instructed to perform a literature review, without always understanding what a literature review is.

This article is a part of the guide:

  • Research Designs
  • Quantitative and Qualitative Research
  • Quantitative Research Design
  • Descriptive Research

Browse Full Outline

  • 1 Research Designs
  • 2.1 Pilot Study
  • 2.2 Quantitative Research Design
  • 2.3 Qualitative Research Design
  • 2.4 Quantitative and Qualitative Research
  • 3.1 Case Study
  • 3.2 Naturalistic Observation
  • 3.3 Survey Research Design
  • 3.4 Observational Study
  • 4.1 Case-Control Study
  • 4.2 Cohort Study
  • 4.3 Longitudinal Study
  • 4.4 Cross Sectional Study
  • 4.5 Correlational Study
  • 5.1 Field Experiments
  • 5.2 Quasi-Experimental Design
  • 5.3 Identical Twins Study
  • 6.1 Experimental Design
  • 6.2 True Experimental Design
  • 6.3 Double Blind Experiment
  • 6.4 Factorial Design
  • 7.1 Literature Review
  • 7.2 Systematic Reviews
  • 7.3 Meta Analysis

Most are aware that it is a process of gathering information from other sources and documenting it, but few have any idea of how to evaluate the information, or how to present it.

A literature review can be a precursor to the introduction of a research paper , or it can be an entire paper in itself, acting as the first stage of large research projects and allowing the supervisor to ascertain that the student is on the correct path.

A literature review is a critical and in depth evaluation of previous research. It is a summary and synopsis of a particular area of research, allowing anybody reading the paper to establish why you are pursuing this particular research. A good literature review expands on the reasons behind selecting a particular research question.

what is literature review in qualitative research

What is a NOT a Literature Review?

A literature review is not simply a chronological catalog of all your sources, but an evaluation. It pulls the previous research together, and explains how it connects to the research proposed by the current paper. All sides of an argument must be clearly explained, to avoid bias, and areas of agreement and disagreement should be highlighted.

A literature review is likewise not a collection of quotes and paraphrasing from other sources. A good literature review should critically evaluate the quality and findings of the research.

A good literature review should avoid the temptation of stressing the importance of a particular research program. The fact that a researcher is undertaking the research program speaks for its importance, and an educated reader may well be insulted that they are not allowed to judge the importance for themselves. They want to be re-assured that it is a serious paper, not a pseudo-scientific sales advertisement.

Whilst some literature reviews can be presented in a chronological order, this is best avoided.

For example, a review of Victorian Age Physics may certainly present J.J. Thomson’s famous experiments in a chronological order. Otherwise, this is usually perceived as being a little lazy, and it is better to organize the review around ideas and individual points.

As a general rule, especially for a longer review, each paragraph should address one point, and present and evaluate all of the available evidence, from all possible differing points of view.

what is literature review in qualitative research

Conducting a Literature Review

Evaluating the credibility of sources is one of the most difficult aspects of a literature review, especially with the ease of finding information on the internet.

The only real way to evaluate is through experience, but there are luckily a few tricks for evaluating information quickly and accurately.

There is such a thing as too much information. Google does not distinguish or judge the quality of results, only how search engine friendly a paper is. This is why it is still good practice to begin research in an academic library. Any journals found there can be regarded as safe and credible.

The next stage is to use the internet, and this is where the difficulties begin. It’s challenging to judge the credibility of an online paper. It can be helpful to structure your internet research as if it were conducted on paper. Bookmark papers, which may be relevant, in one folder and make another subfolder for a ‘shortlist.’

The easiest way is to scan the work, using the abstract  and introduction as guides. This helps to eliminate the non-relevant work and also some of the lower quality research. If it sets off alarm bells, there may be something wrong, and the paper is probably of a low quality. But be very careful not to fall into the trap of rejecting research just because it conflicts with your hypothesis . Failure to do this will completely invalidate the literature review and potentially undermine the research project. Any research that may be relevant should be moved to the shortlist folder.

The next stage is to critically evaluate the paper and decide if the research is sufficient quality. Think about it this way: the temptation is to try to include as many sources as possible, and assume that a long bibliography  equates to a good paper. A smaller number of quality sources is far preferable than a long but irrelevant list.

Check into the credentials of any source which you rely on heavily for the literature review. The reputation of the University or organization is a factor, as is the experience of the researcher. If their name keeps cropping up, and they have written many papers, the source is probably OK.

Look for agreements. Good research should have been replicated by other independent researchers, with similar results, showing that the information is fairly safe to use. If the process is proving to be difficult (and in some fields like medicine and environmental research, there is a lot of poor science ) do not be afraid to ask a supervisor for advice. They should know some trustworthy sources to look at. It may be a little extra work for them, but there will be even more work if they have to tear apart a review because it is built on shaky evidence.

Conducting a good literature review takes patience and is a matter of practice. Take solace that even the best scientists can fall into the trap of using poor evidence. However, it’s all part of the scientific process . If your research program is well constructed, a less-than-perfect literature review will not affect the results.

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Martyn Shuttleworth (Sep 16, 2009). What is a Literature Review?. Retrieved Dec 02, 2023 from Explorable.com: https://explorable.com/what-is-a-literature-review

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