The role of 'the literature'
Most projects will require you to look beyond the unit lecture notes to learn all you need to know to complete the task. You will therefore need to find, evaluate and use information from published sources of information: ‘the literature’. This usually means scholarly literature such as textbooks and journal articles, but can also include official publications such as engineering standards and government reports.
For help finding reliable sources of information, see Finding and evaluating information.
Information drawn from the literature will form a smaller or larger part of your report depending on the type of assignment. For example:
Possible information needs
Company history, operation processes, statistics
Company prospectus, annual report
Local environment, theory, materials properties, government regulations
Textbooks, journal articles, government and industry websites, standards
Historical development, processes, state of the art, problems, possible solutions, recent research, current debates
Textbooks, journal articles, government, scientific and industry websites, journal articles, newspapers
Detailed information about the topic, theory, recent research, research methods
Textbooks, journal articles, conference papers
Investigative reports, also called stand-alone literature reviews, require you to research a topic then report and comment on what you learn. In these assignments, the majority of the content will come from the literature, but your report will still need a focus beyond just repeating what you learn. A common focus is to persuade your reader that the conclusions you draw are valid.
In other reports, information from the literature is used to:
- provide contextual information
- establish what is known about the topic
- current state-of-the-art
- previous studies
- introduce methods or technology you will use in your project
- compare your results with those obtained by others.
Note how the writers draw on the literature to provide context and motivation in the Introduction to the design and build project report below.
The excerpt below is from a research project report. Note how the writers refer to the literature to explain their choice of equipment.
You will also draw heavily on the literature when explaining theory and discussing your results or solution, as in this excerpt from a materials engineering research report.
For help with citing and referencing, see the Citing and referencing Library guide.