Research Method for Engineering Research Students – Part I: A Checklist for Literature Review

Posted on March 30, 2012


Author:   Sanjay Goel,


This  checklist  can be used by the research students, especially in engineering disciplines,  to carry out the literature review assignments in their research.  However, the  list actually has a much broader scope. It  provides criteria  for reviewing any kind of  technical documents as well as whitepapers.

For a  comprehensive checklist about engineering research, interested readers may please refer –   

I invite the learned community of researchers and professional engineers to suggest further improvements to this checklist.


A.   Broad Introduction

 1)      Current state of research

2)      List of open and current problems

B.   Reference selection for critical review

1)      Clarity of the criteria of selection

I.      Relevance criteria wrt to proposed research

II.      Quality criteria for selection of references

III.      Diversity criteria of approaches

   2)      Selection

C.   Quality of review of selected sources

  1)      For each reference

  I.            Summary

i.             Approach

ii.             Method

iii.            Result

 II.            Identification of novelty

i.            Problem identification

ii.           Problem formulation

iii.           Solution

a.   Applying a known theory/approach known within a specific discipline in a new context within the same discipline

b.   Applying a known theory/approach known within a specific discipline in a new context outside the discipline

c.   Theory enhancement/integration/building

III.            Validation of results and claims

i.            Analytical

ii.            Empirical

IV.            Your criteria for evaluation of the work

V.            Identification of strengths and weaknesses wrt

i.            Problem

a.   Clarity and Precision

b.    Significance

c.   Relevance

d.   Theoretical background and framework

e.   Empirical background

f.   Assumptions

g.   Author’s criteria of claimed strengths

ii.            Literature Review 

a.  References – Identification of important missing references

b.  Critical evaluation of  main references

                          iii.            Solution

a.    Time/ resource/energy requirement

b.    Wastages  and/or Pollution

c.    Performance efficiency

d.   Consistency, completeness, generality, scalability, open ended-ness,

e.     Reliability, elegance, usability, maintainability

f.      Safety, health, dignity

  iv.            Findings and discovery

a.   Evidence

b.   Inference, interpretations, theory formulation, conclusions

c.   Relevance to your research

         2)      Integrated review

I.            Consolidation/comparison  with table(s) and/or diagram(s)

II.           Potential implications for your research

D.      Writing

                   I.            Content oraganisation, Coherent paragraphs, Effective transitions,  citations 

                  II.           Tone, clarity,  spelling, punctuation, grammar, style, writing conventions

A sample literature survey report prepared by a first year PhD candidate at JIIT is attached here – Consolidated Report on literature . This report has been developed during Jan- July, 2012 as part of a semester long compulsory 3 credit course on Literature survey.  Above listed several (not all) issues have been  considered and addressed in  the process of this literature survey.

You may also like to see:

1.    Is Today’s PhD Education in India Aiming To Create Inspiring Intellectual Leaders of Tomorrow?

2.   Research Method for Engineering Research Students – Part II: A Checklist for Reflective Self-assessment of the Research Work


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