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Literature Reviews: Home

A guide to gathering information and writing literature reviews (in any subject)

Process

Writing a literature review is a process.  The steps outlined in this guide are meant to make the process more manageable.  You'll find

  1. Background information (encyclopedias, books, overviews)
  2. Tips on refining a topic and defining the scope of the review
  3. Where to find articles, dissertations, reports, and books to include
  4. Tools to help you keep track of your searching and finding
  5. How to evaluate the literature
  6. Tips on organizing the review
  7. Approaches to writing the review
  8. Tools to help you cite sources correctly

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is an overview or discussion of existing literature on a particular topic.  The literature may come from books, articles, reports, or other formats. 

It's a review because it usually contains a summary, synthesis, or analysis of the central arguments in the existing literature.  A literature review does not present an original argument, but instead presents the arguments of others in a different context.

In research articles with a narrow focus, the literature review may form a brief introductory section.  In theses, dissertations, or articles with a broad focus, the literature review may be a lengthy discussion of all relevant research.

 

Purpose

A literature review can serve any of several purposes.  It can ...

  • summarize the existing research on a particular topic
  • introduce the important research on a topic
  • point out contradictory or controversial studies or methodologies
  • raise a question or highlight an issue for further study
  • help to contextualize the current research