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Literature Review: Literature Review

Learning to Write a Systematic Review of Literature

Literature Review header Learning to write a systematic Review of Literature

What is a Literature Review?

A Literature Review is a systematic and comprehensive analysis of books, scholarly articles, and other sources relevant to a specific topic providing a base of knowledge on a topic. Literature reviews are designed to identify and critique the existing literature on a topic to justify your research by exposing gaps in current research.  This investigation should provide a description, summary, and critical evaluation of works related to the research problem and should also add to the overall knowledge of the topic as well as demonstrating how your research will fit within a larger field of study.  A literature review should offer a critical analysis of the current research on a topic and that analysis should direct your research objective. This should not be confused with a book review or an annotated bibliography both research tools but very different in purpose and scope.  A Literature Review can be a stand-alone element or part of a larger end product, know your assignment.  The key to a good Literature Review is to document your process.

Get to know your Librarian

One of your first steps to starting a Literature Review is to go to the library and meet with a Librarian. Subject Librarians know about your area of study and can assist you in finding topics, books and databases to get your research started.

Liaison Librarians

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Basics of a Literature Review


There are many different ways to organize your references in a literature review, but most reviews contain certain basic elements.

  • The objective of the literature review - Clearly describe the purpose of the paper and state your objectives in completing the literature review.
  • Overview of the subject, issue, or theory under consideration – Give an overview of your research topic and what prompted it.
  • Categorization of sources – Grouping your research either historic, chronologically, or thematically
  • Organization of Subtopics – Subtopics should be grouped and presented in a logical order starting with the most prominent or significant and moving to the least significant
  • Discussion – Provide analysis of both the uniqueness of each source and its similarities with other sources
  • Conclusion  - Summary of your analysis and evaluation of the reviewed works and how it is related to its parent discipline, scientific endeavor, or profession

Literature Reviews: Common Errors Made When Conducting a Literature Review