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Literature Review: Purpose of a Literature Review

Learning to Write a Systematic Review of Literature


The purpose of a literature review is to:

  • Provide foundation of knowledge on topic
  • Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication and give credit to other researchers
  • Identify inconstancies: gaps in research, conflicts in previous studies, open questions left from other research
  • Identify need for additional research (justifying your research)
  • Identify the relationship of works in context of its contribution to the topic and to other works
  • Place your own research within the context of existing literature making a case for why further study is needed.

Videos & Tutorials

VIDEO: What is the role of a literature review in research? What's it mean to "review" the literature? Get the big picture of what to expect as part of the process. This video is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license. License, credits, and contact information can be found here:

Various Types of Literature Reviews

info-graphic with 4 types of Literature Reviews

Elements in a Literature Review

Three Essential Catagories

  1. Simple - A simple literature review is a brief overview of the topic not necessarily purely academic in scope and often uses popular sources (although popular sources are noted so their weight and value can be judged) this review is often just the start of the research process.
  2. Applied - Used mostly in business, government and other professional environments applied literature reviews are more fact finding exorcizes.  Used to look at marketability and profitability they look at change and value objectivity and accuracy in similar projects and programs.   
  3. Academic - Whether stand alone or part of a paper, study, or project the Academic Literature Review requires accuracy, quality resources , objectivity thoroughness and quality analysis but unlike the other two styles the Academic Review requires a depth the others do not. Academic sources not popular should be used and a summery and synthysis of sources usually within a conceptual framework.