This is the "What is a
literature review?" page of the "Introduction to Literature Reviews" guide.
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An introduction on how to research and write literature reviews.
Last Updated: Sep 16, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

What is a literature review? Print Page


A literature review is a written work that:

  • Compiles significant research published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers;
  • —Surveys scholarly articles, books, dissertations, conference proceedings, and other sources;
  • —Examines contrasting perspectives, theoretical approaches, methodologies, findings, results, conclusions.
  • —Reviews critically, analyzes, and synthesizes existing research on a topic; and,
  • Performs a thorough “re” view, “overview”, or “look again” of past and current works on a subject, issue, or theory.

From these analyses, the writer then offers an overview of the current status of a particular area of knowledge from both a practical and theoretical perspective.

Literature reviews are important because they are usually a required step in a thesis proposal (Master's or PhD). The proposal will not be well-supported without a literature review.
Also, literature reviews are important because they help you learn important authors and ideas in your field. This is useful for your coursework and your writing. Knowing key authors also helps you become acquainted with other researchers in your field.

Look at this diagram and imagine that your research is the "something new." This shows how your research should relate to major works and other sources.

The new research is connected to major works and articles in a way that complements them without duplicating them.



Jonathan Whitfield | Graduate Reference Assistant | 2011-2013


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