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Graduate Research

Literature Reviews

What is a literature review? (Depends on purpose)

  • a section in a research article or academic paper
  • a chapter in a thesis or dissertation
  • a standalone journal article that reviews research on a specific topic

What is the purpose of a literature review? 

  • identify what is known and establish a context for the topic or problem
  • discover the scope of the topic and relevant variables
  • Identify where authors agree/disagree on issues
  • synthesize connections found in ‘the literature’  
  • identify gaps and areas of future research

What types of source should you include in a literature review?

  • scholarly, peer-reviewed research articles
  • might include government reports, conference proceedings, technical reports
  • might also include website information related to specific organizations, etc. (*check committee requirements)

How does a literature review compare to an annotated bibliography

  • annotated bibliographies summarize sources that often scholarly, peer-reviewed articles and books
  • literature reviews synthesize and may also evaluate scholarly, peer-reviewed articles and books to help readers gain a perspective about the status of a topic

The Selected Reading tab in this guide includes resources about conducting literature searches and writing literature reviews.

Sources for Published Literature Review Articles

Several discipline-specific journals publish literature review articles. To find journals, search by the title of the journal using the Online Journals option on the library homepage -- or the library catalog. You can might also search a subject-specific library database and the websites below to locate literature review articles.