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Strategy: Literature Reviews

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Strategy: Literature Review

Does your assignment or publication require that you write a literature review? This guide is intended to help you understand what a literature is, why it is worth doing, and some quick tips composing one.  

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What is a literature review?

Typically, a literature review is a written discussion that examines publications about  a particular subject area or topic. 


A Literature Review provides an overview of selected sources on a topic.

Depending on disciplines, publications, or authors a literature review may be:  

  • a summary of sources
  • an organized presentation of sources
  • a synthesis or interpretation of sources
  • an evaluative analysis of sources

A Literature Review may be part of a process or a product

It may be: 

  • a part of your research process
  • a part of your final research publication
  • an independent publication

Why do a literature review?

The Literature Review will place your research in context

It will help you and your readers: 

  • Locate  patterns, relationships, connections, agreements, disagreements, & gaps in understanding
  • Identify methodological and theoretical foundations
  • Identify landmark and exemplary works
  • Situate your voice in a broader conversation with other writers, thinkers, and scholars

The Literature Review will aid your research process. 

It will help you to: 

  • establish your knowledge
  • understand what has been said
  • define your questions
  • establish a relevant methodology
  • refine your voice
  • situate your voice in the conversation

What does a literature review look like?

The Literature Review structure and organization


  • an introduction or overview
  • a body or organizational sub-divisions
  • a conclusion or an explanation of significance

The body of a literature review may be organized: 

  • chronologically: organized by date of publication 
  • methodologically: organized by type of research method used 
  • thematically: organized by concept, trend, or theme 
  • ideologically: organized by belief, ideology, or school of thought

Mountain Top By Alice Noir for the Noun ProjectTips:

  • Find a focus
  • Find models
  • Review your target publication
  • Track citations 
  • Read critically
  • Manage your citations
  • Ask friends, faculty, and librarians

 Mountains by Alice Noir from the Noun Project