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Writing Literature Reviews: What is a "Literature Review"?

What is a "Literature Review"?

Literature reviews:

  • provide a summary of the published academic work on a topic
  • help "make the case" for why someone is writing their paper or conducting their research
  • can be the "background" section of a larger paper or it can be the focus of an entire paper

Goals of a Literature Review

  • provide an overview of the scholarly literature on a chosen topic
    • including the major theories, issues, works, and debates in the field
  • synthesize all this information into an organized summary
  • critique current knowledge of a topic
  • identify aspects of the topic that need further investigation

Plagiarism and Citation

Citation is when you give credit to someone else's ideas, words, creative works, or contributions in your own paper.

Reasons to cite:

  • Give credit the author(s) of the works that you used to write your paper.
  • Avoid plagiarism (which means you are claiming someone else's work as your own. This will get you in big trouble. See the Purdue Online Writing Lab for more information.)
  • Show that you know your topic well and have read and thought about what others have already said.
  • Show your readers where to find the original sources of the information you present so they can read them fully.

When to cite? What to cite?

  • Cite other people's words, ideas and other intellectual property that you use in your papers or that influence your ideas, including things such as books, articles, reports, data/statistics, speeches, academic articles, works of art, songs.
  • Cite direct quotes, facts or statistics AND when you summarize or paraphrase others' ideas.

Helpful Sites on Literature Reviews

Much of the information in this guide and more information can be found on the websites listed on the Helpful Sites tab.


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Elizabeth Novosel