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Literature Review: About Literature Reviews

Describes what a literature review is and how to conduct a literature review

What is a Literature Review?

"A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. Occasionally you will be asked to write one as a separate assignment, ..., but more often it is part of the introduction to an essay, research report, or thesis. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries."

--Written by Dena Taylor, Health Sciences Writing Centre and available at (Accessed January 10, 2019)

Why Conduct a Literature Review?

Literature reviews can be helpful for the following:

  • Provides background on a topic
  • Explains the importance of a topic within a subject area
  • Ensures your exact research question has not already been studied
  • Identifies relationships between research studies
  • Helps identify gaps in the literature
  • Helps identify areas for further research
  • Helps you identify the seminal scholars and papers on a topic
  • Helps you identify research trends in a field

Types of Literature Reviews

You can complete a literature review about two different types of materials:

  • Mature and/or established topic: Topic is well-known and the purpose of this type of review is to analyze and synthesize this accumulated body of research. 
  • Emerging Topic:The purpose of this type of review to identify understudy or new emerging research area.

A Literature Review is Not...

  • A paragraph about each article you are analyzing
  • A summary of sources - like an annotated bibliography
  • A group of broad, unrelated sources
  • A compilation of everything ever written about a topic
  • A book review or a critique of an article or group of articles

Liaison Librarian

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Jamie Bloss
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