literature review introduction
A literature review is a comprehensive summary of previous research on a topic. The literature review surveys scholarly articles, books, and other sources relevant to a particular area of research. The review should enumerate, describe, summarize, objectively evaluate and clarify this previous research. It should give a theoretical base for the research and help you (the author) determine the nature of your research. The literature review acknowledges the work of previous researchers, and in so doing, assures the reader that your work has been well conceived. It is assumed that by mentioning a previous work in the field of study, that the author has read, evaluated, and assimiliated that work into the work at hand.
A literature review creates a “landscape” for the reader, giving her or him a full understanding of the developments in the field. This landscape informs the reader that the author has indeed assimilated all (or the vast majority of) previous, significant works in the field into her or his research.
“A literature review is a written document that presents a logically argued case founded on a comprehensive understanding of the current state of knowledge about a topic of study. This case establishes a convincing thesis to answer the study’s question.”
(Machi, L.A. & McEvoy, B.T. 2009, The literature review: six steps to success , p. 4)
- Write out a clear, detailed statement of your research question.
- Identify the concepts which your research question includes.
- List keywords which describe the concepts including synonyms, acronyms, alternative spellings including American spelling and plurals.
- Identify subject headings which describe the concepts.
- Develop your search strategy using this Search Strategy Worksheet:
Burton, Suzan, and Steane, Peter. Surviving Your Thesis . London: Routledge, 2004.
Welcome! This guide has been created to share resources to help you with conducting a review of the literature. In addition to the resources included in this guide, you should fee free to contact the librarians listed on the right-side of this guide. We are here to help you navigate this sometimes challenging, but very rewarding, process!
You might also find the following guides helpful in locating resources:
- Find research or review articles written by faculty in your department, or on your thesis/dissertation committee, to see how they wrote their lit reviews
- Search in ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, which contains full text dissertations and theses in all fields. Do a search for your topic or a related one and read the literature reviews in some of the resulting documents
- Search a journal article database, such as Academic Search Complete, for your topic plus the word “review” to find standalone literature reviews
- Search Google Scholar for your topic plus the word “review” to find standalone literature reviews
A good starting point is to read some literature reviews in your field and become familiar with the organization and evaluation strategies in them. Here are some ways to find literature reviews: