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How to Write a Literature Review

What is a Literature Review?


A Literature Review surveys scholarly source materials that are relevant to a person's research thesis/problem and/or a particular issue or theory. It also provides a critical analysis that summarizes and synthesizes the source materials while also demonstrating how a person's research pertains to or fits within the larger discipline of study.

The author of a literature review first determines a question about existing research. At a basic level, the author wants to know what has been written on a particular research topic. After formulating a question, the author sets out to find the relevant research. For a traditional literature review, it is not necessary that the author find everything written on a particular topic. Instead, the author will select a representative sample of articles, and write a literature review that explains and examines the scope of research that exists on this topic. 


Literature Reviews vary from discipline to discipline as well as across assignments, but generally a good literature review is designed to help you answer 2 questions:

  • What do we know about this particular issue, theory or subject?
  • What do we not know about this particular issue, theory or subject?

Good literature reviews also:

  • Evaluate the context of scholarly material for its contribution to the understanding of the research thesis being studied.
  • Explain the relationships between each of the works under deliberation.
  • Identify gaps in previous research. 
  • Define new ways to interpret research within a discipline.
  • Address conflicts found in contradictory research previously conducted.
  • Identify the need for additional research.

Writing a Review in 3 Easy Steps