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Literature Review Basics

What is a literature review?

A literature review is both the process and the product.

  • A literature review is a descriptive, analytic summary of the existing material relating to a particular topic or area of study.
  • The literature review process involves a systematic examination of prior scholarly works.

Bangert-Drowns, R. (2005). Literature review. In S. Mathison (Ed.), Encyclopedia of evaluation. (pp. 232-233). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Why review the literature?

Reference to prior literature is a defining feature of academic and research writing. Why review the literature?

  • To help you understand a research topic
  • To establish the importance of a topic
  • To help develop your own ideas
  • To make sure you are not simply replicating research that others have already successfully completed
  • To demonstrate knowledge and show how your current work is situated within, builds on, or departs from earlier publications

Feak, C. B., Swales, J. M., Swales, J. M., & Feak, C. B. (2009). Telling a research story: Writing a literature review. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press.

Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students by North Carolina State University Libraries

Types of Literature Reviews