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Literature reviews, what is a literature review, learning more about how to do a literature review.

  • Planning the Review
  • The Research Question
  • Choosing Where to Search
  • Organizing the Review
  • Writing the Review

A literature review is a review and synthesis of existing research on a topic or research question. A literature review is meant to analyze the scholarly literature, make connections across writings and identify strengths, weaknesses, trends, and missing conversations. A literature review should address different aspects of a topic as it relates to your research question. A literature review goes beyond a description or summary of the literature you have read. 

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Literature Reviews

  • What is a literature review?
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  • Define your research question
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  • Synthesize Results
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What is a Literature Review?

A literature or narrative review is a comprehensive review and analysis of the published literature on a specific topic or research question. The literature that is reviewed contains: books, articles, academic articles, conference proceedings, association papers, and dissertations. It contains the most pertinent studies and points to important past and current research and practices. It provides background and context, and shows how your research will contribute to the field. 

A literature review should: 

  • Provide a comprehensive and updated review of the literature;
  • Explain why this review has taken place;
  • Articulate a position or hypothesis;
  • Acknowledge and account for conflicting and corroborating points of view

From  S age Research Methods

Purpose of a Literature Review

A literature review can be written as an introduction to a study to:

  • Demonstrate how a study fills a gap in research
  • Compare a study with other research that's been done

Or it can be a separate work (a research article on its own) which:

  • Organizes or describes a topic
  • Describes variables within a particular issue/problem

Limitations of a Literature Review

Some of the limitations of a literature review are:

  • It's a snapshot in time. Unlike other reviews, this one has beginning, a middle and an end. There may be future developments that could make your work less relevant.
  • It may be too focused. Some niche studies may miss the bigger picture.
  • It can be difficult to be comprehensive. There is no way to make sure all the literature on a topic was considered.
  • It is easy to be biased if you stick to top tier journals. There may be other places where people are publishing exemplary research. Look to open access publications and conferences to reflect a more inclusive collection. Also, make sure to include opposing views (and not just supporting evidence).

Source: Grant, Maria J., and Andrew Booth. “A Typology of Reviews: An Analysis of 14 Review Types and Associated Methodologies.” Health Information & Libraries Journal, vol. 26, no. 2, June 2009, pp. 91–108. Wiley Online Library, doi:10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x.

Meryl Brodsky : Communication and Information Studies

Hannah Chapman Tripp : Biology, Neuroscience

Carolyn Cunningham : Human Development & Family Sciences, Psychology, Sociology

Larayne Dallas : Engineering

Janelle Hedstrom : Special Education, Curriculum & Instruction, Ed Leadership & Policy ​

Susan Macicak : Linguistics

Imelda Vetter : Dell Medical School

For help in other subject areas, please see the guide to library specialists by subject .

Periodically, UT Libraries runs a workshop covering the basics and library support for literature reviews. While we try to offer these once per academic year, we find providing the recording to be helpful to community members who have missed the session. Following is the most recent recording of the workshop, Conducting a Literature Review. To view the recording, a UT login is required.

  • October 26, 2022 recording
  • Last Updated: Oct 26, 2022 2:49 PM
  • URL: https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/literaturereviews

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Grad Coach

What Is A Literature Review?

A plain-language explainer (with examples).

By:  Derek Jansen (MBA) & Kerryn Warren (PhD) | June 2020 (Updated May 2023)

If you’re faced with writing a dissertation or thesis, chances are you’ve encountered the term “literature review” . If you’re on this page, you’re probably not 100% what the literature review is all about. The good news is that you’ve come to the right place.

Literature Review 101

  • What (exactly) is a literature review
  • What’s the purpose of the literature review chapter
  • How to find high-quality resources
  • How to structure your literature review chapter
  • Example of an actual literature review

What is a literature review?

The word “literature review” can refer to two related things that are part of the broader literature review process. The first is the task of  reviewing the literature  – i.e. sourcing and reading through the existing research relating to your research topic. The second is the  actual chapter  that you write up in your dissertation, thesis or research project. Let’s look at each of them:

Reviewing the literature

The first step of any literature review is to hunt down and  read through the existing research  that’s relevant to your research topic. To do this, you’ll use a combination of tools (we’ll discuss some of these later) to find journal articles, books, ebooks, research reports, dissertations, theses and any other credible sources of information that relate to your topic. You’ll then  summarise and catalogue these  for easy reference when you write up your literature review chapter. 

The literature review chapter

The second step of the literature review is to write the actual literature review chapter (this is usually the second chapter in a typical dissertation or thesis structure ). At the simplest level, the literature review chapter is an  overview of the key literature  that’s relevant to your research topic. This chapter should provide a smooth-flowing discussion of what research has already been done, what is known, what is unknown and what is contested in relation to your research topic. So, you can think of it as an  integrated review of the state of knowledge  around your research topic. 

Starting point for the literature review

What’s the purpose of a literature review?

The literature review chapter has a few important functions within your dissertation, thesis or research project. Let’s take a look at these:

Purpose #1 – Demonstrate your topic knowledge

The first function of the literature review chapter is, quite simply, to show the reader (or marker) that you  know what you’re talking about . In other words, a good literature review chapter demonstrates that you’ve read the relevant existing research and understand what’s going on – who’s said what, what’s agreed upon, disagreed upon and so on. This needs to be  more than just a summary  of who said what – it needs to integrate the existing research to  show how it all fits together  and what’s missing (which leads us to purpose #2, next). 

Purpose #2 – Reveal the research gap that you’ll fill

The second function of the literature review chapter is to  show what’s currently missing  from the existing research, to lay the foundation for your own research topic. In other words, your literature review chapter needs to show that there are currently “missing pieces” in terms of the bigger puzzle, and that  your study will fill one of those research gaps . By doing this, you are showing that your research topic is original and will help contribute to the body of knowledge. In other words, the literature review helps justify your research topic.  

Purpose #3 – Lay the foundation for your conceptual framework

The third function of the literature review is to form the  basis for a conceptual framework . Not every research topic will necessarily have a conceptual framework, but if your topic does require one, it needs to be rooted in your literature review. 

For example, let’s say your research aims to identify the drivers of a certain outcome – the factors which contribute to burnout in office workers. In this case, you’d likely develop a conceptual framework which details the potential factors (e.g. long hours, excessive stress, etc), as well as the outcome (burnout). Those factors would need to emerge from the literature review chapter – they can’t just come from your gut! 

So, in this case, the literature review chapter would uncover each of the potential factors (based on previous studies about burnout), which would then be modelled into a framework. 

Purpose #4 – To inform your methodology

The fourth function of the literature review is to  inform the choice of methodology  for your own research. As we’ve  discussed on the Grad Coach blog , your choice of methodology will be heavily influenced by your research aims, objectives and questions . Given that you’ll be reviewing studies covering a topic close to yours, it makes sense that you could learn a lot from their (well-considered) methodologies.

So, when you’re reviewing the literature, you’ll need to  pay close attention to the research design , methodology and methods used in similar studies, and use these to inform your methodology. Quite often, you’ll be able to  “borrow” from previous studies . This is especially true for quantitative studies , as you can use previously tried and tested measures and scales. 

Free Webinar: Literature Review 101

How do I find articles for my literature review?

Finding quality journal articles is essential to crafting a rock-solid literature review. As you probably already know, not all research is created equally, and so you need to make sure that your literature review is  built on credible research . 

We could write an entire post on how to find quality literature (actually, we have ), but a good starting point is Google Scholar . Google Scholar is essentially the academic equivalent of Google, using Google’s powerful search capabilities to find relevant journal articles and reports. It certainly doesn’t cover every possible resource, but it’s a very useful way to get started on your literature review journey, as it will very quickly give you a good indication of what the  most popular pieces of research  are in your field.

One downside of Google Scholar is that it’s merely a search engine – that is, it lists the articles, but oftentimes  it doesn’t host the articles . So you’ll often hit a paywall when clicking through to journal websites. 

Thankfully, your university should provide you with access to their library, so you can find the article titles using Google Scholar and then search for them by name in your university’s online library. Your university may also provide you with access to  ResearchGate , which is another great source for existing research. 

Remember, the correct search keywords will be super important to get the right information from the start. So, pay close attention to the keywords used in the journal articles you read and use those keywords to search for more articles. If you can’t find a spoon in the kitchen, you haven’t looked in the right drawer. 

Need a helping hand?

what is meant by literature research

How should I structure my literature review?

Unfortunately, there’s no generic universal answer for this one. The structure of your literature review will depend largely on your topic area and your research aims and objectives.

You could potentially structure your literature review chapter according to theme, group, variables , chronologically or per concepts in your field of research. We explain the main approaches to structuring your literature review here . You can also download a copy of our free literature review template to help you establish an initial structure.

In general, it’s also a good idea to start wide (i.e. the big-picture-level) and then narrow down, ending your literature review close to your research questions . However, there’s no universal one “right way” to structure your literature review. The most important thing is not to discuss your sources one after the other like a list – as we touched on earlier, your literature review needs to synthesise the research , not summarise it .

Ultimately, you need to craft your literature review so that it conveys the most important information effectively – it needs to tell a logical story in a digestible way. It’s no use starting off with highly technical terms and then only explaining what these terms mean later. Always assume your reader is not a subject matter expert and hold their hand through a journe y of the literature while keeping the functions of the literature review chapter (which we discussed earlier) front of mind.

A good literature review should synthesise the existing research in relation to the research aims, not simply summarise it.

Example of a literature review

In the video below, we walk you through a high-quality literature review from a dissertation that earned full distinction. This will give you a clearer view of what a strong literature review looks like in practice and hopefully provide some inspiration for your own. 

Wrapping Up

In this post, we’ve (hopefully) answered the question, “ what is a literature review? “. We’ve also considered the purpose and functions of the literature review, as well as how to find literature and how to structure the literature review chapter. If you’re keen to learn more, check out the literature review section of the Grad Coach blog , as well as our detailed video post covering how to write a literature review . 

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling short course, Literature Review Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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16 Comments

BECKY NAMULI

Thanks for this review. It narrates what’s not been taught as tutors are always in a early to finish their classes.

Derek Jansen

Thanks for the kind words, Becky. Good luck with your literature review 🙂

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Timothy T. Chol [email protected]

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Hi, Concept was explained nicely by both of you. Thanks a lot for sharing it. It will surely help research scholars to start their Research Journey.

Susan

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Mohamed

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GradCoach is a fantastic site with brilliant and modern minds behind it.. I spent weeks decoding the substantial academic Jargon and grounding my initial steps on the research process, which could be shortened to a couple of days through the Gradcoach. Thanks again!

S. H Bawa

This is an amazing talk. I paved way for myself as a researcher. Thank you GradCoach!

Carol

Well-presented overview of the literature!

Philippa A Becker

This was brilliant. So clear. Thank you

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  • What is a Literature Review? | Guide, Template, & Examples

What is a Literature Review? | Guide, Template, & Examples

Published on 22 February 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 7 June 2022.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research.

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarise sources – it analyses, synthesises, and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

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Table of contents

Why write a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1: search for relevant literature, step 2: evaluate and select sources, step 3: identify themes, debates and gaps, step 4: outline your literature review’s structure, step 5: write your literature review, frequently asked questions about literature reviews, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a dissertation or thesis, you will have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position yourself in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your dissertation addresses a gap or contributes to a debate

You might also have to write a literature review as a stand-alone assignment. In this case, the purpose is to evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of scholarly debates around a topic.

The content will look slightly different in each case, but the process of conducting a literature review follows the same steps. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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what is meant by literature research

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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research objectives and questions .

If you are writing a literature review as a stand-alone assignment, you will have to choose a focus and develop a central question to direct your search. Unlike a dissertation research question, this question has to be answerable without collecting original data. You should be able to answer it based only on a review of existing publications.

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research topic. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list if you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can use boolean operators to help narrow down your search:

Read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

To identify the most important publications on your topic, take note of recurring citations. If the same authors, books or articles keep appearing in your reading, make sure to seek them out.

You probably won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on the topic – you’ll have to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your questions.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models and methods? Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • How does the publication contribute to your understanding of the topic? What are its key insights and arguments?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible, and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can find out how many times an article has been cited on Google Scholar – a high citation count means the article has been influential in the field, and should certainly be included in your literature review.

The scope of your review will depend on your topic and discipline: in the sciences you usually only review recent literature, but in the humanities you might take a long historical perspective (for example, to trace how a concept has changed in meaning over time).

Remember that you can use our template to summarise and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using!

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It’s important to keep track of your sources with references to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography, where you compile full reference information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

You can use our free APA Reference Generator for quick, correct, consistent citations.

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To begin organising your literature review’s argument and structure, you need to understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly-visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat – this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organising the body of a literature review. You should have a rough idea of your strategy before you start writing.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarising sources in order.

Try to analyse patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organise your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources

Theoretical

A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text, your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

If you are writing the literature review as part of your dissertation or thesis, reiterate your central problem or research question and give a brief summary of the scholarly context. You can emphasise the timeliness of the topic (“many recent studies have focused on the problem of x”) or highlight a gap in the literature (“while there has been much research on x, few researchers have taken y into consideration”).

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, make sure to follow these tips:

  • Summarise and synthesise: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole.
  • Analyse and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole.
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources.
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transitions and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts.

In the conclusion, you should summarise the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasise their significance.

If the literature review is part of your dissertation or thesis, reiterate how your research addresses gaps and contributes new knowledge, or discuss how you have drawn on existing theories and methods to build a framework for your research. This can lead directly into your methodology section.

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a dissertation , thesis, research paper , or proposal .

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarise yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your  dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

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  • Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide
  • Introduction

Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide — Introduction

  • Getting Started
  • How to Pick a Topic
  • Strategies to Find Sources
  • Evaluating Sources & Lit. Reviews
  • Tips for Writing Literature Reviews
  • Writing Literature Review: Useful Sites
  • Citation Resources
  • Other Academic Writings

What are Literature Reviews?

So, what is a literature review? "A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. 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." Taylor, D.  The literature review: A few tips on conducting it . University of Toronto Health Sciences Writing Centre.

Goals of Literature Reviews

What are the goals of creating a Literature Review?  A literature could be written to accomplish different aims:

  • To develop a theory or evaluate an existing theory
  • To summarize the historical or existing state of a research topic
  • Identify a problem in a field of research 

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1997). Writing narrative literature reviews .  Review of General Psychology , 1 (3), 311-320.

What kinds of sources require a Literature Review?

  • A research paper assigned in a course
  • A thesis or dissertation
  • A grant proposal
  • An article intended for publication in a journal

All these instances require you to collect what has been written about your research topic so that you can demonstrate how your own research sheds new light on the topic.

Types of Literature Reviews

What kinds of literature reviews are written?

Narrative review: The purpose of this type of review is to describe the current state of the research on a specific topic/research and to offer a critical analysis of the literature reviewed. Studies are grouped by research/theoretical categories, and themes and trends, strengths and weakness, and gaps are identified. The review ends with a conclusion section which summarizes the findings regarding the state of the research of the specific study, the gaps identify and if applicable, explains how the author's research will address gaps identify in the review and expand the knowledge on the topic reviewed.

  • Example : Predictors and Outcomes of U.S. Quality Maternity Leave: A Review and Conceptual Framework:  10.1177/08948453211037398  

Systematic review : "The authors of a systematic review use a specific procedure to search the research literature, select the studies to include in their review, and critically evaluate the studies they find." (p. 139). Nelson, L. K. (2013). Research in Communication Sciences and Disorders . Plural Publishing.

  • Example : The effect of leave policies on increasing fertility: a systematic review:  10.1057/s41599-022-01270-w

Meta-analysis : "Meta-analysis is a method of reviewing research findings in a quantitative fashion by transforming the data from individual studies into what is called an effect size and then pooling and analyzing this information. The basic goal in meta-analysis is to explain why different outcomes have occurred in different studies." (p. 197). Roberts, M. C., & Ilardi, S. S. (2003). Handbook of Research Methods in Clinical Psychology . Blackwell Publishing.

  • Example : Employment Instability and Fertility in Europe: A Meta-Analysis:  10.1215/00703370-9164737

Meta-synthesis : "Qualitative meta-synthesis is a type of qualitative study that uses as data the findings from other qualitative studies linked by the same or related topic." (p.312). Zimmer, L. (2006). Qualitative meta-synthesis: A question of dialoguing with texts .  Journal of Advanced Nursing , 53 (3), 311-318.

  • Example : Women’s perspectives on career successes and barriers: A qualitative meta-synthesis:  10.1177/05390184221113735

Literature Reviews in the Health Sciences

  • UConn Health subject guide on systematic reviews Explanation of the different review types used in health sciences literature as well as tools to help you find the right review type
  • << Previous: Getting Started
  • Next: How to Pick a Topic >>
  • Last Updated: Sep 21, 2022 2:16 PM
  • URL: https://guides.lib.uconn.edu/literaturereview

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Research Methods

  • Getting Started
  • Literature Review Research
  • Research Design
  • Research Design By Discipline
  • SAGE Research Methods
  • Teaching with SAGE Research Methods

Literature Review

  • What is a Literature Review?
  • What is NOT a Literature Review?
  • Purposes of a Literature Review
  • Types of Literature Reviews
  • Literature Reviews vs. Systematic Reviews
  • Systematic vs. Meta-Analysis

Literature Review  is a comprehensive survey of the works published in a particular field of study or line of research, usually over a specific period of time, in the form of an in-depth, critical bibliographic essay or annotated list in which attention is drawn to the most significant works.

Also, we can define a literature review as the collected body of scholarly works related to a topic:

  • Summarizes and analyzes previous research relevant to a topic
  • Includes scholarly books and articles published in academic journals
  • Can be an specific scholarly paper or a section in a research paper

The objective of a Literature Review is to find previous published scholarly works relevant to an specific topic

  • Help gather ideas or information
  • Keep up to date in current trends and findings
  • Help develop new questions

A literature review is important because it:

  • Explains the background of research on a topic.
  • Demonstrates why a topic is significant to a subject area.
  • Helps focus your own research questions or problems
  • Discovers relationships between research studies/ideas.
  • Suggests unexplored ideas or populations
  • Identifies major themes, concepts, and researchers on a topic.
  • Tests assumptions; may help counter preconceived ideas and remove unconscious bias.
  • Identifies critical gaps, points of disagreement, or potentially flawed methodology or theoretical approaches.
  • Indicates potential directions for future research.

All content in this section is from Literature Review Research from Old Dominion University 

Keep in mind the following, a literature review is NOT:

Not an essay 

Not an annotated bibliography  in which you summarize each article that you have reviewed.  A literature review goes beyond basic summarizing to focus on the critical analysis of the reviewed works and their relationship to your research question.

Not a research paper   where you select resources to support one side of an issue versus another.  A lit review should explain and consider all sides of an argument in order to avoid bias, and areas of agreement and disagreement should be highlighted.

A literature review serves several purposes. For example, it

  • provides thorough knowledge of previous studies; introduces seminal works.
  • helps focus one’s own research topic.
  • identifies a conceptual framework for one’s own research questions or problems; indicates potential directions for future research.
  • suggests previously unused or underused methodologies, designs, quantitative and qualitative strategies.
  • identifies gaps in previous studies; identifies flawed methodologies and/or theoretical approaches; avoids replication of mistakes.
  • helps the researcher avoid repetition of earlier research.
  • suggests unexplored populations.
  • determines whether past studies agree or disagree; identifies controversy in the literature.
  • tests assumptions; may help counter preconceived ideas and remove unconscious bias.

As Kennedy (2007) notes*, it is important to think of knowledge in a given field as consisting of three layers. First, there are the primary studies that researchers conduct and publish. Second are the reviews of those studies that summarize and offer new interpretations built from and often extending beyond the original studies. Third, there are the perceptions, conclusions, opinion, and interpretations that are shared informally that become part of the lore of field. In composing a literature review, it is important to note that it is often this third layer of knowledge that is cited as "true" even though it often has only a loose relationship to the primary studies and secondary literature reviews.

Given this, while literature reviews are designed to provide an overview and synthesis of pertinent sources you have explored, there are several approaches to how they can be done, depending upon the type of analysis underpinning your study. Listed below are definitions of types of literature reviews:

Argumentative Review      This form examines literature selectively in order to support or refute an argument, deeply imbedded assumption, or philosophical problem already established in the literature. The purpose is to develop a body of literature that establishes a contrarian viewpoint. Given the value-laden nature of some social science research [e.g., educational reform; immigration control], argumentative approaches to analyzing the literature can be a legitimate and important form of discourse. However, note that they can also introduce problems of bias when they are used to to make summary claims of the sort found in systematic reviews.

Integrative Review      Considered a form of research that reviews, critiques, and synthesizes representative literature on a topic in an integrated way such that new frameworks and perspectives on the topic are generated. The body of literature includes all studies that address related or identical hypotheses. A well-done integrative review meets the same standards as primary research in regard to clarity, rigor, and replication.

Historical Review      Few things rest in isolation from historical precedent. Historical reviews are focused on examining research throughout a period of time, often starting with the first time an issue, concept, theory, phenomena emerged in the literature, then tracing its evolution within the scholarship of a discipline. The purpose is to place research in a historical context to show familiarity with state-of-the-art developments and to identify the likely directions for future research.

Methodological Review      A review does not always focus on what someone said [content], but how they said it [method of analysis]. This approach provides a framework of understanding at different levels (i.e. those of theory, substantive fields, research approaches and data collection and analysis techniques), enables researchers to draw on a wide variety of knowledge ranging from the conceptual level to practical documents for use in fieldwork in the areas of ontological and epistemological consideration, quantitative and qualitative integration, sampling, interviewing, data collection and data analysis, and helps highlight many ethical issues which we should be aware of and consider as we go through our study.

Systematic Review      This form consists of an overview of existing evidence pertinent to a clearly formulated research question, which uses pre-specified and standardized methods to identify and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect, report, and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review. Typically it focuses on a very specific empirical question, often posed in a cause-and-effect form, such as "To what extent does A contribute to B?"

Theoretical Review      The purpose of this form is to concretely examine the corpus of theory that has accumulated in regard to an issue, concept, theory, phenomena. The theoretical literature review help establish what theories already exist, the relationships between them, to what degree the existing theories have been investigated, and to develop new hypotheses to be tested. Often this form is used to help establish a lack of appropriate theories or reveal that current theories are inadequate for explaining new or emerging research problems. The unit of analysis can focus on a theoretical concept or a whole theory or framework.

* Kennedy, Mary M. "Defining a Literature."  Educational Researcher  36 (April 2007): 139-147.

All content in this section is from The Literature Review created by Dr. Robert Larabee USC

Robinson, P. and Lowe, J. (2015),  Literature reviews vs systematic reviews.  Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 39: 103-103. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12393

what is meant by literature research

What's in the name? The difference between a Systematic Review and a Literature Review, and why it matters . By Lynn Kysh from University of Southern California

what is meant by literature research

Systematic review or meta-analysis?

A  systematic review  answers a defined research question by collecting and summarizing all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria.

A  meta-analysis  is the use of statistical methods to summarize the results of these studies.

Systematic reviews, just like other research articles, can be of varying quality. They are a significant piece of work (the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at York estimates that a team will take 9-24 months), and to be useful to other researchers and practitioners they should have:

  • clearly stated objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies
  • explicit, reproducible methodology
  • a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies
  • assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies (e.g. risk of bias)
  • systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies

Not all systematic reviews contain meta-analysis. 

Meta-analysis is the use of statistical methods to summarize the results of independent studies. By combining information from all relevant studies, meta-analysis can provide more precise estimates of the effects of health care than those derived from the individual studies included within a review.  More information on meta-analyses can be found in  Cochrane Handbook, Chapter 9 .

A meta-analysis goes beyond critique and integration and conducts secondary statistical analysis on the outcomes of similar studies.  It is a systematic review that uses quantitative methods to synthesize and summarize the results.

An advantage of a meta-analysis is the ability to be completely objective in evaluating research findings.  Not all topics, however, have sufficient research evidence to allow a meta-analysis to be conducted.  In that case, an integrative review is an appropriate strategy. 

Some of the content in this section is from Systematic reviews and meta-analyses: step by step guide created by Kate McAllister.

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Literature Reviews

What is a literature review.

  • Getting Started
  • Searching the Literature
  • How to Read Scholarly Studies
  • Managing Your Results
  • Assembling Your Review

Jump to Section

  • Selecting a Topic & Scope
  • Identify Keywords to Use in Searching
  • Finding Articles
  • Reading, Note-taking, and Organization
  • Citation Management

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A literature review is a very specific type of academic project. It is not an annotated bibliography. It isn't a research paper. It isn't a comprehensive list of everything ever published on a certain topic. 

Literature reviews are not created to produce new insights. They are written to explore and explain the literature on the topic or issue. 

One of the most important functions of a literature review is to lay the groundwork, provide background and context, for a larger research project such as a Masters thesis or PhD dissertation. Literature reviews often come at the start of scholarly journal articles. In the social sciences and natural sciences, a literature review comprises a section of a scholarly journal article.

Professors in research methods courses often assign standalone literature reviews so that students develop skills in searching, analyzing and organizing scholarly literature in a particular field. 

1. Selecting a Topic & Scope

The first step in any literature review is to identify a topic or subject area you wish to explore, and then setting some parameters to find the scope of your review.

You also need to make sure you select a subject area that has already been researched . It will not be possible to locate sufficient existing literature on a brand new discovery or current event that is being written about in the news right now. It needs to be a well-established research area with existing studies you can review, organize and analyze. Some professors require you to find a topic that has 'not been researched before'. In that case, they don't mean an entire broad topic that hasn't been researched; instead, you'll want to find a sliver of a broad topic that hasn't been researched before. This is where narrowing your topic and finding parameters becomes very important. You may need to do some background reading on several different topics to find one that works, if your professor is having you do a standalone literature review as part of a research methods course.

Ways of Narrowing a Broad topic

For example:

Broad topic: ADHD treatments

Narrowed question: How can neurofeedback be used in threating elementary school-aged children?

Publication Dates

The scope of your review will be a part of refining your topic area or research question. In some disciplines, medicine and health science for example, the publication date of your sources may be extremely important. So, to avoid including outdated clinical recommendations, you may want to limit your review to only the most recent research out there. For other topics, say history or literature, publication date may not be as important - and scholarly research from 20, 30, even 50 years ago may still be relevant and useful today. So it's good idea to consider setting some date ranges for your search, it that is important to your topic.

Whatever your topic area turns out to be, framing the boundaries of your research question ahead of time will make searching and selecting appropriate articles that much easier. 

2. Identify Keywords to Use in Searching

Once you have defined a suitable topic or research question for your review, you will need to create a list of keywords that you will use to search for appropriate studies to include in your review. You will be doing searches through several different databases, Google scholar, or publisher platforms and the terminology used in each may vary. It is especially important to have a good variety of search terms that you can combine in different ways. This will ensure you gather the most relevant sources that cover your topic thoroughly. 

Remember to continue to gather and change your keywords as you read more about your topic!

To start, list synonyms and phrases that have to do with the main words of a research topic:

Example: Is neurofeedback useful in the treatment of ADHD in children?

Now, let's consider the word "useful" in this example topic. What is meant by "useful"? The word itself will not be helpful while searching. Instead, think about what might be useful  in terms of treatment of a child with ADHD. Think about benefits and outcomes and brainstorm a list of words:

3. Finding Articles

Using research guides to find subject specific databases.

For more focused searching of the literature of just one discipline, head over to the Research Guides section of our website. We have  Subject Guides   for all disciplines represented at UTC. Find the subject guide that has most to do with your topic, for example, if you are writing about politics, you'd choose Political Science and Public Service guide. Writing about K-12 schools? Choose Education. Each Subject Guide was created by UTC Librarians and has links to a variety of resources that you have access to.

The databases listed are smaller, specialized search engines that mainly retrieve scholarly articles. You will usually find smaller sets of results for each search you do, but those results will be from a subset of very focused resources.

Subject specific databases are searchable by keywords just like Quick Search. An example is shown in the screenshot below of the APA PsycINFO database using the keywords "neurofeedback therapy" AND "ADHD in children":

APA PsycInfo Database Search:

Example of APA PsycINFO database search screen filled in with keywords "neurofeedback therapy" and "ADHD in Children"

Using the Quick Search

Quick Search is the main search box located in the center of the Library home page. It covers all formats within our collection (physical and electronic, books, films, articles and more).and all subject areas. It is an excellent tool for locating and accessing scholarly content using keyword searches. Below is an example of how to enter your keywords for an effective search, for our sample topic we typed the words "neurofeedback ADHD children behavior problems":

An example of the library's Quick search box using keywords: neurofeedback ADHD children behavior issues for keywords

Quick Search has filters  to narrow to just peer reviewed if you'd like, or you can narrow to a specific format like articles, books, or ebooks. You can also narrow by date. Look for the filters on the left sidebar after you run a search. 

As you browse results. you will notice links below each article that allow you to read the full text on the publisher website. If you decide you would like to use the article in your lit review, download the entire PDF to your device for later use. 

Example search result from library's Quick Search. Highlights finding the PDF full text link.

Using Google Scholar

Click the  Databases button (just below the Quick Search box on library's homepage) and look for Google Scholar under Multisubject Databases. Using Google Scholar through the UTC Library links our library subscriptions to your Google Scholar search results- which allows you to see articles with no paywalls if we have access! 

Google Scholar search results example, highlighting the Get it @UTC button that comes up on the right of the search results. If you see Get it @UTC, use that button to get full access to the article.

4. Reading, Note-taking, and Organization

1. review the how to read a scholarly article guide.

  • Learn about common sections in science and social science articles
  • Strategies and tips for reading start by reading the entire Abstract, and feel free to jump down to Discussion to decide if an article should be included in your paper

2. Save yourself time with good note-taking

As you read each study, take notes about the most important findings, key concepts, debates or areas of controversy and common themes you see. These notes will inform how you approach organizing and writing your literature review.

To keep organized, UTC Librarians recommend using a literature review matrix, or spreadsheet, to keep track of the articles you find as you go.  Add columns for the citation (including the URL of the article), and once you read it, track the authors' research question, methods, findings and themes. Importantly, keep track of notes and quotes as you go, and the page numbers you got them from. You will see themes or facts emerge as you read more and more articles. 

Here's an example Literature Review Matrix for you to view. Download a sample matrix as an Excel file and edit with your own sources.

3. Some ideas on how to compile an outline for your review:

After reading and taking notes on the sources you are including in your literature review, you will probably be able to identify common themes or threads that appear throughout. These recurring threads or themes can be very useful in creating a narrative framework for your review to make it easier for your readers to understand what literature exists, what has been learned, and why it is significant. Using our example of Neurofeedback Therapy for Children with ADHD, we might decide to organize our results something like this:

History of neurofeedback therapy, neurofeedback alone for ADHD, Neurofeedback and mediation intervention for ADHD, positive outcomes and prospects for future research

Other questions you might ask yourself as you decide how to outline your literature review: 

  • What are the major claims being made about the topic? (There may be several)
  • What significant data exists to support / explain the claims?
  • Are there connections between the claims / concepts / evidence?
  • Are there controversies in the literature? 
  • Are there knowledge gaps that have yet to be explored? 

5. Citation Management

For smaller literature review projects, simply keeping a list of your references in Word or Google Docs is probably fine. But for longer projects, or those that are going to form the basis for a thesis or dissertation, many students choose to use citation management software to keep track of, organize, and format their references. The UTC Library supports two main citation management options: Zotero and EndNote. 

Zotero is an open source tool provided by Google. It works well with Chrome and Google Docs and has a really nice, easy to use Chrome extension that allows you to seamlessly add references and full text PDFs to your reference "library" as you do your research. The Library has a guide page that walks you through the basics of downloading, configuring and using Zotero. Visit the link below to get started. 

Zotero Guide Page

EndNote is a very powerful software package with lots of advanced features. It is produced by a commercial publisher and the Library pays a subscription fee to offer it to our students and faculty. It comes in two versions: desktop and cloud-based. (The two versions work together to provide seamless access and redundancy no matter where you are). EndNote can be very labor intensive to configure and use at the beginning, but it offers hundreds of citation styles (most major journals, academic associations and scholarly publishers) and works very well for longer, more complex projects with many references and citations. It integrates really well with Microsoft Word but does not work as well with Google Docs. The Library has basic information on its website about how to download and set up EndNote, but in order to learn it effectively, a workshop or librarian consultation is usually required. Our EndNote information is found a the link below:

EndNote Help Page

The UTC Library is home to a full-service Writing and Communication Center with tutors available to assist you with writing projects at any stage - from outline, to draft, to final manuscript. The WCC has it's own section of the UTC Library website. Check out the link below to learn more about the services they offer and how to go about scheduling an appointment.

UTC Writing and Communication Center

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what is meant by literature research

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How to Write a Literature Review

What's a literature review.

  • Literature Reviews: A Recap
  • Reading Journal Articles
  • Does it Describe a Literature Review?
  • 1. Identify the Question
  • 2. Review Discipline Styles
  • Searching Article Databases
  • Finding Full-Text of an Article
  • Citation Chaining
  • When to Stop Searching
  • 4. Manage Your References
  • 5. Critically Analyze and Evaluate
  • 6. Synthesize
  • 7. Write a Literature Review

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What's a Literature Review? 

A literature review (or "lit review," for short) is an in-depth critical analysis of published scholarly research related to a specific topic. Published scholarly research (aka, "the literature") may include journal articles, books, book chapters, dissertations and thesis, or conference proceedings. 

A solid lit review must:

  • be organized around and related directly to the thesis or research question you're developing
  • synthesize results into a summary of what is and is not known
  • identify areas of controversy in the literature
  • formulate questions that need further research

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Get science-backed answers as you write with Paperpal's Research feature

What is a Literature Review? How to Write It (with Examples)

literature review

A literature review is a critical analysis and synthesis of existing research on a particular topic. It provides an overview of the current state of knowledge, identifies gaps, and highlights key findings in the literature. 1 The purpose of a literature review is to situate your own research within the context of existing scholarship, demonstrating your understanding of the topic and showing how your work contributes to the ongoing conversation in the field. Learning how to write a literature review is a critical tool for successful research. Your ability to summarize and synthesize prior research pertaining to a certain topic demonstrates your grasp on the topic of study, and assists in the learning process. 

Table of Contents

  • What is the purpose of literature review? 
  • a. Habitat Loss and Species Extinction: 
  • b. Range Shifts and Phenological Changes: 
  • c. Ocean Acidification and Coral Reefs: 
  • d. Adaptive Strategies and Conservation Efforts: 
  • How to write a good literature review 
  • Choose a Topic and Define the Research Question: 
  • Decide on the Scope of Your Review: 
  • Select Databases for Searches: 
  • Conduct Searches and Keep Track: 
  • Review the Literature: 
  • Organize and Write Your Literature Review: 
  • Frequently asked questions 

What is a literature review?

A well-conducted literature review demonstrates the researcher’s familiarity with the existing literature, establishes the context for their own research, and contributes to scholarly conversations on the topic. One of the purposes of a literature review is also to help researchers avoid duplicating previous work and ensure that their research is informed by and builds upon the existing body of knowledge.

what is meant by literature research

What is the purpose of literature review?

A literature review serves several important purposes within academic and research contexts. Here are some key objectives and functions of a literature review: 2  

  • Contextualizing the Research Problem: The literature review provides a background and context for the research problem under investigation. It helps to situate the study within the existing body of knowledge. 
  • Identifying Gaps in Knowledge: By identifying gaps, contradictions, or areas requiring further research, the researcher can shape the research question and justify the significance of the study. This is crucial for ensuring that the new research contributes something novel to the field. 
  • Understanding Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks: Literature reviews help researchers gain an understanding of the theoretical and conceptual frameworks used in previous studies. This aids in the development of a theoretical framework for the current research. 
  • Providing Methodological Insights: Another purpose of literature reviews is that it allows researchers to learn about the methodologies employed in previous studies. This can help in choosing appropriate research methods for the current study and avoiding pitfalls that others may have encountered. 
  • Establishing Credibility: A well-conducted literature review demonstrates the researcher’s familiarity with existing scholarship, establishing their credibility and expertise in the field. It also helps in building a solid foundation for the new research. 
  • Informing Hypotheses or Research Questions: The literature review guides the formulation of hypotheses or research questions by highlighting relevant findings and areas of uncertainty in existing literature. 

Literature review example

Let’s delve deeper with a literature review example: Let’s say your literature review is about the impact of climate change on biodiversity. You might format your literature review into sections such as the effects of climate change on habitat loss and species extinction, phenological changes, and marine biodiversity. Each section would then summarize and analyze relevant studies in those areas, highlighting key findings and identifying gaps in the research. The review would conclude by emphasizing the need for further research on specific aspects of the relationship between climate change and biodiversity. The following literature review template provides a glimpse into the recommended literature review structure and content, demonstrating how research findings are organized around specific themes within a broader topic. 

Literature Review on Climate Change Impacts on Biodiversity:

Climate change is a global phenomenon with far-reaching consequences, including significant impacts on biodiversity. This literature review synthesizes key findings from various studies: 

a. Habitat Loss and Species Extinction:

Climate change-induced alterations in temperature and precipitation patterns contribute to habitat loss, affecting numerous species (Thomas et al., 2004). The review discusses how these changes increase the risk of extinction, particularly for species with specific habitat requirements. 

b. Range Shifts and Phenological Changes:

Observations of range shifts and changes in the timing of biological events (phenology) are documented in response to changing climatic conditions (Parmesan & Yohe, 2003). These shifts affect ecosystems and may lead to mismatches between species and their resources. 

c. Ocean Acidification and Coral Reefs:

The review explores the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity, emphasizing ocean acidification’s threat to coral reefs (Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2007). Changes in pH levels negatively affect coral calcification, disrupting the delicate balance of marine ecosystems. 

d. Adaptive Strategies and Conservation Efforts:

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the literature review discusses various adaptive strategies adopted by species and conservation efforts aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change on biodiversity (Hannah et al., 2007). It emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary approaches for effective conservation planning. 

what is meant by literature research

How to write a good literature review

Writing a literature review involves summarizing and synthesizing existing research on a particular topic. A good literature review format should include the following elements. 

Introduction: The introduction sets the stage for your literature review, providing context and introducing the main focus of your review. 

  • Opening Statement: Begin with a general statement about the broader topic and its significance in the field. 
  • Scope and Purpose: Clearly define the scope of your literature review. Explain the specific research question or objective you aim to address. 
  • Organizational Framework: Briefly outline the structure of your literature review, indicating how you will categorize and discuss the existing research. 
  • Significance of the Study: Highlight why your literature review is important and how it contributes to the understanding of the chosen topic. 
  • Thesis Statement: Conclude the introduction with a concise thesis statement that outlines the main argument or perspective you will develop in the body of the literature review. 

Body: The body of the literature review is where you provide a comprehensive analysis of existing literature, grouping studies based on themes, methodologies, or other relevant criteria. 

  • Organize by Theme or Concept: Group studies that share common themes, concepts, or methodologies. Discuss each theme or concept in detail, summarizing key findings and identifying gaps or areas of disagreement. 
  • Critical Analysis: Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each study. Discuss the methodologies used, the quality of evidence, and the overall contribution of each work to the understanding of the topic. 
  • Synthesis of Findings: Synthesize the information from different studies to highlight trends, patterns, or areas of consensus in the literature. 
  • Identification of Gaps: Discuss any gaps or limitations in the existing research and explain how your review contributes to filling these gaps. 
  • Transition between Sections: Provide smooth transitions between different themes or concepts to maintain the flow of your literature review. 

Conclusion: The conclusion of your literature review should summarize the main findings, highlight the contributions of the review, and suggest avenues for future research. 

  • Summary of Key Findings: Recap the main findings from the literature and restate how they contribute to your research question or objective. 
  • Contributions to the Field: Discuss the overall contribution of your literature review to the existing knowledge in the field. 
  • Implications and Applications: Explore the practical implications of the findings and suggest how they might impact future research or practice. 
  • Recommendations for Future Research: Identify areas that require further investigation and propose potential directions for future research in the field. 
  • Final Thoughts: Conclude with a final reflection on the importance of your literature review and its relevance to the broader academic community. 

what is a literature review

Conducting a literature review

Conducting a literature review is an essential step in research that involves reviewing and analyzing existing literature on a specific topic. It’s important to know how to do a literature review effectively, so here are the steps to follow: 1  

Choose a Topic and Define the Research Question:

  • Select a topic that is relevant to your field of study. 
  • Clearly define your research question or objective. Determine what specific aspect of the topic do you want to explore? 

Decide on the Scope of Your Review:

  • Determine the timeframe for your literature review. Are you focusing on recent developments, or do you want a historical overview? 
  • Consider the geographical scope. Is your review global, or are you focusing on a specific region? 
  • Define the inclusion and exclusion criteria. What types of sources will you include? Are there specific types of studies or publications you will exclude? 

Select Databases for Searches:

  • Identify relevant databases for your field. Examples include PubMed, IEEE Xplore, Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. 
  • Consider searching in library catalogs, institutional repositories, and specialized databases related to your topic. 

Conduct Searches and Keep Track:

  • Develop a systematic search strategy using keywords, Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), and other search techniques. 
  • Record and document your search strategy for transparency and replicability. 
  • Keep track of the articles, including publication details, abstracts, and links. Use citation management tools like EndNote, Zotero, or Mendeley to organize your references. 

Review the Literature:

  • Evaluate the relevance and quality of each source. Consider the methodology, sample size, and results of studies. 
  • Organize the literature by themes or key concepts. Identify patterns, trends, and gaps in the existing research. 
  • Summarize key findings and arguments from each source. Compare and contrast different perspectives. 
  • Identify areas where there is a consensus in the literature and where there are conflicting opinions. 
  • Provide critical analysis and synthesis of the literature. What are the strengths and weaknesses of existing research? 

Organize and Write Your Literature Review:

  • Literature review outline should be based on themes, chronological order, or methodological approaches. 
  • Write a clear and coherent narrative that synthesizes the information gathered. 
  • Use proper citations for each source and ensure consistency in your citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.). 
  • Conclude your literature review by summarizing key findings, identifying gaps, and suggesting areas for future research. 

The literature review sample and detailed advice on writing and conducting a review will help you produce a well-structured report. But remember that a literature review is an ongoing process, and it may be necessary to revisit and update it as your research progresses. 

Frequently asked questions

A literature review is a critical and comprehensive analysis of existing literature (published and unpublished works) on a specific topic or research question and provides a synthesis of the current state of knowledge in a particular field. A well-conducted literature review is crucial for researchers to build upon existing knowledge, avoid duplication of efforts, and contribute to the advancement of their field. It also helps researchers situate their work within a broader context and facilitates the development of a sound theoretical and conceptual framework for their studies.

Literature review is a crucial component of research writing, providing a solid background for a research paper’s investigation. The aim is to keep professionals up to date by providing an understanding of ongoing developments within a specific field, including research methods, and experimental techniques used in that field, and present that knowledge in the form of a written report. Also, the depth and breadth of the literature review emphasizes the credibility of the scholar in his or her field.  

Before writing a literature review, it’s essential to undertake several preparatory steps to ensure that your review is well-researched, organized, and focused. This includes choosing a topic of general interest to you and doing exploratory research on that topic, writing an annotated bibliography, and noting major points, especially those that relate to the position you have taken on the topic. 

Literature reviews and academic research papers are essential components of scholarly work but serve different purposes within the academic realm. 3 A literature review aims to provide a foundation for understanding the current state of research on a particular topic, identify gaps or controversies, and lay the groundwork for future research. Therefore, it draws heavily from existing academic sources, including books, journal articles, and other scholarly publications. In contrast, an academic research paper aims to present new knowledge, contribute to the academic discourse, and advance the understanding of a specific research question. Therefore, it involves a mix of existing literature (in the introduction and literature review sections) and original data or findings obtained through research methods. 

Literature reviews are essential components of academic and research papers, and various strategies can be employed to conduct them effectively. If you want to know how to write a literature review for a research paper, here are four common approaches that are often used by researchers.  Chronological Review: This strategy involves organizing the literature based on the chronological order of publication. It helps to trace the development of a topic over time, showing how ideas, theories, and research have evolved.  Thematic Review: Thematic reviews focus on identifying and analyzing themes or topics that cut across different studies. Instead of organizing the literature chronologically, it is grouped by key themes or concepts, allowing for a comprehensive exploration of various aspects of the topic.  Methodological Review: This strategy involves organizing the literature based on the research methods employed in different studies. It helps to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of various methodologies and allows the reader to evaluate the reliability and validity of the research findings.  Theoretical Review: A theoretical review examines the literature based on the theoretical frameworks used in different studies. This approach helps to identify the key theories that have been applied to the topic and assess their contributions to the understanding of the subject.  It’s important to note that these strategies are not mutually exclusive, and a literature review may combine elements of more than one approach. The choice of strategy depends on the research question, the nature of the literature available, and the goals of the review. Additionally, other strategies, such as integrative reviews or systematic reviews, may be employed depending on the specific requirements of the research.

The literature review format can vary depending on the specific publication guidelines. However, there are some common elements and structures that are often followed. Here is a general guideline for the format of a literature review:  Introduction:   Provide an overview of the topic.  Define the scope and purpose of the literature review.  State the research question or objective.  Body:   Organize the literature by themes, concepts, or chronology.  Critically analyze and evaluate each source.  Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the studies.  Highlight any methodological limitations or biases.  Identify patterns, connections, or contradictions in the existing research.  Conclusion:   Summarize the key points discussed in the literature review.  Highlight the research gap.  Address the research question or objective stated in the introduction.  Highlight the contributions of the review and suggest directions for future research.

Both annotated bibliographies and literature reviews involve the examination of scholarly sources. While annotated bibliographies focus on individual sources with brief annotations, literature reviews provide a more in-depth, integrated, and comprehensive analysis of existing literature on a specific topic. The key differences are as follows: 

References 

  • Denney, A. S., & Tewksbury, R. (2013). How to write a literature review.  Journal of criminal justice education ,  24 (2), 218-234. 
  • Pan, M. L. (2016).  Preparing literature reviews: Qualitative and quantitative approaches . Taylor & Francis. 
  • Cantero, C. (2019). How to write a literature review.  San José State University Writing Center . 

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Literature Review: A Definition

What is a literature review, then.

A literature review discusses and analyses published information in a particular subject area.   Sometimes the information covers a certain time period.

A literature review is more than a summary of the sources, it has an organizational pattern that combines both summary and synthesis. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information. It might give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates. And depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant.

But how is a literature review different from an academic research paper?

While the main focus of an academic research paper is to support your own argument, the focus of a literature review is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of others. The academic research paper also covers a range of sources, but it is usually a select number of sources, because the emphasis is on the argument. Likewise, a literature review can also have an "argument," but it is not as important as covering a number of sources. In short, an academic research paper and a literature review contain some of the same elements. In fact, many academic research papers will contain a literature review section. What aspect of the study (either the argument or the sources) that is emphasized determines what type of document it is.

( "Literature Reviews" from The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill )

Why do we write literature reviews?

Literature reviews provide you with a handy guide to a particular topic. If you have limited time to conduct research, literature reviews can give you an overview or act as a stepping stone.

For professionals, they are useful reports that keep them up to date with what is current in the field.

For scholars, the depth and breadth of the literature review emphasizes the credibility of the writer in his or her field. Literature reviews also provide a solid background for a research paper's investigation.

Comprehensive knowledge of the literature of the field is essential to most research papers.

Journal Articles on Writing Literature Reviews

  • Research Methods for Comprehensive Science Literature Reviews Author: Brown,Barry N. Journal: Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship Date: Spring2009 Issue: 57 Page: 1 more... less... Finding some information on most topics is easy. There are abundant sources of information readily available. However, completing a comprehensive literature review on a particular topic is often difficult, laborious, and time intensive; the project requires organization, persistence, and an understanding of the scholarly communication and publishing process. This paper briefly outlines methods of conducting a comprehensive literature review for science topics. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR];
  • Research: Considerations in Writing a Literature Review Authors: Black,K. Journal: The New Social Worker Date: 01/01; 2007 Volume: 14 Issue: 2 Page: 12 more... less... Literature reviews are ubiquitous in academic journals, scholarly reports, and social work education. Conducting and writing a good literature review is both personally and professionally satisfying. (Journal abstract).
  • How to do (or not to do) A Critical Literature Review Authors: Jesson,Jill; Lacey,Fiona Journal: Pharmacy Education Pub Date: 2006 Volume: 6 Issue: 2 Pages:139 - 148 more... less... More and more students are required to perform a critical literature review as part of their undergraduate or postgraduate studies. Whilst most of the latest research methods textbooks advise how to do a literature search, very few cover the literature review. This paper covers two types of review: a critical literature review and a systematic review. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
  • Conducting a Literature Review Authors: Rowley,Jennifer; Slack,Frances Journal: Management Research News Pub Date: 2004 Volume: 27 Issue: 6 Pages:31-39 more... less... Abstract: This article offers support and guidance for students undertaking a literature review as part of their dissertation during an undergraduate or Masters course. A literature review is a summary of a subject field that supports the identification of specific research questions. A literature review needs to draw on and evaluate a range of different types of sources including academic and professional journal articles, books, and web-based resources. The literature search helps in the identification and location of relevant documents and other sources. Search engines can be used to search web resources and bibliographic databases. Conceptual frameworks can be a useful tool in developing an understanding of a subject area. Creating the literature review involves the stages of: scanning, making notes, structuring the literature review, writing the literature review, and building a bibliography.

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What is the Purpose of a Literature Review?

What is the Purpose of a Literature Review?

4-minute read

  • 23rd October 2023

If you’re writing a research paper or dissertation , then you’ll most likely need to include a comprehensive literature review . In this post, we’ll review the purpose of literature reviews, why they are so significant, and the specific elements to include in one. Literature reviews can:

1. Provide a foundation for current research.

2. Define key concepts and theories.

3. Demonstrate critical evaluation.

4. Show how research and methodologies have evolved.

5. Identify gaps in existing research.

6. Support your argument.

Keep reading to enter the exciting world of literature reviews!

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a critical summary and evaluation of the existing research (e.g., academic journal articles and books) on a specific topic. It is typically included as a separate section or chapter of a research paper or dissertation, serving as a contextual framework for a study. Literature reviews can vary in length depending on the subject and nature of the study, with most being about equal length to other sections or chapters included in the paper. Essentially, the literature review highlights previous studies in the context of your research and summarizes your insights in a structured, organized format. Next, let’s look at the overall purpose of a literature review.

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Literature reviews are considered an integral part of research across most academic subjects and fields. The primary purpose of a literature review in your study is to:

Provide a Foundation for Current Research

Since the literature review provides a comprehensive evaluation of the existing research, it serves as a solid foundation for your current study. It’s a way to contextualize your work and show how your research fits into the broader landscape of your specific area of study.  

Define Key Concepts and Theories

The literature review highlights the central theories and concepts that have arisen from previous research on your chosen topic. It gives your readers a more thorough understanding of the background of your study and why your research is particularly significant .

Demonstrate Critical Evaluation 

A comprehensive literature review shows your ability to critically analyze and evaluate a broad range of source material. And since you’re considering and acknowledging the contribution of key scholars alongside your own, it establishes your own credibility and knowledge.

Show How Research and Methodologies Have Evolved

Another purpose of literature reviews is to provide a historical perspective and demonstrate how research and methodologies have changed over time, especially as data collection methods and technology have advanced. And studying past methodologies allows you, as the researcher, to understand what did and did not work and apply that knowledge to your own research.  

Identify Gaps in Existing Research

Besides discussing current research and methodologies, the literature review should also address areas that are lacking in the existing literature. This helps further demonstrate the relevance of your own research by explaining why your study is necessary to fill the gaps.

Support Your Argument

A good literature review should provide evidence that supports your research questions and hypothesis. For example, your study may show that your research supports existing theories or builds on them in some way. Referencing previous related studies shows your work is grounded in established research and will ultimately be a contribution to the field.  

Literature Review Editing Services 

Ensure your literature review is polished and ready for submission by having it professionally proofread and edited by our expert team. Our literature review editing services will help your research stand out and make an impact. Not convinced yet? Send in your free sample today and see for yourself! 

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What Is a Literature Review?

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Olivia Valdes was the Associate Editorial Director for ThoughtCo. She worked with Dotdash Meredith from 2017 to 2021.

what is meant by literature research

  • B.A., American Studies, Yale University

A literature review summarizes and synthesizes the existing scholarly research on a particular topic. Literature reviews are a form of academic writing commonly used in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. However, unlike research papers, which establish new arguments and make original contributions, literature reviews organize and present existing research. As a student or academic, you might produce a literature review as a standalone paper or as a portion of a larger research project.

What Literature Reviews Are Not 

In order to understand literature reviews, it's best to first understand what they are not . First, literature reviews are not bibliographies. A bibliography is a list of resources consulted when researching a particular topic. Literature reviews do more than list the sources you’ve consulted: they summarize and critically evaluate those sources.

Second, literature reviews are not subjective. Unlike some of the other well-known "reviews" (e.g. theater or book reviews), literature reviews steer clear of opinion statements. Instead, they summarize and critically assess a body of scholarly literature from a relatively objective perspective. Writing a literature review is a rigorous process, requiring a thorough evaluation of the quality and findings of each source discussed.

Why Write a Literature Review? 

Writing a literature review is a time-consuming process that requires extensive research and critical analysis . So, why should you spend so much time reviewing and writing about research that’s already been published? 

  • Justifying your own research . If you’re writing a literature review as part of a larger research project , the literature review allows you to demonstrate what makes your own research valuable. By summarizing the existing research on your research question, a literature review reveals points of consensus and points of disagreement, as well as the gaps and open questions that remain. Presumably, your original research has emerged from one of those open questions, so the literature review serves as a jumping-off point for the rest of your paper.
  • Demonstrating your expertise.  Before you can write a literature review, you must immerse yourself in a significant body of research. By the time you’ve written the review, you’ve read widely on your topic and are able to synthesize and logically present the information. This final product establishes you as a trustworthy authority on your topic.
  • Joining the conversation . All academic writing is part of one never-ending conversation: an ongoing dialogue among scholars and researchers across continents, centuries, and subject areas. By producing a literature review, you’re engaging with all of the prior scholars who examined your topic and continuing a cycle that moves the field forward.

​Tips for Writing a Literature Review

While specific style guidelines vary among disciplines, all literature reviews are well-researched and organized. Use the following strategies as a guide as you embark on the writing process.  

  • Choose a topic with a limited scope. The world of scholarly research is vast, and if you choose too broad a topic, the research process will seem never-ending. Choose a topic with a narrow focus, and be open to adjusting it as the research process unfolds. If you find yourself sorting through thousands of results every time you conduct a database search, you may need to further refine your topic .
  • Take organized notes. Organizational systems such as the literature grid are essential for keeping track of your readings. Use the grid strategy, or a similar system, to record key information and main findings/arguments for each source. Once you begin the writing process, you’ll be able to refer back to your literature grid each time you want to add information about a particular source.
  • Pay attention to patterns and trends . As you read, be on the lookout for any patterns or trends that emerge among your sources. You might discover that there are two clear existing schools of thought related to your research question. Or, you might discover that the prevailing ideas about your research question have shifted dramatically several times over the last hundred years. The structure of your literature review will be based on the patterns you discover. If no obvious trends stand out, choose the organizational structure that best suits your topic, such as theme, issue, or research methodology. ​

Writing a literature review takes time, patience, and a whole lot of intellectual energy. As you pore over countless academic articles, consider all the researchers who preceded you and those who will follow. Your literature review is much more than a routine assignment: it's a contribution to the future of your field.

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How to Write a Literature Review

  • What Is a Literature Review

What Is the Literature

  • Writing the Review

The "literature" that is reviewed is the collection of publications (academic journal articles, books, conference proceedings, association papers, dissertations, etc) written by scholars and researchers for scholars and researchers. The professional literature is one (very significant) source of information for researchers, typically referred to as the secondary literature, or secondary sources. To use it, it is useful to know how it is created and how to access it.

The "Information Cycle"

The diagram below is a brief general picture of how scholarly literature is produced and used. Research does not have a beginning or an end; researchers build on work that has already been done in order to add to it, thus providing more resources for other researchers to build on. They read the professional literature of their field to see what issues, questions, and problems are current, then formulate a plan to address one or a few of those issues. Then they make a more focused review of the literature, which they use to refine their research plan. After carrying out the research, they present their results (presentations at conferences, published articles, etc) to other scholars in the field, i.e. they add to the general subject reading ("the literature").

  Research may not have a beginning or an end, but researchers have to begin somewhere. As noted above, the professional literature is typically referred to as secondary sources. Primary and tertiary sources also play important roles in research. Note, though, that these labels are not rigid distinctions; the same resource can overlap categories.

  • Lab reports (yours or someone else's) - Records of the results of experiments.
  • Field notes, measurements, etc (yours or someone else's) - Records of observations of the natural world (electrons, elephants, earthquakes, etc).
  • Journal articles, conference proceedings , and similar publications reporting results of original research.
  • Historical documents - Official papers, maps, treaties, etc.
  • Government publications - Census statistics, economic data, court reports, etc.
  • Statistical data - Measurements (counts, surveys, etc.) compiled by researchers.
  • First-person accounts - Diaries, memoirs, letters, interviews, speeches
  • Newspapers - Some types of articles, e.g. stories on a breaking issue, or journalists reporting the results of their investigations.
  • Published writings - Novels, stories, poems, essays, philosophical treatises, etc
  • Works of art - Paintings, sculptures, etc.
  • Recordings - audio, video, photographic
  • Conference proceedings - Scholars and researchers getting together and presenting their latest ideas and findings
  • Internet - Web sites that publish the author's findings or research; e.g. your professor's home page listing research results. Note: use extreme caution when using the Internet as a primary source … remember, anyone with internet access can post whatever they want.
  • Archives - Records (minutes of meetings, purchase invoices, financial statements, etc.) of an organization (e.g. The Nature Conservancy), institution (e.g. Wesleyan University), business, or other group entity (even the Grateful Dead has an archivist on staff).
  • Artifacts - manufactured items such as clothing, furniture, tools, buildings
  • Manuscript collections - Collected writings, notes, letters, diaries, and other unpublished works.
  • Books or articles - Depending on the purpose and perspective of your project, works intended as secondary sources -- analyzing or critiquing primary sources -- can serve as primary sources for your research.
  • Secondary - Books, articles, and other writings by scholars and researchers reporting their analysis of their primary sources to others. They may be reporting the results of their own primary research or critiquing the work of others. As such, these sources are usually a major focus of a literature review: this is where you go to find out in detail what has been and is being done in a field, and thus to see how your work can contribute to the field.   
  • Summaries / Introductions - Encyclopedias, dictionaries, textbooks, yearbooks, and other sources which provide an introductory or summary state of the art of the research in the subject areas covered. They are an efficient means to quickly build a general framework for understanding a field.
  • Indexes to publications - Provide lists of primary and secondary sources of more extensive information. They are an efficient means of finding books, articles, conference proceedings, and other publications in which scholars report the results of their research.

Work backwards . Usually, your research should begin with tertiary sources:

  • Tertiary - Start by finding background information on your topic by consulting reference sources for introductions and summaries, and to find bibliographies or citations of secondary and primary sources.
  • Secondary - Find books, articles, and other sources providing more extensive and thorough analyses of a topic. Check to see what other scholars have to say about your topic, find out what has been done and where there is a need for further research, and discover appropriate methodologies for carrying out that research. 
  • Primary - Now that you have a solid background knowledge of your topic and a plan for your own research, you are better able to understand, interpret, and analyze the primary source information. See if you can find primary source evidence to support or refute what other scholars have said about your topic, or posit an interpretation of your own and look for more primary sources or create more original data to confirm or refute your thesis. When you present your conclusions, you will have produced another secondary source to aid others in their research.

Publishing the Literature

There are a variety of avenues for scholars to report the results of their research, and each has a role to play in scholarly communication. Not all of these avenues result in official or easily findable publications, or even any publication at all. The categories of scholarly communication listed here are a general outline; keep in mind that they can vary in type and importance between disciplines.

Peer Review - An important part of academic publishing is the peer review, or refereeing,  process. When a scholar submits an article to an academic journal or a book manuscript to a university publisher, the editors or publishers will send copies to other scholars and experts in that field who will review it. The reviewers will check to make sure the author has used methodologies appropriate to the topic, used those methodologies properly, taken other relevant work into account, and adequately supported the conclusions, as well as consider the relevance and importance to the field. A submission may be rejected, or sent back for revisions before being accepted for publication.

Peer review does not guarantee that an article or book is 100% correct. Rather, it provides a "stamp of approval" saying that experts in the field have judged this to be a worthy contribution to the professional discussion of an academic field.

Peer reviewed journals typically note that they are peer reviewed, usually somewhere in the first few pages of each issue. Books published by university presses typically go through a similar review process. Other book publishers may also have a peer review process. But the quality of the reviewing can vary among different book or journal publishers. Use academic book reviews or check how often and in what sources articles in a journal are cited, or ask a professor or two in the field, to get an idea of the reliability and importance of different authors, journals, and publishers.

Informal Sharing - In person or online, researchers discuss their ongoing projects to let others know what they are up to or to give or receive assistance in their work. Conferences, listservs, and online discussion boards are common avenues for these discussions. Increasingly, scholars are using personal web sites to present their work.

Conference Presentations - Many academic organizations sponsor conferences at which scholars read papers, display at poster sessions, or otherwise present the results of their work. To give a presentation, scholars must submit a proposal which is reviewed by those sponsoring the conference. Unless a presentation is published in another venue, it will likely be difficult to find a copy, or even to know what was presented. Some subject specific indexes and other sources list conference proceedings along with the author and contact information.

Conference Papers / Association Papers / Working Papers - Papers presented at a conference, submitted but not yet accepted for publication, works in progress, or not otherwise published are sometimes made available by academic associations. These are often not easy to find, but many are indexed in subject specific indexes or available in subject databases. Sometimes a collection of papers presented at a conference will be published in a book.

Journals - Articles in journals contain specific analyses of particular aspects of a topic. Journal articles can be written and published more quickly than books, academic libraries subscribe to many journals, and the contents of these journals are indexed in a variety of sources so others can easily find them. So, researchers commonly use articles to report their findings to a wide audience, and journals are a good readily available source for anyone researching current information on a topic.

  • Research journals - Articles reporting in detail the results of research.
  • Review journals - Articles reviewing the literature and work done on particular topics.
  • News/Letters journals - News reports, brief research reports, short discussions of current issues.
  • Proceedings/Transactions journals - A common venue for publishing conference papers or other proceedings of academic conferences.
  • General interest magazines - News and other magazines that report scholarly findings for a general, nonacademic audience. These are usually written by journalists (who are usually not academically trained in the field), but sometimes are written by researchers (or at least by journalists with training in the field). Magazines are not peer reviewed, and are usually not academically useful sources of information for research purposes, but they can alert you to work being done in your field and give you a quick summary.
  • Trade journals and magazines - These are written for people working in a particular industry or profession, such as advertising, banking, construction, dentistry, education. Articles are generally written by and for people working in that trade, and focus on current topics and developments in the trade. They do not present academic analyses of their topics, but they can provide useful background or context for academic work if the articles are relevant to your research.

Books - Books take a longer time than articles or conference presentations to get from research to publication, but they can cover a broader range of topics, or cover a topic much more thoroughly. University press books typically go through some sort of a peer review process. There is a wide range of review processes (from rigorous to none at all) among other book publishers.

Dissertations/Theses - Graduate students working on advanced degrees typically must perform a substantial piece of original work, and then present the results in the form of a thesis or dissertation. A master's thesis is typically somewhere between an article and a book in length, and a doctoral dissertation is typically about the length of a book. Both should include extensive bibliographies of their topics. 

Web sites - In addition to researchers informally presenting and discussing their work on personal web pages, there are an increasing number of peer reviewed web sites publishing academic work. The rigor, and even existence, of peer reviewing can vary widely on the web, and it can be difficult to determine the reliability of information presented on the web, so always be careful in relying on a web-based information source. Do your own checking and reviewing to make sure the web site and the information it presents are reliable.

Reference Sources - Subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference sources present brief introductions to or summaries of the current work in a field or on a topic. These are typically produced by a scholar and/or publisher serving as an editor who invites submissions for articles from experts on the topics covered.

How to Find the Literature

Just as there are many avenues for the literature to be published and disseminated, there are many avenues for searching for and finding the literature. There are, for example, a variety of general and subject specific indexes which list citations to publications (books, articles, conference proceedings, dissertations, etc). The Wesleyan Library web site has links to the library catalog and many indexes and databases in which to search for resources, along with subject guides to list resources appropriate for specific academic disciplines. When you find some appropriate books, articles, etc, look in their bibliographies for other publications and also for other authors writing about the same topics. For research assistance tailored to your topic, you can sign up for a Personal Research Session with a librarian.

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what is meant by literature research

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What Is Literature Research?

Literature research refers to the scholarly, critical study of literature, generally for analysis purposes. It is often done as part of a degree program, such as a degree in English, but some people simply choose to study literature on their own as part of a hobby. Basic literature research may also take place in high school, but most students don't really begin diving into true literary analysis until college. For professors of literature, this type of research will generally continue throughout their careers, as they publish scholarly papers on their topics of choice. Many universities require this of their professors.

The methods for literature research are generally fairly similar across the board. An individual wanting to study a certain aspect of a piece of literature, such as a certain theme, piece of imagery, type of characterization, etc., will generally form a question about this idea. It is necessary that the question be debatable in order to produce a truly interesting, worthwhile paper. Then, the individual will begin examining the research that already exists in this topic from other scholarly researchers.

In most cases, the researcher will make sure to study and respond to all sides of a debatable issue when writing his or her own literature research. Of course, it is entirely possible that no one else has written about one specific idea for one specific piece of literature before; in this case, the researcher will need to find related examples for similar ideas or other similar pieces of literature. It is also common practice for literature researchers to compare a few different works to each other; this can be different works by the same author or by different authors.

The process of literary review, critique, and analysis can be lengthy and challenging. It is necessary in literature research for the researcher to add his or her own ideas in addition to the primary and secondary sources she collects for the research. If the research will eventually be published in a scholarly journal, it will be necessary for the piece to go through a lengthy peer review process as well. In this process, the researcher's colleagues will review the piece and offer critical feedback on it to ensure that the piece is the best it can be. Students completing this type of research that will not be published will not need to go through the peer review process, though some instructors will encourage peer reviews in the classroom to get students in practice of critiquing others' work.

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  • What is Jungian Literary Criticism?

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  • By: Chris Hart The classics are a common focus of literary research.
  • By: Chris Tefme Literature research refers to the scholarly, critical study of literature, generally for analysis purposes.
  • By: Syda Productions Literature research may be conducted online.
  • By: daniaphoto College students often review literature research when writing an essay.
  • By: nyul Some instructors strongly encourage peer reviews to get students in practice of critiquing the work of others.
  • By: Kenneth Sponsler Literature research may focus on comparing different texts.
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Princeton University Library

Literature mapping.

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what is meant by literature research

What is Literature Mapping?

Literature mapping is a way of discovering scholarly articles by exploring connections between publications.

Similar articles are often linked by citations, authors, funders, keywords, and other metadata. These connections can be explored manually in a database such as Scopus or by the use of free browser-based tools such as Connected Papers , L itMaps , and Open Knowledge Maps . 

The following is an introduction to these four methods. 

Video Tutorial (24min)

Literature mapping in 30 minutes (slides).

  • Literature Mapping in 30 Minutes Fall 2023 (slides)
  • Next: Manual Mapping >>
  • Last Updated: Dec 15, 2023 3:29 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.princeton.edu/litmapping

IMAGES

  1. What is Literature

    what is meant by literature research

  2. 15 Literature Review Examples (2024)

    what is meant by literature research

  3. literature review article examples Sample of research literature review

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  4. Literature Review: Outline, Strategies, and Examples

    what is meant by literature research

  5. How to Write a Literature Review Complete Guide

    what is meant by literature research

  6. Qualities of an effective literature review in a proposal

    what is meant by literature research

VIDEO

  1. What is Literature Review?

  2. Common Core Literature Standard 7: How can Readers Analyze Literary and Artistic Subjects?

  3. Definition of Literature What is Literature? Literature of Power and Knowledge, Thomas De Quincey

  4. What is meant by literature?What is literature?Why is literature important?

  5. Shakespeare's life Advice 📌#motivational #deepmeaning

  6. Random facts in English#english

COMMENTS

  1. Research Guides: Literature Reviews: What is a Literature Review?

    A literature review is meant to analyze the scholarly literature, make connections across writings and identify strengths, weaknesses, trends, and missing conversations. A literature review should address different aspects of a topic as it relates to your research question. A literature review goes beyond a description or summary of the ...

  2. How to Write a Literature Review

    Examples of literature reviews. Step 1 - Search for relevant literature. Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources. Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps. Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure. Step 5 - Write your literature review.

  3. What is a literature review?

    A literature or narrative review is a comprehensive review and analysis of the published literature on a specific topic or research question. The literature that is reviewed contains: books, articles, academic articles, conference proceedings, association papers, and dissertations. It contains the most pertinent studies and points to important ...

  4. What Is A Literature Review?

    The word "literature review" can refer to two related things that are part of the broader literature review process. The first is the task of reviewing the literature - i.e. sourcing and reading through the existing research relating to your research topic. The second is the actual chapter that you write up in your dissertation, thesis or ...

  5. What is a Literature Review?

    A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research. There are five key steps to writing a literature review: Search for relevant literature. Evaluate sources. Identify themes, debates and gaps.

  6. Literature review

    A literature review is an overview of the previously published works on a topic. The term can refer to a full scholarly paper or a section of a scholarly work such as a book, or an article. Either way, a literature review is supposed to provide the researcher /author and the audiences with a general image of the existing knowledge on the topic ...

  7. Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide

    What kinds of literature reviews are written? Narrative review: The purpose of this type of review is to describe the current state of the research on a specific topic/research and to offer a critical analysis of the literature reviewed. Studies are grouped by research/theoretical categories, and themes and trends, strengths and weakness, and gaps are identified.

  8. Literature Review Research

    Literature Review is a comprehensive survey of the works published in a particular field of study or line of research, usually over a specific period of time, in the form of an in-depth, critical bibliographic essay or annotated list in which attention is drawn to the most significant works.. Also, we can define a literature review as the collected body of scholarly works related to a topic:

  9. What is a Literature Review?

    Literature reviews are not created to produce new insights. They are written to explore and explain the literature on the topic or issue. One of the most important functions of a literature review is to lay the groundwork, provide background and context, for a larger research project such as a Masters thesis or PhD dissertation.

  10. Research Guides: How to Write a Literature Review: What's a Literature

    A literature review (or "lit review," for short) is an in-depth critical analysis of published scholarly research related to a specific topic. Published scholarly research (aka, "the literature") may include journal articles, books, book chapters, dissertations and thesis, or conference proceedings.

  11. Research Guides: Conducting a Literature Review: What is a Literature

    Understanding the Literature Review Before you begin your research, it is important to understand what a literature review is and is not. Take some time to review the purpose and elements of a literature review.

  12. How to Write a Literature Review

    This is meant to be a general guide to writing a literature review: ways to structure one, what to include, how it supplements other research. ... A literature review for a research report is often a revision of the review for a research proposal, which can be a revision of a stand-alone review. Each revision should be a fairly extensive revision.

  13. PDF What is a Literature Review?

    The importance of the literature review is directly related to its aims and purpose. Nursing and allied health disciplines contain a vast amount of ever increasing lit-erature and research that is important to the ongoing development of practice. The literature review is an aid to gathering and synthesising that information. The pur-

  14. What is a Literature Review? How to Write It (with Examples)

    A literature review is a critical analysis and synthesis of existing research on a particular topic. It provides an overview of the current state of knowledge, identifies gaps, and highlights key findings in the literature. 1 The purpose of a literature review is to situate your own research within the context of existing scholarship, demonstrating your understanding of the topic and showing ...

  15. Literature review as a research methodology: An ...

    This paper discusses literature review as a methodology for conducting research and offers an overview of different types of reviews, as well as some guidelines to how to both conduct and evaluate a literature review paper. It also discusses common pitfalls and how to get literature reviews published. 1. Introduction.

  16. What is a Literature Review?

    Likewise, a literature review can also have an "argument," but it is not as important as covering a number of sources. In short, an academic research paper and a literature review contain some of the same elements. In fact, many academic research papers will contain a literature review section.

  17. What is the Purpose of a Literature Review?

    A literature review is a critical summary and evaluation of the existing research (e.g., academic journal articles and books) on a specific topic. It is typically included as a separate section or chapter of a research paper or dissertation, serving as a contextual framework for a study.

  18. What Is a Literature Review?

    A literature review summarizes and synthesizes the existing scholarly research on a particular topic. Literature reviews are a form of academic writing commonly used in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. However, unlike research papers, which establish new arguments and make original contributions, literature reviews organize and present existing research.

  19. What Is the Literature

    The "literature" that is reviewed is the collection of publications (academic journal articles, books, conference proceedings, association papers, dissertations, etc) written by scholars and researchers for scholars and researchers. The professional literature is one (very significant) source of information for researchers, typically referred ...

  20. Literature Research Definition, Theories & Materials

    Research usually means finding something new: a substance, a formula, or an invention. So, literary research means finding something new within a literary work. It really is that simple. Just like ...

  21. What Is Literature Research? (with pictures)

    B. Miller. Literature research refers to the scholarly, critical study of literature, generally for analysis purposes. It is often done as part of a degree program, such as a degree in English, but some people simply choose to study literature on their own as part of a hobby. Basic literature research may also take place in high school, but ...

  22. Overview

    Literature mapping is a way of discovering scholarly articles by exploring connections between publications. Similar articles are often linked by citations, authors, funders, keywords, and other metadata. These connections can be explored manually in a database such as Scopus or by the use of free browser-based tools such as Connected Papers, L ...

  23. What is Literature

    Literature. Definition: Literature refers to written works of imaginative, artistic, or intellectual value, typically characterized by the use of language to convey ideas, emotions, and experiences. It encompasses various forms of written expression, such as novels, poems, plays, essays, short stories, and other literary works.