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Literature Reviews

A how to guide on literature reviews.

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is the writing process of summarizing, synthesizing and/or critiquing the literature found as a result of a literature search. It may be used as background or context for a primary research project.

There are several reasons to review the literature:

  • Identify the developments in the field of study
  • Learn about the information sources and the research methodologies
  • Find gaps in the literature that can become research questions
  • Validate the originality of a research project
  • Evaluate the methods
  • Identify errors to avoid
  • Highlight the strengths, weaknesses and controversies in the field of study
  • Identify the subject experts

When writing your review, there are objectives you should keep in mind:

  • Inform the audience of the developments in the field
  • Establish your credibility
  • Discuss the relevance and significance of your question(s)
  • Provide the context for your methodological approach
  • Discuss the relevance and appropriateness of your approach.

‚ÄčThe level of detail or comprehensiveness of your literature review may depend on many things, but especially the purpose and audience of your review. For example, if you're writing a literature review that will aid you in writing a thesis or dissertation, you may want to have a very comprehensive lit review that reviews all relevant literature on a topic, as well as relevant sources beyond what is immediately and freely available (e.g. foundational scholarly articles not available through library collections).

Purpose of a Literature Review

Watch this YouTube video to understand the purpose of a literature review.