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Write a Literature Review

Steps to Completing a Literature Review

Introduction to Lit Reviews

A literature review is a summary and evaluation of significant research on a particular subject.  Lit reviews are often at the beginning of a larger research article, to introduce a topic and provide its history and development, but they could also stand on their own as separate publications.

Purpose of Lit Reviews:

  • Provide context for a research paper
  • Explore the history and development of a topic
  • Examine the scholarly conversation surrounding the topic
  • Shows relationships between studies
  • Examines gaps in research on the topic

Lit reviews are not just summaries of the different articles written on a topic; they should take a critical eye to published research to provide insight on the topic.

What counts as "literature"?

"Literature" covers everything relevant that is written on a topic: books, journal articles, newspaper articles, historical records, government reports, theses and dissertations, etc.  However, your professor may have specific guidelines as to what type of materials you may include.

A literature review follows a different style, format and structure from a research article.

  Lit Review Article Research Article
Describes what? Reports on the work of others. Reports on the authors' original research.
Purpose To examine and evaluate previous literature.

To test a hypothesis and/or make an argument.

May include a short literature review to introduce the subject.


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