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What is a Literature Review?

What is a Literature Review?

"A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. Occasionally you will be asked to write one as a separate assignment, ..., but more often it is part of the introduction to an essay, research report, or thesis. 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."

--Written by Dena Taylor, Health Sciences Writing Centre and available at (Accessed August 8th, 2011)

Writing the Literature Review sites:

Writing the Literature Reciew: SUNY/Empire State College

Literature Reviews: UNC - Chapel Hill

Write a Literature Review: UC-Santa Cruz 

What are the goals of creating a Literature Review?

  • To develop a new theory
  • To evaluate a theory or theories
  • To survey what’s known about a topic
  • Identify a problem in a field of research 
  • Provide a historical overview of the development of a topic

Type of Literature Reviews:

  • Mature and/or established topic: Topic is well-known and the purpose of this type of review is to analyze and synthesize this accumulated body of research.
  • Emerging Topic:The purpose of this type of review to identify understudy or new emerging research area.