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 that you can later apply to your paper, topic.
There are five key steps to writing a literature review:
A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes, and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.
When you write a research paper, you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:
Before searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic.
If you are writing the literature review section of a research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions.
Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. 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 as you discover new keywords in your literature search.
Search for relevant sources
Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. See the database list under the Topic tab.
You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.
Read the abstract to determine 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.
Evaluate and select sources
You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.
For each publication, ask yourself:
Make sure the sources you use are credible, and read any landmark studies and major theories in your research. .