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Literature Review: Writing the Lit Review

This guide will introduce you to the methods of doing a literature review.

Steps in the Process

This section lays out the basic steps involved in conducting and writing a literature review. For more discipline specific guidelines consult the books and website links provided in the final section of this guide.

1. Frame the question and establish the problem and purpose of the literature review

2. Locate the "literature" and identify relevant works

  • Consult the library's Subject Guides to find which databases are most appropriate for researching your topic.

3. Read and take notes on each article. Develop an annotated bibliography summarizing the key points of each article.  

  • Major researchers, journals, and seminal works should begin to emerge through your initial readings. Use the article's references to follow up on more sources you may want to include in your literature review. 

4. Read again, this time critically evaluate each article noting:

  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Themes
  • Theories and methodologies 
  • Major findings
  • Authority and credibility
  • Claims and evidence

5. Interpret, integrate, and synthesize the body of literature under review.

Writing the Literature Review

The basic structure of a literature review consists of:

Introduction

  •  State the topic, purpose, and significance
  •  Provide a brief overview outlining the central points covered 

Body

  • Literature reviews can be organized by theme, chronology, methodology or theory. This will help you to avoid listing and summarizing.
  • Avoid discussing each article separately. Explore relationships and aim to compare/contrast more than one article in most paragraphs.

Conclusion

  • Discuss findings and implications
  • State any areas for further research, i.e. gaps, omissions, inconsistencies, hitherto unexplored aspects
  • If applicable relate the findings to your original research

References