A Literature Review or “A Review of the Literature” is a survey of existing scholarly writings or published knowledge on a particular topic. It is not an analysis of a single work of literature (e.g. analysis of Moby Dick) but rather a survey, summary, critical analysis, comparison, and synthesis of multiple scholarly works addressing a specific subject area.
Conducting a literature review is part of the research process and serves to establish a base of knowledge and overview of the principle works on a specific area of research as well as identify important themes, discoveries, areas of consensus and debate, changes over time, and provide a foundation for further research. There are multiple lit review types and methodologies which vary by discipline and the particular requirements of your assignment.
What is the purpose of a literature review? It is probable that at some point in your professional career inside or outside of academia you will be required to undertake a literature review. A lit review may be required as part of any research proposal such as a senior thesis or dissertation or as part of a grant application. Many professions utilize lit reviews prior to implementation of important projects. Lit reviews are also critical in fields which experience rapid change and require knowledge of the most current research and practice. And of course personal curiosity is as good a reason as any! This guide will show you how to find existing lit reviews, help you to start writing your own lit review, and point you to other helpful sources.