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Research Methods: Literature Reviews


A literature review involves researching, reading, analyzing, evaluating, and summarizing scholarly literature (typically journals and articles) about a specific topic. The results of a literature review may be an entire report or article OR may be part of a article, thesis, dissertation, or grant proposal. A literature review helps the author learn about the history and nature of their topic, and identify research gaps and problems.

Steps & Elements

Problem formulation

  • Determine your topic and its components by asking a question


  • Research: locate literature related to your topic to identify the gap(s) that can be addressed
  • Read: read the articles or other sources of information
  • Analyze: assess the findings for relevancy
  • Evaluating: determine how the article are relevant to your research and what are the key findings
  • Synthesis: write about the key findings and how it is relevant to your research

Elements of a Literature Review

  • Summarize subject, issue or theory under consideration, along with objectives of the review
  • Divide works under review into categories (e.g. those in support of a particular position, those against, those offering alternative theories entirely)
  • Explain how each work is similar to and how it varies from the others
  • Conclude which pieces are best considered in their argument, are most convincing of their opinions, and make the greatest contribution to the understanding and development of an area of research

Writing a Literature Review Resources

Literature Review Tutorial