W RITING A L ITERATURE R EVIEW
What is a literature review?
A literature review is a survey of everything that has been written about a particular topic,
theory, or research question. It may provide the background for larger work, or it may stand on
its own. Much more than a simple list of sources, an effective literature review analyzes and
synthesizes information about key themes or issues.
Book Review Annotated Bibliography Literature Review
Analyzes and evaluates a Summarizes relevant sources Surveys all relevant literature
particular book. and explains the significance to determine what is known
of that source to the research and not known about a
question. particular topic.
Why write a literature review?
1. To discover what has been written about a topic already
2. To determine what each source contributes to the topic
3. To understand the relationship between the various contributions, identify and (if
possible) resolve contradictions, and determine gaps or unanswered questions
What is involved in writing a literature review?
1. Research – to discover what has been written about the topic
2. Critical Appraisal – to evaluate the literature, determine the relationship between the
sources and ascertain what has been done already and what still needs to be done
3. Writing – to explain what you have found
Steps to writing an effective literature review:
Focus your topic: A literature review aims to cover all of the research on a given topic. If the
topic is too large, there will be too much material to cover it adequately.
Read with a purpose: Although you will need to briefly summarize sources, a good literature
review requires that you isolate key themes or issues related to your own
For each book or article consider:
Credentials: Is the author an expert?
Argument/Evidence: Does the evidence support the conclusion? Is the argument or
When comparing sources, consider:
Conclusions: Does all research arrive at the same conclusion or are there differing
opinions? What evidence or reasoning are the differences based on?
Gaps or omissions: What questions are raised by the literature? Writing a Literature Review
The introduction should identify your topic, some discussion of the significance of that topic and
a thesis statement that outlines what conclusion you will draw from your analysis and synthesis
of the literature. If your literature review is part of a larger work, explain the importance of the
review to your research question.
In the body, discuss and assess the research according to specific organizational principles (see
examples below), rather than addressing each source separately. Most, if not all, paragraphs
should discuss more than one source. Avoid addressing your sources alphabetically as this does
not assist in developing the themes or key issues central to your review.
Principle When to Use Example
-When explaining key A literature review of 31 relevant articles published between January