This guide is a starting point for anyone new to literature review. It provides information and tips on searching for literature and managing your resources.
What is a literature review?
A literature review is a systematic, comprehensive survey and evaluation of current known/unknown information about a particular research question. It is a discursive process that analyses, connects and identifies biases, inconsistencies and/or controversies among different findings in the field. A comprehensive literature review helps researchers identify unanswered questions and make a case for further studies. Literature review can be a continual process; as more information comes to light, researchers may reassess or reframe their research questions.
Who writes literature reviews?
The humanities, social science and science disciplines use literature reviews to gather and explore prior knowledge, and to identify areas that need further study. These reviews can be part of an undergraduate research paper or a graduate thesis/dissertation; they can also be stand-alone pieces.
If literature review is part of your undergraduate research paper, it is important to ask your instructor for clarification on the following:
Here are some of the reasons for doing a literature review:
Here are some of the necessary skills for conducting a literature review:
Check out North Carolina State Library’s video on literature review. This nine-minute video provides a definition for literature review, the purpose it serves, and what pitfalls to avoid when writing your review. While targeted toward graduate students, it's actually useful for anyone conducting a literature review.