Skip to main content

Literature Reviews

What is a Literature Review?

“Lit Review” - What is a Literature Review? 

A literature review is a critical, analytical summary and synthesis of the current knowledge of a topic.  It should:

1.      Have a particular focus or theme to organize the review.

2.      Discuss the significant academic literature important for that focus.

3.      Compare, relate, and contrast different theories and findings.

4.      Reflect trends over time.

5.      Be written in a legible academic style, leading logically from idea to idea.

6.      Paraphrase your findings, use parenthetical references in the text, and an APA reference list at the end.

               Example: …describe recent trends in supervision (Diaz, 2006; Stacey & Holmes, 2004).

7.      If the Lit Review stands alone - distinct from a thesis, study or dissertation - it should include a brief introduction and conclusion.

8.      Establish length, time frame, and specific requirements with instructor or advisor.


What is “The Literature”?

You might think of "the literature" as the scholarly conversation on your research topic. Your goal in your literature review is to synthesize and draw connections between the key points in the conversation, as you see them. To find these key points, you'll be looking for the following types of publication:

Scholarly journals

Professional journals

Academic books & e-books

Research reports

Conference proceedings

Doctoral dissertations




E-Book Guides from the Library

Guides in Sherrill Library

Find Sample Literature Reviews

You can search for literature reviews on various topics in the databases by adding "literature reviews" as a search term.

For example, here's a search you might try in the library discovery tool:

"reading comprehension" AND "literature reviews"

Online Guides

Literature Review Video Tutorial

An excellent 10-minute overview from North Carolina State University

Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students (North Carolina State University Libraries) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Library & Research Help

Designed and maintained by Lesley University Librarians
Website based on LibGuides 2 Customization