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Literature Review

What is a Literature Review?

Commonly referred to as a “Lit 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. Paraphrases your findings.
    • Remember to use parenthetical references in the text, for example: ...describe recent trends in supervision (Diaz, 2006; Stacey & Holmes, 2004).

Keep in mind that if your literature review stands alone—distinct from a thesis, study or dissertation—it should include a brief introduction and conclusion.

What do we mean by "The Literature"?

The "literature" refers to the works that you are putting in a conversation with each other to explain your research topic. The goal in your literature review is to synthesize and draw connections between the key points in the conversation. To find these key points, you will primarily refer to the following types of publications:

  • Scholarly journals (a.k.a. "peer-reviewed" & "academic")
  • Professional journals
  • Academic books & e-books
  • Research reports
  • Conference proceedings
  • Doctoral dissertations

Literature Review Video Tutorial

A 10-minute overview of what a literature review is and its purpose.

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

Find Sample Literature Reviews

You can search for literature reviews in our databases by searching your topic and adding "literature reviews" as a search term.

For example:

Click the image above to see results