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Write a Literature Review

What is a literature review?

​A literature review is both a summary and explanation of the complete and current state of knowledge on a narrowed topic as found in academic books and journal articles.

You might be asked to write one of two broad kinds of literature reviews: a stand-alone assignment for a course, often as part of your training in the research of your field, or as a part of an introduction to or preparation for a longer work, usually a thesis or research report.

The specific purpose and length of the literature review will vary. One way to understand the differences between these two types is to read published literature reviews or the literature review chapter of theses and dissertations in your own subject area. Analyze the structure of their arguments and note the way they address the issues.

What is the purpose of a literature review?

  • To summarize, evaluate, and compare articles or studies that are relevant and important to your topic 
  • To highlight key findings
  • To identify inconsistencies, gaps, and contradictions in the literature
  • To provide an analysis of the methodologies and approaches of other researchers
  • To provide clues as to where future research is heading or recommend areas on which to focus
  • To ensure you do not duplicate work that has already been done

Parts of a Literature Review

Resources to Help with Writing Your Essay

Guide: Write a University EssayGuide: Study Effectively: Reading CriticallyGuide: Cite Your Sources

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