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Literature Review

What is a Literature Review?

Image of resources and writing

A literature review is a summary and evaluation of significant documents and developments on a topic. Completing a literature review will ensure a good understanding of a topic.

Start by identifying key documents on a topic and compile a bibliography or list. Gather significant documents relating to your topic, including books, journal articles, newspaper articles, etc. Use journal citation reports to help identify frequently referenced articles.

Depending of the type of literature review being conducted you might need anywhere from 5-50 references. An undergraduate review could require anywhere from 5-20 titles, depending on the type of assignment, while a thesis would require more in depth knowledge of a topic, with 20-50 references or more. Ask your instructor for specific details.

Group the literature into key themes and theories and use these grouping as headings to organize your writing.

A literature review can be a stand-alone document, or it may be part of the introduction of an essay or thesis, providing an overview of key themes and context for the larger report.

The introduction presents the topic of research, address any controversies and provide background information and history of the topic.

The body can be broken down into headings related to themes, theories and trends in the literature. Each heading should summarize and evaluate the literature for its contributions, and identify any strengths, weaknesses, contradictions and gaps in the research.

The conclusion summarizes key concepts and trends found in the literature. The conclusion may indicate what contributions your research will make and/or suggest possibilities for future studies.

A literature review that is an introductory part of an essay or thesis should conclude by indicating what contributions your research will make to the field. The conclusion of a stand-alone literature review should suggest practical applications for the research and possibilities for future studies in the field. It may also be accompanied by an annotated bibliography, briefly summarizing each source.

Components of a Literature Review

  1. Find Sources
    • Finding Books
    • Finding Articles
    • Search Citators
  2. Evaluate Sources
    • Evaluate Your Sources
    • Cite Your Findings
    • Article Citation Numbers
  3. Organize Information
    • Organize Information into Sections
    • Analyse
    • Draw Conclusions
  4. Write
    • Types of Literature Reviews
    • Introduction
    • Body
    • Conclusion

Creative Commons License

This guide was created by Ontario Tech Libraries and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0 License, except where otherwise noted. 

Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0 License

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