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Organizing a Literature Review: What is a Lit Review

What is a literature review?

What is a literature review?

A literature review surveys all the available literature on a topic, from books, journal articles, conference proceedings, and other sources, to identify items that are relevant to the current work. The lit review establishes credibility by demonstrating that the authors are aware of previous work in the field.

A typical literature review accomplishes many of the following:

  •     Discusses and analyses previously published research
  •     Places the current work in the context of earlier related research
  •     Summarizes the findings from its sources
  •     Interprets and combines interpretations of research results
  •     Traces intellectual progression of research in the field
  •     Distinguishes what has been done from what needs to be done
  •     Identifies relationships between ideas and practices
  •     Establishes the context of the topic
  •     Rationalizes the significance of the problem
  •     Defines subject vocabulary
  •     Relates ideas and theory to applications
  •     Identifies main methodologies and research techniques that have been used

Many articles do not label the section as a literature review.  Some reviews are included in the Introduction section or are labeled as "works cited" or other variations.  When in doubt, look for the section that has the densest concentration of footnotes or endnotes.


The Literature Review sections in these articles serve as good examples.  Connect through the VPN if off campus.

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For more assistance with your literature review, contact or email your subject librarian.

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