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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.