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Literature Reviews

A guide to writing literature reviews.

What is a Literature Review?

Photo of an academic paper, with several passages highlighted

"A literature review is a written overview of what has been said in books, articles, reports, and other types of resources about a particular topic.

Literature reviews are more common in graduate studies (e.g., masters level or PhD studies) than in undergraduate work, but in many courses in bachelor's degree programs, you might be asked by an instructor to provide a report that serves as a literature review.

Literature reviews commonly do one or more of the following things:

  • summarize key ideas or important concepts or themes in the literature (i.e., books, articles, reports) on a particular topic
  • provide some sort of critical analysis of key ideas of the major ideas or themes that are occurring in the literature in a given area
  • reveal what trends may be occurring in the literature in a given area (i.e., what seem to be the ideas most researchers are paying attention to?)
  • show gaps or issues that are not being addressed by books, articles, or reports on a particular topic

Often, literature reviews are used to make a case for your particular study or research project. What commonly happens in literature reviews are the following:

  • stating what main ideas, concepts, or issues have been said in the literature
  • indicating where research may still need to be done
  • arguing or stating that your proposed study or research project aims to 'fill in gaps' or cover new ground"

(From "What is a Literature Review," Vancouver Island University Library)


Material from this guide was reused from Vancouver Island University Library's Literature Reviews research guide.