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How to do a literature review

This guide will help you do a literature review as either a stand-alone project or as part of a dissertation, thesis, or other research project.

What is a literature review?

The term “literature review” has two related meanings.

A literature review is a process that gathers information on a topic from numerous sources related to that topic.

A literature review is a piece of writing (article, chapter, section of a term paper) that describes, synthesizes, organizes, and/or summarizes information about a topic.

A written literature review can be a stand-alone work.

For instance, some journal articles are literature reviews that summarize or synthesize large bodies of literature on a certain topic.

Depression and Pain Comorbidity: A Literature Review

Proximity and Inter-Organizational Collaboration: A Literature Review

A written literature review can be part of a larger work.

It can be a section of an article or term paper, or a chapter or section of a thesis, dissertation, or book.

Chapter 2 of this dissertation is the literature review: Mathematical Learning Difficulties in Grade 1: The Role and Interrelatedness of Cognitive Processing, Perceptual Skills, and Numerical Abilities. Note that Chapter 2 is the literature review.

This article contains a literature review section on pages 558 - 561. “Dealing with Data: Science Librarians’ Participation in Data Management at Association of Research Libraries’ Institutions.”

Before you start your literature review project, you will likely find it help to look at examples of similar literature reviews in your discipline.