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Literature Review

Page history last edited by scsporto@gmail.com 7 years, 10 months ago

Below you will find several notes that help you understand what a literature review is...

READ all of them carefully.

They provide a better understanding of the role of the literature review section in your RESEARCH PROJECT...


From Stella...

The proposed structure for the research project mirrors somewhat a dissertation. It is true that we don't expect all of you to do a full dissertation, but you could consider that this project should be somewhat like a mini-dissertation, without a strong novelty when it comes to the theme/topic (in the sense that we don't require you to create new knowledge, although many students do that to some extent).


A literature review is a common component of a dissertation. It "refers to that section [of the dissertation] in which one identifies and describes the scholarly studies that others have done about the topic of the dissertation". (Bryant, 2004, p.62) As you say, as you research you are reviewing the literature, and this section captures that. It is a way of separating your own analysis (your findings, reflections, discussion) from the background literature that will support your analysis. Wikipedia, has a nice definition too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literature_review

In the case of the research project, we expect that you will  cover some of the underlying theory and basic knowledge of the topics or areas that support your own discussion. This is why we are pushing students to have a research question or a thesis to support. The literature review will give a panorama of what scholars are saying about a topic or topics, and in the analysis or discussion question, you will work on integrating such elements, as well as analyzing them as they help you respond to your specific research question or support a certain thesis.


Bryant, M. (2004). The Portable Dissertation Advisor. Corwin Press. Thousand Oaks, California.


The following note was composed by Linda Smith on Tue Feb 02 17:23:29 EST 2010 and has been forwarded to you by Stella Porto.

Stella referred to this project as a "mini-dissertation." In a dissertation, the Literature Review is a separate section, even though you might have a number of other references cited throughout the paper. The Literature Review provides background and support for your research. It might provide, for example, the theoretical orientation, a historical review of past research, the status of current work in the area, and so on--what you need to include depends on the project you define. The Literature Review informs your audience that you are knowledgeable about your topic and are aware of what work has already been done (or not). It also can provide justification (i.e., identify a need) for what you plan to do. Sometimes a Literature Review reveals that little, if any, attention has been paid to your topic; however, there still will be material that provides background and support for what you are doing.

I hope this helps.



The following note was composed by Eli Collins-Brown on Wed Feb 23 21:59:03 EST 2011

Typically the lit review is about the research you've already read about your topic and how it connects to your research question. Every research article has a lit review, just look a couple up and read through the first couple of pages and you'll see what a lit review is. 

You will also cite other resources that you have either already found or will find to support your conclusions, so the lit review does not need to include everything that you've research thus far.

I found this on the unc.edu website "A literature review can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information. It might give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates. And depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant." http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/literature_review.html

And this from UC Santa Cruz: "Not to be confused with a book review, a literature review surveys scholarly articles, books and other sources (e.g. dissertations, conference proceedings) relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, providing a description, summary, and critical evaluation of each work. The purpose is to offer an overview of significant literature published on a topic." http://library.ucsc.edu/help/howto/write-a-literature-review

Hopefully this helps,


The following note was composed by Brenda Ledford on Fri Feb 18 17:31:46 EST 2011

Writing Tip: 1 A Literature Review


This tip is to reiterate a few things about the literature review. The literature review is not merely a summary of the source being reviewed. The following links provide a handout on Literature Reviews from the University of Santa Cruz Writing center and a pdf of Purdue’s Owl literature review sample. Also, a detailed discussion on literature reviews for the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.


In summary: the purpose of a literature review is to:

  • convey how each resource contributes to the understanding of your topic
  • LR describes the resources reviewed to the other resources you are reviewing
  • You LR  needs to  identify  any gaps in the research that has already been conducted
  • Illuminates conflicts or problems that the literature reveals and perhaps show ow those areas have been resolved
  • organizes previous research (for example by theme, trends, methodology of study, or perhaps chronologically)
  • once you have identified a gap, explicitly state where your research paper will  fit and what it will contribute to the  overall literature and  discussion.


Consider organizing your literature review as follows:

I. overview of the  subject and  state the objectives of this literature review

II. place the  resources review within  categories: by theme, trend, methodology, etc.

III. explain the similarities and differences in the works and comment  on  which will be  of most use to  your own  paper’s  topic.


When evaluating each resource consider these:

  1. Author’s credentials. Does the author use evidence, if so what kind (case studies, narratives, statistics, etc.)
  2. what is the object of the  source reviewed- its purpose and to  whom is it directed. Does the  author show any  bias? Is conflicting data considered or ignored- how does this impact the conclusions?
  3. Does the  source contribute to the  field of research or restate previous findings? What specifically  does this  source contribute? Are there any  gaps or areas not considered that are important for further understanding ? How do these relate to your own research in the  field?





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