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Conducting a Literature Review


A literature review is a survey of the scholarly literature published on a given issue, research topic, or theory, and provides a description, summary, and critical evaluation of each work. Rather than providing a new research insight, a literature review lays the groundwork for an in-depth research project analyzing previous research. 

Through a literature review, you are building a case to support your thesis.

A cycle of a literature review. Colored boxes form a clockwise circle. They are 1. Identify the question. 2. Review discipline styles. 3. search the literature. 4. manage your references. 5. critically analyze and evaluate. 6. synthesize 7. write literature review.

Graphic from The Literature Review by Machi and McEvoy- originally uploaded by IUPUI University Library.

Okay, but what is "literature"? Published scholarly research (the "literature") may include journal articles, books, dissertations and theses, or conference proceedings.

Break it into 6 steps

These six steps are from the book The Literature Review by Lawrence A. Machi and Brenda T. McEvoy. A literature review can be a daunting process. Use this structure to break it into more manageable chunks- follow the links below, or select the guide pages on the left.

  1. Select a topic

  2. Develop the tools of argumentation

  3. Search the Literature

  4. Survey the Literature (organize!)

  5. Critique the Literature

  6. Write the Review