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Chlapaty & Butler Fellows: Literature Reviews

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a critical overview of what has already been researched on a particular topic. A literature review provides a recap of current knowledge of a topic and identifies relevant theories, methods, and finds gaps where further research needs to be conducted.  

Lit Review Checklist

Use this tipsheet to help you conduct the literature review portion of your project.

Helpful Links

Learn How to Write a Review of Literature by University of Wisconsin-Madison's Writing Center

Conduct a Literature Review by University of Arizona Libraries

Literature Review Process

Literature Review Process

How is a Literature Review Different than an Academic Research Paper?

"A literature review is not an academic research paper, an annotated bibliography, or a report on original research. Unlike an academic research paper, the main focus of a literature review is not to develop a new argument. A literature review is an overview of a topic that shows the reader what research has been done on that subject. A literature review may build on an annotated bibliography, but it does more than just summarize each article; a literature review should compare and contrast the ideas each article contains, highlight interesting trends and inconsistencies within the research, and suggest future research that is needed on the topic."

Source: Literature Review; Nova Southeastern University, Florida

'Synthesizing the Literature'

What does 'synthesizing the literature' means? When an individual 'synthesizes the literature' that person compares themes, methods, findings, and inconsistencies across the sources found when researching. Doing this enables the person to show how the articles either differ or relate to one another. Analyzing and organizing different perspectives, ideas, and methods across different sources can be difficult. Using a synthesis matrix can help you organize the main concepts of each source so it's easier to compare the sources to each other.

Example of a synthesis matrix:         

Some things to consider when 'synthesizing literature':

  • The main purpose of each article and how it relates to your topic
  • Methods and findings discussed in the article
  • Similarities and differences among the authors
  • Inconsistencies or controversies within the research

Print & E-Books on Writing Lit Reviews