Adapted with thanks from many sources, using the excellent LibGuide Writing a Literature Review from the University of the Fraser Valley, and Conducting a Literature Review from Michigan State University, as a basis.
Image Source: "Literature Review" by Raul Pacheco-Vega is licensed under CC BY 2.0
A literature review is an evaluative critique of scholarly literature that has been published on a particular subject. The aim of a literature review is to demonstrate that you have read and understood the main trends and concepts in your chosen discipline taking in any contrasting or opposing views. A comprehensive literature review can identify gaps in the literature and provide direction for future research
A literature review is not a summary - it analyses, critically evaluates and synthesises to give a clear picture of the current knowledge base of a subject.
Literature reviews can be part of undergraduate and postgraduate work or a standalone project.
They are necessary for several reasons. They are an essential part of the research process. They give an overview of a topic's theoretical background. Researchers use literature reviews to identify gaps in existing knowledge and to set the context for their research studies. Students can be asked to complete a literature review as part of their course to help them understand a topic more deeply. Writing a literature review can enable a student to demonstrate what they have learned about a topic and further develop their own insights within that topic .
A literature review shows that
If a literature review is part of your undergraduate or postgraduate research paper, it is important to ask your instructor for clarification on the following:
Steps in a literature review
Check out North Carolina State Library’s video on literature reviews. This nine-minute video provides a definition for a literature review, the purpose it serves, and what pitfalls to avoid when writing your review. While targeted toward graduate students, it's useful for anyone conducting a literature review.