A Literature Review Is Not:
So, what is it then?
A literature review is an integrated analysis-- not just a summary-- of scholarly writings that are related directly to your research question. That is, it represents the literature that provides background information on your topic and shows a correspondence between those writings and your research question.
A literature review may be a stand alone work or the introduction to a larger research paper, depending on the assignment. Rely heavily on the guidelines your instructor has given you.
Why is it important?
A literature review is important because it:
Your literature review should be guided by a central research question. Remember, it is not a collection of loosely related studies in a field but instead represents background and research developments related to a specific research question, interpreted and analyzed by you in a synthesized way.
How many studies do you need to look at? How comprehensive should it be? How many years should it cover?
Tip: This may depend on your assignment. How many sources does the assignment require?
Make a list of the databases you will search. Remember to include comprehensive databases such as WorldCat and Dissertations & Theses, if you need to.
Where to find databases:
Some questions to help you analyze the research: Tips:
Some questions to help you analyze the research:
The most common way that literature reviews are organized it by theme. Think of "themes" are the different subheadings you will use. Within each subheadhing, you should clarify how that section relates to other articles within the other sections of your paper.
Your lit review is theme based, not author based. This template shows examples of the different ways that articles can contribute to a discussion of each theme. It is your job to draw conclusions from the relationships between the articles
Imagine that each theme is a bucket and each source fits into one bucket. The same source may fit into multiple themes and buckets.
Images from: Cisco, J. (2014). Teaching the literature review: A practical approach for college instruction. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 2(2), 41-57.