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:
1. Choose your topic, define your question
2. Decide on the scope of your review
3. Select the databases you will use to conduct your searches
4. Conduct your searches and find the literature. Keep track of your searches!
5. Review the literature! This is the most time consuming part.
Remember, a literature review provides an overview of a topic. There may or may not be a method for how studies are collected or interpreted. Lit reviews aren't always obviously labeled "literature review"; they may be embedded within sections such as the introduction or background. You can figure this out by reading the article.
One of the more time intensive aspects of a literature review is deciding how you want to organize the review. There are many directions you can go. Below are suggestions for how you can organize the literature in your literature review. For more detailed information, visit UWF Libraries' Research Guide on the Literature Review: Organizing/Writing.
|Chronologically (by event/trend): Writing about materials based on when they were published. This is only appropriate if there is already a clear path of research and your research adds to this path . EX: Writing a literature review that focuses on continuing research about trends of physician-assisted suicide after Vermont passed the first aide in dying law.
||Thematically (categorically): Literature is organized around a topic or issue rather than the progression of time. This type of review can be organized chronologically but you literature can also fall "out of order" based on the point you are making. For example: The impacts of pet therapy on human health-->the literature review could be organized into sections about emotional, mental, and physiological impacts with literature from any date appearing in all 3 sections.|
|By Publication Date: Order your sources by publication date if the order demonstrates a more important trend. You could order the review of the literature on women's reproductive rights if there is a noticeable shift in policy surrounding your topic.||Methodology: This type of review focuses on the methods used by the researcher. The methods used will influence how the topic is discussed. For example, one methodological approach would be to look at the cultural differences on the portrayal of women's rights in American, European, and Middle Eastern studies (women's reproductive rights may be discussed differently depending on the researcher's cultural bias.)|