Literature Review

This guide provides support for conducting literature reviews.

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is an thorough and up-to-date overview of existing research about the topic being studied.  The literature may come from books, articles, documentaries, interviews, critical reviews, DVDs, or other formats. 

It's a review because it usually contains a summary, synthesis, or analysis of the central arguments in the existing literature on the topic.  A literature review does not present an original argument, but instead presents the arguments of others. The sources are the main focus in a literature review and the author summarizes the arguments or ideas of others. You should include only the most relevant sources on a topic.

The literature review may also include gaps in the literature, identifying areas where further research needs to be completed.


What is the purpose of a literature review?

A literature review can have several purposes.  It can:

  • summarize the existing research on a particular topic
  • introduce the important research on a topic
  • point out contradictory or controversial studies or methodologies
  • raise a question or highlight an issue for further study
  • help to contextualize the current research

Academic Writer


Conducting research literature reviews : from the Internet to paper Q180.55 M4 F56 2010

Citation Manuals

Additional Online Help

OWL - Purdue Online Writing Lab provides examples of Annotated Bibliographies for APA, MLA, and Chicago Styles.

Literature Review Video

Source: David Taylor, University of Maryland University College

Literature Review Tutorial, Part 2

Source: David Taylor, University of Maryland University College