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Literature Review

What is a lit review and how to write one.

What is a Literature Review?

Finding Literature Review Article Examples

Use article databases to identify literature reviews.

See the Library's database page and select a topic on the top left for databases in your area. Select a database and search "literature review" or choose Literature review, Systematic review, or Meta-analysis from the Methodology box on the page (if there is one). Then run search.


For a step by step example of how a basic lit review is done and what the final product looks like:

Steps for Conducting a Lit Review

1. Choose a topic. Define your research question.

  • Make sure your research question is not too broad or too narrow.  Is it manageable?
  • Begin writing down terms that are related to your question. These will be useful for searches later.
  • If you have the opportunity, discuss your topic with your professor.

2. Decide on the scope of your review.

  • How many studies do you need to look at?
  • How comprehensive should it be?
  • How many years should it cover? 

3. Select the databases you will use to conduct your searches.

  • Look at the Library's database page and research guides in your discipline to select discipline-specific databases.  Don't forget to look at books!
  • Make an appointment with or contact your subject librarian to make sure you aren't missing major databases.

4. Conduct your searches and find the literature. Keep track of your searches!

  • Review the abstracts of research studies carefully. This will save you time.
  • Write down the searches you conduct in each database so that you may duplicate them if you need to later (or avoid dead-end searches that you'd forgotten you'd already tried).
  • Use the bibliographies and references of research studies you find to locate others.
  • Ask your professor or a scholar in the field if you are missing any key works in the field.

5. Review the literature.

  • What was the research question of the study you are reviewing? What were the authors trying to discover?
  • Was the research funded by a source that could influence the findings?
  • What were the research methodologies? Analyze its literature review, the samples and variables used, the results, and the conclusions. Does the research seem to be complete? Could it have been conducted more soundly? What further questions does it raise?
  • If there are conflicting studies, why do you think that is?
  • How are the authors viewed in the field? Has this study been cited?; if so, how has it been analyzed?


Presenting Your Literature Review

The overall purpose of your presentation is to share your research process and findings with the class. In all cases, whatever topic you choose for your research, the objective is to stimulate in your listeners an understanding of that topic and how you went about developing that understanding for yourself as a researcher.

The purpose of your talk is to present your research. Keep that goal in mind as you consider what to include and how to organize it.. In the visual portion of your presentation, be sure to include the following:

1)    Title
2)    Your research question
3)    Examples of what you found (results) including
a.    Visual and quantitative information
b.    Important quotes
4)    Your conclusion

Remember to keep your presentation (and your visual material) concise. It is very easy to overwhelm an audience with too much text.  Also, be sure to use a font size that is large enough to read from several feet away.

Presentation considerations.
Five minutes go fast! Therefore, stick with the most important points (details can come in the Q&A session), and be sure to organize your presentation logically. Be sure to practice. Nothing will prepare you better than giving your presentation several times to an audience. Speak slowly, clearly, expressively. Make eye contact. Also make sure your visual really does support your oral presentation and aid your audience!

Concluding your presentation.
End your presentation with a quick summary or suggestion of what’s been gained by your research.  Then be prepared for questions. Be ready with a question of your own in case the audience needs prompting. A crucial part of your presentation is thinking about how to engage the audience. Listen closely, be sure you understand each questioner’s intent, and then answer as directly as possible.


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