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A Guide to Conducting Reviews: Literature Review

This LibGuide outlines some of the common types of reviews including literature, systematic, and scoping reviews, and lists some ways by which University Librarians can assist in conducting such reviews.


DefinitionA literature/narrative review identifies, summarizes, and critically analyzes what has been previously published on a specific topic.

Aim: To give readers a comprehensive overview of the topic and to highlight significant areas of research. A literature review can also help identify gaps in the research.

Key characteristicsA literature review has a wide scope and follows a non-standardized methodology. Search strategies, comprehensiveness, and time range vary and do not follow an established protocol.

Structure: A literature review may be chronological (traces a topic's development over time), methodological (compares the results that emerge from using different methods), thematic (addresses different aspects of the topic), or theoretical (discusses various theories, models and concepts). 

Main steps

  • Select a topic (define your research scope)
  • Locate relevant literature (identify key texts)
  • Briefly critique and reflect on view (read key texts, analyze and evaluate critically)
  • Write the paper (synthesize and organize)

Strengths: Sets the context for your research and provides the framework for interpreting the results fo your research. Does not take long time to complete.

Drawbacks/LimitationsThe authors may not clearly state the methodology used, and may be selective in presenting evidence to support a particular, pre-existing view. Selectivity of materials used by the author(s) makes it susceptible to bias.

Source: USU Libraries. (2017, September 26). Conducting a literature review [Video]. YouTube.

Further Reading: e-Books