Marymount California University Library

Literature Reviews: A How To Guide

Overview of a Literature Review

This video from San Jose State University will give you a brief introduction to writing a literature review .

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Literature Reviews

A literature review is:

A summary or synthesis that evaluates the scholarly published information on a particular topic or subject area, particularly in a defined period of time.  A literature review is a summary of previous research on a topic. 

Keep in mind that both the summary and the evaluative elements are important parts of the review. You cannot conduct a thorough literature review without both. If you just summarize or synthesize past research without evaluating it, you are only reviewing the information . If you just evaluate recent ideas or theories on a particular topic or subject area without summarizing the work conducted to validate those theories, then your evaluations lack not only context but also the evidence supporting those ideas .


Some questions to think about as you develop your literature review:

  • What is known about the subject?
  • Are there any gaps in the knowledge of the subject?
  • Have areas of further study been identified by other researchers that you may want to consider?
  • Who are the significant research personalities in this area?
  • Is there consensus about the topic?
  • What aspects have generated significant debate on the topic?
  • What methods or problems were identified by others studying in the field and how might they impact your research?
  • What is the most productive methodology for your research based on the literature you have reviewed?
  • What is the current status of research in this area?
  • What sources of information or data were identified that might be useful to you?



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