Literature Reviews: How to Research and Write

Literature Reviews

              

Introduction

A Literature Review provides an overview of the scholarly information published to date on a specific topic, summarizing and synthesizing the ideas presented. At the undergraduate level, a Literature Review differs from a research paper in that no new primary research is presented. At the graduate level, literature reviews often constitute a chapter of a thesis or dissertation and place your personal research in the context of published research on a topic.  

The Literature Review differs from an annotated bibliography: it is a narrative document that synthesizes the sources consulted to develop a conclusion. An annotated bibliography simply deals with each resource in turn, describing and evaluating the source in a single paragraph.

Developing a Literature Review

  • Decide on your topic and identify any related issues. Begin with an Overview of the Topic, including the research focus/thesis statement for the review
  • Search relevant databases and library catalogs to Locate Sources
  • Write Annotations for each source, placing it in the context of their contribution to the research on the topic.
  • Organize the Sources into categories - e.g. those that support one position, those against the position, those that offer an alternative thesis.   You may also choose to organize sources in chronological order within your categories
  • Connect Sources - explain how each source relates to other sources
  • Conclusion - discuss which sources are most effective in supporting their position and which sources contribute the most to the understanding and development of the research on the topic

Evaluating Review Sources

  • What are the author's credentials?  Is the author's position supported by scholarly evidence (primary sources, case studies, statistics, peer reviewed research)
  • Is the author objective?  Is the information presented in an unbiased manner?  Is opposing information reviewed in an open manner?
  • Is the author persuasive?  Is the presented position convincing?
  • Is the presented information of value?  Does the author make a signficant contribution to the understanding of the topic?

Literature Review Examples

Undergraduate Psychology Lit Review (pdf) sample from Purdue University Writing Lab

Writing a Short Literature Review
(pdf)  York College, CUNY

Literature Review on Critical Thinking
(pdf) from Gwendolyn Reece, Reference Faculty Member,  American University

Annual Reviews

The Library's Annual Review Database covers ecology, medicine, psychology, public health, and computer science.  Included are reviews of the scholarly literature for a variety of specific topics. All articles are written by experts in the field. These authors carefully examine the primary research done on a topic and then select the major articles in that subject area.

Contact Us

Picture: Lisabeth Chabot
College Librarian
(607) 274-3182

Searching for Lit Reviews in Databases

Many of the library's databases provide access to Literature Reviews. These articles can be used to research and develop a current Literature Review on a topic.

Academic Search Premier, Business Source Premier, Communication & Mass Media Complete (CMMC), MEDLINE, SocINDEX with Full Text
Limit Your Results to "Scholarly Journals" and include "Literature Review" as a "Title" word



Biological Abstracts
Enter "Literature Review" and select "Document Type"



CINAHL (Nursing & Allied Health Database)
Enter "Systematic Review" and Select "Publication Type"



ERIC (Education Database) 
Enter "literature reviews" and select "Descriptors"



Google Scholar (Advance Search)
Enter "literature review" as an exact phrase 




PsycARTICLES (Psychology Database)
Enter your subject and "literature review"  and select "Methodology"



ProQuest Databases
Enter "literature review"  and select "Document Type"


Sage Full Text Collections (Communications, Health Sciences, Psychology, Sociology)
Enter "Review" and Select "Title"



ScienceDirect
Select "Journals" and enter "Literature Review" in the 2nd box and choose "Abstract, Title, Keywords" from the drop-down menu.



SPORTDiscus
Enter "Systematic Review" and Select  "Title"