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Literature Reviews for the Humanities, Social Sciences, & Sciences: Home

Research Help


Literature reviews integrate and synthesize previous literature in order to provide a new perspective on a topic.  The review describes, summarizes, evaluates, clarifies, and/or integrates the content.

  • A literature review is NOT an annotated bibliography, but an annotated bibliography can serve as the foundation of a literature review by analyzing the individual sources that will become part of the review.
  • Literature reviews can also be referred to as annual reviews, research reviews, integrative reviews, research synthesis, and so forth.  Systematic reviews and meta analysis are specific types of literature reviews.



Literatures reviews can be:

a.  Part of a larger study, which provides a foundation and demonstrates understanding of the academic conversation about the topic.

b.  Freestanding, an overview of a topic which is of value because it indicates future areas of study (points out gaps, highlights central or unresolved issues, bridges related or disparate areas, and offers new perspectives) and identifies key authors and texts.

Characteristics of Literature Review

a.  Focus

b.  Goal

c.  Perspective

d. Coverage

e. Organization

f.  Audience

Source for Definitions and Purpose

Susan Imel. "Writing a Literature Review" in The Handbook of Scholarly Writing and Publishing. Edited by Tonette S. Rocco and Tim Hatcher. (Hoboken: Jossey-Bass, 2011).

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