Literature Reviews

Introduction to Literature Reviews

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Time needed to complete this module: 15 minutes

Learning Objectives: 

  • Define literature review
  • Describe different types of literature reviews
  • Identify methods of writing and synthesizing literature to create a literature review

A literature review seeks to identify, analyze and summarize the published research literature about a specific topic. A literature review surveys and analyzes scholarly articles, books, dissertations, conference proceedings, and other resources that are relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory and provides context for a master’s thesis, Ph.D. dissertation, or published peer-reviewed article or study by identifying past research. 

From the Michigan Library, Literature Review Research Guide

From the UNC Chapel Hill, Public Health LibGuide

Boxes showing connnections between all types of literature, represented by boxes and arrows

Image from NCSU Literature Review Tutorial

“Research is telling a story … and the existing literature is the part of the story told so far.  You have to know where you are before you can go forward.”

-Dr. Jean Classen, NC State University

The purpose of a literature review is to establish what is currently known about a specific topic and to evaluate the strength of the evidence upon which that knowledge is based. A review of a clinical topic may identify implications for clinical practice. Literature reviews also identify areas of a topic that need further research. 

From the UNC Chapel Hill, Public Health LibGuide

From NC State’s Literature Reviews, An Overview for Graduate Students

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