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ACAP Library Pathfinder: Literature Review

Learn about the process of searching, choosing, recording and evaluating information for writing a literature review.

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review systematically gathers, examines and critically evaluates the most relevant, recent and scholarly research on a particular topic. A literature review can stand alone or be part of a larger piece of work, such as a report, research proposal or thesis. The process entails: Selecting a topic; searching and choosing relevant literature; developing an argument; surveying and critiquing the evidence; and writing the review.

As you write the literature review, you will refine, focus or even change your topic. Literature reviews can be written in different ways depending on the type of project you are doing but in general, the overall purposes of literature reviews are to:

  • Identify key studies and papers on your topic that illustrate how the subject has been studied previously
  • Identify gaps or controversies in previous research
  • Show respect to previous scholars
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the field
  • Identify and explain key terms and concepts
  • Establish a theoretical framework for your topic
  • Identify methods relevant to your project
  • Show where your research fits in to the existing body of knowledge and position your project in context.

Follow the links below, which contain information that outlines the structure of literature reviews as well as links to resources that will help you write them. The other pages in this guide will lead you through the process of searching, choosing, recording and evaluating information for your literature review.  

Library Resources