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Literature Reviews

This learning pathway lays out a step-by-step process for undertaking literature reviews.

What is a literature review?

What is a literature review?

What is a literature review?

A literature review:

  • gathers,
  • describes, and
  • critically evaluates

all scholarship including books, articles, and other sources relevant to a particular topic or area of research with the goal of rigorously contextualizing a particular research problem.

What does that mean? Basically, a literature review asks you to look at your topic of research critically – what other research have people done in this area, and why? To what end? Has the area been exhausted, is there room for you to add to the research or are you simply repeating what has already been done? Is there an angle that hasn’t been explored? A literature review allows you to gain a better understanding of your area of research before you dive into the research itself! This is done through critically evaluating the works gathered in your literature review in the context of its contribution to the field of research and their relation to each other.

Why a literature review?

Why do we do literature reviews?

The purpose of a literature review is to determine what has already been done in a field, and what remains to be done. This means you can place your very specific topic in a broader field of knowledge and research or situate it within a historical context.

A literature review allows you to acquire and enhance the subject vocabulary necessary to take on the research! Through the literature review, you’ll learn the “language” of the field of research.

By reading as widely as you can about your particular area, you can articulate important variables and phenomena that are relevant specifically to your field, of which you might not have been aware of before but which are critical to your area of research.

Conducting a literature review allows you to synthesize all of this research so that you can approach your own research with a new and holistic perspective; you can consider the WHOLE scope of the field of research before you get started!