Literature Review

What is a Literature Review?

​A literature review is both a summary and an explanation of the complete and current state of knowledge on a narrowed topic as found in academic books and journal articles.

What are the Purposes of a Literature Review?

  • situate your work in its discipline/area/subfield 
  • develop an understanding of how knowledge in your discipline/field/area has changed over time
  • develop mastery of what's known in your area, and part of the larger discipline that contains it
  • compare different conceptual or sub-disciplinary approaches to your topic
  • compare and contrast different theoretical schools or leading researchers in your area
  • identify methodologies that you might use in your work

Types of Literature Reviews

Keep Track of your searches

Search for pre-existing literature reviews

Some databases include "literature review" as one of the limit options you can set before or after doing your search: your search will retrieve only literature reviews. PsycInfo allows for this under Advanced Search.

However in most databases, you will have to add a term for "literature review" to your search. Other search terms that may be helpful:

  • review article
  • systematic review
  • critical review
  • literature
  • bibliography
  • meta-analysis, meta analysis 
  • re-analysis of data

Guides to literature reviews


Content last reviewed: July 10, 2020