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Literature Reviews

This guide is designed to help you get started researching and writing literature reviews.

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is designed to summarize, synthesize, and discuss the current state of knowledge about a topic. You will survey books, articles, and other sources of information pertinent to your research topic in an effort to critically analyze and synthesize prior research and how it will inform your current research question.

Steely Library at Northern Kentucky University

2:11 Description of a literature review

NCSU Libraries

9:32 Overview of literature reviews for graduate students

Why are literature reviews an important part of research?

There are numerous reasons for completing and writing a literature review, these include: 

  • Literature reviews provide a historical background to the area you are researching;
  • Literature reviews provide a contemporary context in which your research is situated;
  • Literature reviews can introduce theories on which your research is based;
  • Literature reviews can provide definitions to technical terms or other jargon;
  • Literature reviews provide the bigger picture as to where your research fits in the discipline;
  • Literature reviews demonstrate how your research will help fill a gap in prior research.

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