This guide is designed to:
A literature review is a summary and synthesis of scholarly research on a specific topic. It should answer questions such as:
The process of reviewing existing research allows you to fine-tune your research question and contextualize your own work. Preparing a literature review is a cyclical process. You may find that the research question you begin with evolves as you learn more about the topic.
Once you have defined your research question, focus on learning what other scholars have written on the topic.
In order to do a thorough search of the literature on the topic, define the basic criteria:
One strategy is to review bibliographies for sources that relate to your interest. For more on this technique, look at the tutorial on finding articles when you have a citation.
As you read sources, themes will emerge that will help you to organize the review. You can use a simple Synthesis Matrix to track your notes as you read. From this work, a concept map emerges that provides an overview of the literature and ways in which it connects. Working with Zotero to capture the citations, you build the structure for writing your literature review.
|Citation||Concept/Theme||Main Idea||Notes 1||Notes 2||Gaps in the Research||Quotation||Page|
A key indicator for knowing when you are done is running into the same articles and materials. With no new information being uncovered, you are likely exhausting your current search and should modify search terms or search different catalogs or databases. It is also possible that you have reached a point when you can start writing the literature review.
These citation management tools also create citations, footnotes, and bibliographies with just a few clicks:
Your literature review should be focused on the topic defined in your research question. It should be written in a logical, structured way and maintain an objective perspective and use a formal voice.
Review the Summary Table you created for themes and connecting ideas. Use the following guidelines to prepare an outline of the main points you want to make.
The three elements of a literature review are introduction, body, and conclusion.
This guide was designed to:
Content on this page adapted from:
Frederiksen, L. and Phelps, S. (2017). Literature Reviews for Education and Nursing Graduate Students. Licensed CC BY 4.0
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