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How to Conduct a Literature Review


Conducting a literature review has many different purposes. In some instances, a literature review is done in order to give background information to a research paper. In scientific papers, it serves the purpose of letting readers know what type of similar research has already been conducted on a specific topic, and why new research is necessary. Regardless of the purpose, a literature review can add to the credibility of a paper, and as a stand-alone document, it can be a valuable resource to professionals who wish to keep abreast in their field of expertise.

Learn what a literature review is. Many people mistakenly think that a literature review is simply a review of a text. This is not true. A literature review refers to a collection of material on a specific topic, generally written within a specific time frame. While a literature review is occasionally meant to stand on its own, it is more often done in effort to provide background information for a research or scientific paper.

Decide what type of literature review you will be conducting. If the literature review is meant to stand by itself, choose a topic of interest and a time frame to review. This type of literature review is generally meant to keep professionals in a particular field up to date on what is currently being written in their area of expertise. If the literature review is meant to accompany a scientific or research paper, choose the best literature available on the particular topic you are studying, as a literature review used in this capacity is meant to give credibility to the author of an academic paper.

Determine the scope of the reviews you will be composing. A review can simply be a summary of a source that gives all of the important information highlighted by a specific text. It can be an evaluation of the sources available on a particular topic, offering recommendations as to which sources are the best. It can also be an interpretation of old material with new ideas or new information, as well as the tracking of intellectual progression in a certain field of study. The scope of your reviews will be determined by the type of literature review you have chosen to write.

Obtain the texts required to conduct the literature review. Ensure that the credibility and quality of the sources are high. Use scholarly and academic sources whenever possible. Consult with a librarian if you need assistance finding or obtaining quality information sources.

Read and review sources. The style, breadth and scope of your literature review will be determined by your reasons for conducting it and the purpose it serves.

About the Author

Kara Allison received her bachelor's degree in English and comparative literature from the University of Cincinnati and her master's degree in library and information science from Kent State University. She is currently employed as an academic librarian in Cincinnati, Ohio. Allison has been a contributing writer for various websites since 2007.