A literature review is ... a careful examination of the literature pertaining to your specific research question or study. It highlights gaps in the field and addresses how your thesis fills those gaps.
A literature review is not ... a summary of the items you have found during your search, or an annotated bibliography. It is generally not an historical review of all of the literature in your specific area.
Remember, literature reviews are iterative, not linear, so you'll most likely find yourself revisiting each of these steps multiple times as you complete your literature review.
Click on the steps below for more information.
Develop a working list of keywords using one of the handouts on this page, and refer to it often. This list of keywords will expand and evolve as you continue your research.
To gather articles, go to the library databases with your list of keywords and related fields. Start with databases in your field, but be sure to look at databases in related fields. Import appropriate articles directly to Zotero or RefWorks. Explore and note the keywords assigned to the best articles, and use those for subsequent searches. Keep a Research Log to refer back to throughout the writing process. Read and critically evaluate these sources, making quick notes in Zotero or RefWorks.
Reid, M., Taylor, A., Turner, J. & Shahabudin, K. (n.d.). University of Reading Study Advice team & LearnHigher CETL (Reading). Starting a literature review. Undertaking a literature review. Developing your literature review.
Teaching and Educational Development Institute of the University of Queensland for the Queensland Higher Education Staff Development Consortium. (1997). Making sense of the literature.
Consult the following sites for additional information about literature reviews.
Use these handouts to organize your keywords and track your research.