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The Literature Review

Marian Hampton
What is a literature review?

• Systematic review of the published literature on a specific topic or

research question.
• Designed to analyze-- not just summarize-- scholarly writings that
are related directly to your research question.
• Represents the literature that provides background information on
a given topic, and shows a correspondence between those writings
and your research question.
“The Literature”

• Body of research, scholarly articles, books and other information

sources (e.g. dissertations, conference proceedings) relevant to a
particular issue, area of research, or theory

• A Literature Review is NOT

• Just a Summary of Sources
• Compilation of everything written on a particular topic
• Research paper where you select resources to support one side of an issue
versus another
Types of Literature Reviews

• Different projects involve different kinds of literature reviews

with different kinds and amounts of work
• Research Study
• Senior thesis
• Masters thesis
• Doctoral dissertation
• Research article
• Grant proposal
• Evidence based practice
Stages in a
Literature Review Define the
Write the Research
Review Question

Plan the

Define the Research Question

• Define the Scope of your research question

• POOR -- Why did the chicken cross the road?

• BETTER -- What are some of the environmental factors that occurred in

Pittsburgh, PA between January and February 2015 that would cause a
chicken to cross Forbes Avenue?
• Preliminary Research
• Talk with your Instructor or Advisor
Plan Your Review

• Where does that discipline publish research?

• What sources of information will you consult?
• Don’t ignore paper sources
• How will you keep track of your research?
• Research Log
• Citing Your Sources
• Citation Manager
Research the Literature

• ULS Homepage: http://www.library.pitt.edu

• Subject Specialists: http://library.pitt.edu/subject_specialists
• Getting the Materials
• Get It
• EZBorrow
• Interlibrary Loan
• Other Collections
Analyze the Materials

• Critical analysis of the reviewed works and their relationship to

your research question.
• Critically analyze the relevant literature
• Overall content of the literature
• History of the research
• Theoretical arguments
• Implications of the research
• Identify areas of agreement
• Inconsistencies or conflicting viewpoints
• Any gaps or deficiencies in the research
Write Your Review

• Look at examples within your field

• Talk to your mentor or advisor
• Talk to the Writing Center
• Colleagues

• Literature Review Online Guide

• Writing Center
• Subject Specialists