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How to Conduct a Literature Review: A Guide for Graduate Students

This is a guide to help graduate students successfully find, evaluate, and manage resources for a literature review.

What is a Literature Review?

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review summarizes and synthesizes material on a research topic. It provides a summary of previous research and provides context for the material presented in your thesis. The literature review is your opportunity to show what you understand about your topic area, and distinguish previous research from the work you are doing. For example, your thesis may be building on an existing theory or model and extending it a new direction. It's important to provide context for your project by providing a roadmap to previous literature.

Purpose of a Literature Review

  • Identifies gaps in current knowledge
  • Helps you to avoid reinventing the wheel by discovering the research already conducted on a topic
  • Sets the background on what has been explored on a topic so far
  • Increases your breadth of knowledge in your area of research
  • Helps you identify seminal works in your area
  • Allows you to provide the intellectual context for your work and position your research with other, related research
  • Provides you with opposing viewpoints
  • Helps you to discover research methods which may be applicable to your work

Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students

This section adapted from The Literature Review, by Charles Stuart University Library. Available: