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Research Guide for Preparing a Literature Review: Home


Not to be confused with a book review, a literature review:

  • Distills the existing literature in a subject field
  • Summarizes the state of the art
  • Identifies areas in which further research would be beneficial
  • Leads seamlessly to research proposals

Jennifer Rowley, and Frances Slack. (2004). "Conducting a Literature Review." Management Research News 27.6, 31-39.


Adapted with permission and thanks from Write a Literature Review, originally created by Kenneth Lyons, McHenry Library, University of California, Santa Cruz and How to Write a Literature Review at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Many thanks to Penny Pugh for her editorial comments and content suggestions.

Definition and Use / Purpose

A literature review may constitute an essential chapter of a thesis or dissertation, or may be a self-contained review of writings on a subject. In either case, its purpose is to:

  • Place each work in the context of its contribution to the understanding of the subject under review
  • Describe the relationship of each work to the others under consideration
  • Identify new ways to interpret, and shed light on any gaps in, previous research
  • Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous studies
  • Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication of effort
  • Point the way forward for further research
  • Place one's original work (in the case of theses or dissertations) in the context of existing literature

The literature review itself, however, does not present new primary scholarship.