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Writing a Literature Review: Home

In This Guide

Get the most from this guide by using the tabs above or click on the links below.

In this guide:

  • Purpose -- why write a literature review?
  • Development -- ideas to help you formulate your literature review
  • Abstract -- formatting an abstract for a literature review, AMA and APA information
  • Literature Search
  • Resources -- helpful sites and resources from the library and an area to contribute helpful sites you find

Definitions

Primary source materials are original research papers written by the experimenter (hint: look for purpose, method, and results in the abstract).  A literature review should look at primary source materials.

Secondary source materials generally summarize original research papers written by others.  Examples of secondary source materials are review articles, or a description of a treatment in a textbook.  Secondary source materials can lead to relevant primary source materials and provide an example of a literature review to examine.

Tertiary source materials systematically analyze or critically review scientific papers.  A meta-analysis is an example of a tertiary source material.

Systematic reviews are literature reviews structured by explicit and auditable protocol.  They contain:

  • a specific problem for which the review is being performed
  • one or more research purposes/questions targeting that problem
  • the sources of research that will be reviewed
  • specifics on the search process
  • specific metrics for selecting sources
  • techniques used to evaluate the sources
  • techniques used to analyze and synthesize the findings in the sources

Meta-analyses are systematic reviews which use a quantitative way of statistically summarizing and comparing the results of the studies reviewed.

Argumentative Review:  literature supports or opposes an argument, assumption, or problem established within the literature
    

Integrative Review: a review that synthesizes the literature such that new perspectives on the topic are introduced.
     

Historical Review: looks at research throughout a time period, examining trends, evolution, developments--often pointing to future direction for research.
     

Methodological Review: reviews the method of analyses used in studies--can highlight problems, ethical issues to be aware of in research to be conducted.
    

Theoretical Review: looks at theories surrounding a concept/issue/phenomena establishing current thinking, degree of investigation regarding the theories, relationships between them, shortcomings, or emerging research problems unanswered by current theories.

What Is A Literature Review?

A literature review looks at key published material (scholarly articles, books, pamphlets, etc.) on a particular issue, area of research, or theory and provides not only a summary of the source, but also a critical evaluation.  Each source is summarized, synthesized, and often evaluated.  More than a mere summary of the sources, it highlights what is and is not known, identifies controversy surrounding a topic, formulates questions that need further research, linking the known literature to how your research adds to the larger field of study.

                     

APA

American Psychological Association (APA)

Literature Reviews:  ...including research syntheses and meta-analyses, are critical evaluations of material that has already been published.

Meta-analyses:  ...authors use quantifative procedures to statistically combine the results of studies.