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Literature Reviews

Writing the review

Note that literature reviews differ greatly depending upon the format and discipline, so you will want to defer to your specific requirements as outlined by your professor and / or on the syllabus. Generally, however, literature reviews will encompass the following parts.


  • Defines and identifies the topic and establishes the reason for the literature review. 

  • Points to general trends in what has already been published on the topic. 

  • Explains the criteria used in analyzing and comparing articles (especially vital for "systematic reviews"). 


  • Groups articles into thematic clusters, or subtopics. Clusters may be grouped together chronologically, thematically, or methodologically. 

  • Proceeds in a logical order from cluster to cluster. 

  • Emphasizes the main findings or arguments of the articles in your own words. Keep direct quotations from sources to an absolute minimum


  • Summarizes main themes that emerged in the review and identifies areas of conflict or controversy in the literature. 

  • Pinpoints strengths and weaknesses among the articles (innovative methods used, gaps, problems with theoretical frameworks, etc). 

  • Concludes by formulating questions that need further research within the topic and provides some insight into the relationship between that topic and the larger field of study or discipline.