Public Policy and Administration

A research guide for Public Administration from West Chester University Libraries.

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a systematic, critical review and analysis of published literature on a specific topic or research question. The results of a comprehensive literature review should show connections between published research, identify support or similarities among published research, and identify possible gaps in scholarship. The goal is to analyze the published literature and demonstrate how it connects to the current topic or research at hand.

A literature review should:

  • Contain most important research, past and current, in the field
  • Create a framework that supports the current research
  • Provide contextual and background literature to define the current research

A literature review should not be:

  • An annotated bibliography
  • A research paper
  • A summary of resources
  • Criticism of scholarship
  • A compilation of all published literature on a topic


Steps in Conducting a Literature Review

  1. Define your topic and create a scope for the review.
    • What topics will you cover?
    • How many resources/citations will you gather?
    • Identify published research types - qualitative, quantitative, theoretical
  2. Conduct searches and find literature
    • Create keyword lists based on your topic
    • Systematically search databases and resources relevant to the topic
    • Keep notes on searches - what keywords worked? what keywords did not work? how many results? 
  3. Gather literature
    • Save all potential literature whether in an email folder, OneDrive folder, or a citation tool.
  4. Evaluate the literature
    • Read each study, taking notes and highlighting important findings
    • Retain relevant literature and remove non-relevant literature.
    • Analyze and synthesize findings from literature, making important connections.
  5. Organize the review
    • Create an outline based on similar findings from the literature.
  6. Write the review
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