Literacy Coaching Program


When you start a literature review, you will be using multiple databases, reference lists, etc.... Carefully read and take notes from the scholarly sources that you've found.  Reading research articles can be daunting.

Remember that your goal is to show how your research question fits into the existing scholarly conversation.  To accomplish that goal, you might decide to organize your review by date (discussing the various studies in the order that they were performed) or by subtopic (discussing those that are most similar together). 

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a written summary of the existing published research on a topic.   A literature review can be brief (a section in a larger article) or it can be an entire article unto itself.   The purpose of a literature review is to provide an overview of the current knowledge on a topic, and/or to provide a context for new research.

To find literature reviews:

  • Scholarly publications (especially peer reviewed articles) will always include at least a brief literature review in their introduction and discussion sections. 

  • Theses and dissertations should include a detailed literature review.  Once you find one, look through its headings. Literature reviews are typically located at the beginning. Some examples of headings that include a literature review might be:

    • Background

    • ​​Introduction

    • Literature Review

    • Overview

    • Survey of the Literature

    • Review of the Literature

  • Use keywords to narrow your search to literature reviews.  For example:

  • developmental kindergartens AND literature review
  • developmental kindergartens AND systematic review
  • A few databases will let you limit your search to literature reviews only. You'll typically find this "document type" or "publication type" option in the database's advanced search options.

Subject Guide

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Trish Lenkowski
F H Green Library room 115
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