A literature review is a systematic review of the published literature on a specific topic or research question. The literature review is designed to analyze-- not just summarize-- scholarly writings that are related directly to your research question. That is, it represents the literature that provides background information on your topic and shows a correspondence between those writings and your research question.
This guide is designed to be a general resource for those completing a literature review in their field.
Different projects involve different kinds of literature reviews with different kinds and amounts of work. And, of course, the "end products" vary.
Keep in mind that a literature review defines and sets the stage for your later research. While you may take the same steps in researching your literature review, your literature review is not:
Not an annotated bibliography in which you summarize each article that you have reviewed. A lit review goes beyond basic summarizing to focus on the critical analysis of the reviewed works and their relationship to your research question.
Not a research paper where you select resources to support one side of an issue versus another. A lit review should explain and consider all sides of an argument in order to avoid bias, and areas of agreement and disagreement should be highlighted.
A literature review is important because it: