Skip to main content

What Are Literature Reviews?

Literature reviews offer an argument about the state and quality of existing research. By analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information, the writer will identify similarities, differences, trends, and gaps in the research. This type of paper is often used as background or context for a primary research paper.

Levels of Analysis

Briefly describes the main or relevant points of a source.

Critiques and/or interprets what a piece of research means or suggests by considering factors such as its strengths, weaknesses, biases, or tone.

Groups information from multiple sources into categories, themes, or concepts to examine the overall state of knowledge and/or varying perspectives on a topic.

Assesses and draws conclusions about the value of an argument or a piece of research.

Overall Purpose of Literature Reviews

Literature reviews can fulfill one or more of the following purposes. Consider which purpose(s) match your assignment's learning outcomes.

  • Understand what is known (or not known) about a research topic
  • Review how knowledge of a topic has changed over time
  • Present the current understanding of a research topic based on concepts, categories, or themes
  • Compare conceptual approaches to a topic area
  • Evaluate research methodologies
  • Critique theories and perspectives on a topic