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EXSC 211: Introduction to Research: Lit Review Basics

What is "the literature"?

You'll often hear "explore the literature" or "what does the literature say?"  So, what is "the literature?"

Most simply put, "the literature" is a collection of scholarly writings on a topic. This includes:

  • peer-reviewed journal articles
  • books
  • conference proceedings
  • dissertations

How do you know when you are done researching?

Are you seeing the same articles over and over?

What is a Literature Review?

  • A literature review is a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the principal research about the topic being studied.
  • The review helps form the intellectual framework for the study.
  • The review need not be exhaustive; the objective is not to list as many relevant books, articles, reports as possible.
  • However, the review should contain the most pertinent studies and point to important past and current research and practices in the field.

Purpose of a Literature Review

A literature review serves several purposes. For example, it

  • provides thorough knowledge of previous studies; introduces seminal works.
  • helps focus one’s own research topic.
  • identifies a conceptual framework for one’s own research questions or problems; indicates potential directions for future research.
  • suggests previously unused or underused methodologies, designs, quantitative and qualitative strategies.
  • identifies gaps in previous studies; identifies flawed methodologies and/or theoretical approaches; avoids replication of mistakes.
  • helps the researcher avoid repetition of earlier research.
  • suggests unexplored populations.
  • determines whether past studies agree or disagree; identifies controversy in the literature.
  • tests assumptions; may help counter preconceived ideas and remove unconscious bias.

Ask Me for Help

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Karen Brunner
O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library |
Room 118