The Literature Review
The section of a report or scholarly journal article that presents a detailed summary of existing research on a specific topic is formally known as the literature review. Literature reviews are surveys (reviews) of research (literature) on a particular subject. There are two primary purposes for such surveys: (1) to provide the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the scholarly work that has been done regarding a particular topic; and (2) to identify areas within that body of research that have yet to be fully explored.
Literature reviews are unlike most other types of investigation-based writing in that they are not discussions of ideas in which the writer inserts his or her own opinion and analysis of the concepts presented, but rather reports of ideas. In fact, the literature review writer must avoid inserting his or her opinions or analyses, as the literature review is intended to be a neutral overview of existing research.
In addition to being neutral, the literature review must be direct. In keeping with the report-style writing mentioned above, a literary report should be written in straightforward and concise language and should strive for impeccable clarity.
The literature review must also be thorough. It must be thorough in the sense that it must encompass all of the relevant research existing on a single topic, and it must be thorough in the sense that every study discussed must be completely explained. This means that the process, outcomes, and implications of each study included must be addressed.
The literature review must be well-organized. Each study presented in the review should have its own paragraph or set of paragraphs. The review should progress in a general-to-specific order, such that the beginning pages of the review deal with concepts that contextualize and explain the review topic and the later pages address more nuanced aspects of the topic.
The literature review must be properly cited. Literature reviews are comprised entirely of secondary research. Therefore, there will be dozens and possibly hundreds of citations throughout the text. Each of these must be properly documented both in the text and in a list of works cited at the end of the document. The citation style used for this documentation will vary depending on the discipline in which the literature review is being composed.
Finally, literature reviews must be carefully proofread. Both the writer and an outside reader should examine the document several times to check for grammar, spelling, and style errors.
Premium Papers Involving "The Literature Review"
How-to Videos on Collegiate Writing