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Literature Reviews

This guide explains what a literature review is and includes links to example literature reviews, along with search tips

What is a Literature Review?

Definition/Brief Explanation

"A literature review is an essay that surveys, summarizes, links together, and assesses research in a given field. It surveys the literature by reviewing a large body of work on a subject; it summarizes by noting the main conclusions and findings of the research; it links together works in the literature by showing how the information fits into the overall academic discussion and how the information relates to one another; it assesses the literature by noting areas of weakness, expansion, and contention." 

-Source: "What is a Literature Review", Ebling Library at University of Wisconsin-Madison


5 Key Differences Between a Literature Review and Writing a More Standard Paper:

1. A literature review is broader in scope. You will need more sources than a typical paper/project. 

2. Recording your search words is important so others can reproduce your work. It is also important to vary your search words/change your search strategy throughout the process to make sure that nothing is being missed. 

3. A literature review is not meant to persuade or convince the reader of a position/opinion. 

4. Organization is so important as part of this project! Using the save query/pinning features in Search at UW can help keep track of all of the articles and citations. (See the "Using Your Account Features" video in the Part 2 tab) 

5. A literature review will need to take full advantage of Resource Sharing/Interlibrary Loan to get all of the needed articles/items. It's important to look beyond what is available in full text at Search at UW. (See the "How to Get Materials from Other Libraries" video in the Part 2 tab)


This guide will help explain all of the above differences and show you how Search at UW can help you with literature reviews!