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U.S. Politics

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a compilation and critical evaluation of the current research on your topic. However it is NOT just a summary or annotated bibliography, you are considering individual works in the context of the body of research. You are determining what has already been investigated and the relationships within this literature (scholarly articles, books, and other relevant sources). The idea is to place your research question in the context of the current literature. Ask yourself what gaps or controversaries are you addressing? 

Goals of a literature review:

  • Outline important trends 
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the current literature
  • Identify potential gaps
  • Establish the need for further research

How to Conduct a Literature Review

This video will walk you through the process of conducting a literature review from researching to writing. To download or view the presentation for quick reference, see the linked file.

Surveying the Literature

When searching the literature, you should skim and read to identify the main ideas and takeaways. Highlight key elements- context, themes, trends, patterns, gaps within specific works and across the literature- that will help you when writing the literature review.


  • What research has been done before?
  • The relevance to and differences from your own study
  • Areas of (dis)agreement among the literature
  • Are there oversights or flaws in the existing literature?