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What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is an academic survey of journal articles, thesis, dissertations, or books related to a specific issue, an area of study, or concept. The literature review provides a narrative, summary, or critical assessment pertaining to that particular academic source.


What is a literature review?

If you have to write an undergraduate dissertation, you may be required to begin by writing a literature review. A literature review is a search and evaluation of the available literature on your given subject or chosen topic area. It documents the state of the art with respect to the subject or topic you are writing about.

A literature review has four main objectives:

  • It surveys the literature in your chosen area of study

  • It synthesizes the information in that literature into a summary

  • It critically analyze the information gathered by identifying gaps in current knowledge; by showing limitations of theories and points of view; and by formulating areas for further research and reviewing areas of controversy

  • It presents the literature in an organized way

A literature review shows your readers that you have an in-depth grasp of your subject; and that you understand where your own research fits into and adds to an existing body of agreed knowledge.

Here’s another way of describing those four main tasks. A literature review:

  • demonstrates a familiarity with a body of knowledge and establishes the credibility of your work;

  • summarizes prior research and says how your project is linked to it;

  • integrates and summarizes what is known about a subject;

  • demonstrates that you have learned from others and that your research is a starting point for new ideas.

The Royal Literary Fund. (n.d.). What is a Literature Review? In Literature reviews. Retrieved from: