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Lit Review: Getting Started

What Is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a systematic analysis of the body of research that has already been done on a particular subject. Not to be confused with an annotated bibliography, the purpose of the review is to critically evaluate key themes of the scholarly writings of the field and provide context for where your own research question fits into the conversation. 

Framing Your Literature Review

Early in the process, you will need to explore and articulate 3 critical pieces:

  1. Who is your audience?
    • Remember, you may decide to publish -- your audience will include more than just your committee.
  2. What is your purpose?
    • Put your work in context
    • Identify gaps and strengths/weaknesses in current knowledge
    • Communicate the importance of your research project
  3. What is the scope of your topic?
    • Identify a focus
    • Specify your problem, research question, and thesis statement
    • May shift or refocus while writing your review

Where Do I Start?

There are many places you may start.

  • General reading on a topic
  • Talking with your advisor and peers
  • Expand on an idea/paper from one of your courses
  • Read review articles (i.e. an article that consists of a literature review and nothing else)
  • Begin summarizing and organizing sources you've read

Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students

NCSU Libraries


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