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EDF 600

Literature Review

What is a review of the literature?

A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. It is often a part of the introduction to an essay, research report, or thesis. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries. Writing a literature review lets you gain and demonstrate skills in two areas:

  1. information seeking: the ability to scan the literature efficiently, using manual or computerized methods, to identify a set of useful articles and books
  2. critical appraisal: the ability to apply principles of analysis to identify unbiased and valid studies.

A literature review must do these things

  1. be organized around and related directly to the thesis or research question you are developing
  2. synthesize results into a summary of what is and is not known
  3. identify areas of controversy in the literature
  4. formulate questions that need further research

Written by Dena Taylor, Health Sciences Writing Centre, University of Toronto

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