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Boatwright Memorial Library

FYS 100 (37/38): Democracy and Education (Snaza): Literature Review

What is a Literature Review?

A Literature Review:

  • Surveys the scholarship (scholarly articles) writen about a topic. 
  • Summarizes and evaluates each piece of scholarship
  • Literature reviews follow an organizational pattern. The goal is to provide an interpretation of all of the research you have completed. 

Literature reviews are considered secondary sources. They do not report new or original research. They are simply one step in creating an empirical research article. Literature reviews provide a background for research and ultimately explain why the original research created is important. 


When writing a literature review, explain the structure of the review. Chronological, by scholar, by theory, theme etc.

State the scope of the review. What does it contain and what does it not contain?

What insight can you provide between your chosen topic and the variables you have chosen?

Literature Review Examples

Reading a Scholarly Article

Items to Consider

  • You don't have to read the entire article in order. Start with the abstract which will give you a general summary of the article. If the abstract seems relevant then move to the conclusion or discussion section of the article to gain a better understanding of the article's main claims. 
  • Read for the Argument. What is the author's research question? What method is the author using to prove their argument? Did the author ethnographically study a population? Did they look at census or health records? Are you able to verbally explain how the author came to their conclusions through the methods?
  • Pay attention to the reference section. Reading the references or works cited may lead you to other useful resources.Use Google scholar to see how many times an article has been cited and to see what other articles cited your original article. 
  • Think about your research question's scope. The article may have been extremely interesting but it may not fit within your scope. If your topic is food deserts and the article you found is about food growing practices in Peru, it may not be helpful. However an article on community activism related to community gardens may fit within your scope.
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