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MLS 452: Research Methods & Project: Literature Review

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Literature Review

What is a literature review?

An essential part of any research paper, the literature review is an integrative analysis of several works on a particular topic. It provides background information on why the data you've collected is important. Rather than standalone paragraphs, each summarizing a separate resource, literature reviews should be organized thematically.

Consider the following scenario:

You want to include 5 sources in your literature review, focusing on 3 central themes. Instead of writing 5 paragraphs, one for each source, you'll write 3 paragraphs, one for each theme. You won't write about one source only one time; you'll revisit each source multiple times in multiple paragraphs, connecting your sources to one another through their shared themes. Your paragraph structure might look something like this:

  • Paragraph 1: Source 1, Source 2, Source 4, Source 2
  • Paragraph 2: Source 2, Source 3, Source 1, Source 5, Source 4
  • Paragraph 3: Source 3, Source 5, Source 3

Your literature review should be theme-driven, not author-driven.

What do you include in a literature review?

  1. An overview of the research topic;
  2. The objective of the literature review;
  3. A comparison/contrast between the resources being reviewed;
  4. The main arguments that are being presented, including which sources sound most convincing.

Consider the following questions for each resource:

  1. What are the authors' credentials? Do they have an appropriate level of knowledge to discuss the subject?
  2. Are the authors unbiased? Do they have a [hidden] agenda?
  3. What evidence do they provide to support their claims?
    1. What are their research methodologies?
    2. Did they draw sound conclusions?
    3. What were their limitations?
  4. How does this work contribute to the field?
  5. How does it relate to other research on the same subject?


Cisco, J. (2014). Teaching the literature review: A practical approach for college instructors. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 2(2), 41-57. Retrieved from

UC Santa Cruz. University Library. (n.d.). Write a literature review. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from

University of West Florida. University Libraries. (2019, March 19). Literature review: Conducting & writing. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from

Mogasale, V., Ramani, E., Mogasale, V. V., & Park, J.Y. (2016). What proportion of Salmonella Typhi cases are detected by blood culture? A systematic literature review. Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials, 15(32), 1-8.

Nguyen, T. N. A., Anton-Le Berre, V., BaƱuls, A.-L., & Nguyen, T. V. A. (2019). Molecular diagnosis of drug-resistant tuberculosis: A literature review. Frontiers in Microbiology, 1-12.