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A literature review discusses previous research, and it can be either part of a research article or a standalone document. Researchers use literature reviews to position their research in an ongoing scholarly conversation and it informs their audience of what other research has been done.
How do I write a literature review?
Before you begin writing a literature review, follow these steps:
Identify your research topic --> Find relevant sources --> Read efficiently --> Draw connections between sources
Each of these steps are outlined below.
Before you can begin finding sources, you want to identify your research topic. Whether you're just beginning to think about your research interests, or you've already developed a research question, check out these tools to narrow your research focus.
Brainstorm key terms for a search - Learn how to formulate a research question based on a topic, and generate keywords that can be used in the Library's catalog and databases.
Advanced search tips - Learn tips on how to search more effectively in the Library's catalog and databases.
Use the following tools to find relevant resources:
Librarians have developed curated Research Guides that groups relevant databases, books, and other sources based on subject area.
Look at other literature reviews and use bibliographies of articles you've found to locate other relevant articles. Check out our guide Use Reference Lists to Find More Sources which will explain how to use reference lists of sources you already have to find additional sources as well as using Google Scholar to conduct cited by searching.
Expand perspectives when you research for resources is another strategy for finding sources and understanding voices you might be missing from your literature review. Watch this short video called Expanding Perspectives in Your Search for more information.
Writing a literature review means doing a lot of reading! Use these strategies to help you improve your reading efficiency, minimize distraction, and avoid burnout.
Tip: Abstracts will give you a broad overview of an article and are especially useful when conducting a literature review.
View the video (from WI+RE team at UCLA Libraries) below for tips on drawing conclusions between sources you find in preparation for writing a literature review.
A Synthesis Matrix is an organizational tool that can provide you with a visual representation of your collected sources. This tool will help you compare, contrast, and categorize your articles based on key concepts, main themes, or ideas. Download the synthesis matrix template here.
Information on this guide was taken from Writing a Literature Review by Kian Ravaei and Taylor Harber from the Writing Instruction + Research Education at UCLA. All content is under a Creative Commons license https://uclalibrary.github.io/research-tips/workshops/writing-a-literature-review/.