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TVR 26300: Mass Media Research Methods

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review provides an overview of the scholarly information published to date on a specific topic, summarizing and synthesizing the ideas presented. At the undergraduate level, a literature review differs from a research paper in that no new primary research is presented. At the graduate level, literature reviews often constitute a chapter of a thesis or dissertation and provide an intellectual context for the author's own research.

A systematic review is a comprehensive type of literature review that synthesizes research on a particular question often using data.

The literature review differs from an annotated bibliography: it is a narrative document that synthesizes the sources consulted to develop a conclusion. An annotated bibliography deals with each resource in turn, describing and evaluating the source in a single paragraph.

Sample Searches

Sample search from the main page Library Search
"review of the literature" OR "literature review"  
 AND Title contains:  "online social" OR "online dating" OR "mobile apps"

Sample search in EBSCO
("online social" or "online dating" or "mobile apps") in the TI Title  AND ("review of the literature" OR "literature review")

How to Write a Literature Review

  • Decide on your topic. Begin with an Overview of the topic, including the thesis statement for the review
  • Search relevant databases and library catalogs to Locate Sources
  • Write Annotations for each source, placing it in the context of their contribution to the research on the topic.
  • Organize the Sources into categories - e.g. those that support one position, those against the position, those that offer an alternative thesis. You may also choose to organize sources in chronological order within your categories
  • Connect Sources - explain how each source relates to other sources
  • Conclusion - discuss which sources are most effective in supporting their position and which sources contribute the most to the current understanding of the topic

Evaluating Review Sources

  • What are the author's credentials? Is the author's position supported by scholarly evidence (primary sources, case studies, statistics, peer reviewed research)?
  • Is the author objective? Is the information presented in an unbiased manner? Is opposing information reviewed in an open manner?
  • Is the author persuasive? Is the presented position convincing?
  • Is the presented information of value? Does the author make a significant contribution to the understanding of the topic?

Literature Review Checklist

  • ​Analyze the topic carefully 
  • Identify the key aspects of the topic
  • Define the key terms 
  • Explain the organization of the review
  • Use primary research from peer-reviewed journals 
  • Summarize the research in your own words
  • Evaluate the research in your own words 
  • Identify areas for further research

Note: It is not enough to simply summarize the research literature. You need to demonstrate that you understand the relevance and significance of the publications you reviewed and how they relate to each other.

Literature Review Examples

Cathy Michael

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Cathy Michael
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