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What is a Literature Review?

Your research activity will bring you to write a theses, a dissertation, a grant application and/or an article. These literary productions all contain a "Literature review", even if this section may be more developed in certain cases than others.

This guide provides information to help you find literature reviews and create them.

The literature review is a critical evaluation on the developments of the research in a specialized field of study.  It usually includes numerous references.

Reasons to review the literature

  • Identify the developments in the field of study
  • Learn about the information sources and the research methodologies
  • Find gaps in the literature that can become research questions
  • Validate the originality of a research project
  • Evaluate the methods
  • Identify errors to avoid
  • Develop your own methodological approaches
  • Highlight the strengths, weaknesses and controversies in the field of study
  • Identify the subject experts

(Inspired by O’Leary, 2004, p.79)

Objectives to write a literature review

  • Inform the audience of the developments in the field
  • Establish your credibility
  • Discuss the relevance and significance of your question(s)
  • Provide the context for your methodological approach
  • Discuss the relevance and appropriateness of your approach  

(O’Leary, 2004, p.79)

Definition of the Literature Review

"A comprehensive survey of the works publisehd in a particular field of study, usually over a specific period of time, in the form of an in-depth, critical bibliographic essay or annotated list in which attention is drawn to the most significant works." (ODLIS, 2012)

Terms used to refer to a Literature Review

  • State of the art
  • Literature review
  • Review
  • Advances in...
  • Progress in...
  • Current topics in...
  • Yearbook of...
  • Outlook
  • Synthesis
  • Critical survey
  • Comprehensive survey