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How to Write a Research Paper

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is NOT an academic research paper, an annotated bibliography, or a report on original research.

Unlike an academic research paper, the main focus of a literature review is not to develop a new argument. A literature review is an overview of a topic that shows the reader what research has been done on that subject. A literature review may build on an annotated bibliography, but it does more than just summarize each article; a literature review should compare and contrast the ideas each article contains, highlight interesting trends and inconsistencies within the research, and suggest future research that is needed on the topic. 

  • A literature review is a summary and analysis of research published on a specific topic.
  • Literature reviews give a "snapshot" of individual articles and explain how each work has contributed to the field's understanding of the topic.
  • The purpose of a literature review is to trace the history of research on a particular subject, evaluate that research, and identify aspects of the topic that are in need of further study.

Steps for Writing a Literature Review

  1. Choose a topic
  2. Search for relevant articlesundefined
  3. Read and evaluate the articles
  4. Synthesize the literature
  5. Summarize and discuss the articles in your writing
  6. Identify gaps in the current research on your topic

What does a literature review look like?

Not every literature review is the same; some literature reviews include very detailed methodologies, or sections defining terms or concepts relevant to the topic, or in-depth background history, or a paragraph discussing the challenges involved with reviewing the literature.

But most literature reviews will incorporate these key components:

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