PSY 309-A Research Methods: Literature Review

What is a literature review?

A literature review is a systematic review, or survey, of the published literature on a specific topic or research question. 

The literature review is designed to analyze--not just summarize--scholarly writings that are related directly to your research question. That is, it represents the literature that provides background information on your topic and shows a correspondence between those writings and your research question.

This page is designed to be a general resource for those completing a literature review in their field.


Check out the short video below for more information about literature reviews:

17 - what is a literature review from Joshua Vossler on Vimeo.

Steps in conducting a literature review (from Scribbr)

Writing a literature review involves finding relevant publications (such as books and journal articles), critically analyzing them, and explaining what you found.

There are five key steps:

  1. Search for relevant literature using the Library website
  2. Read the literature and evaluate the sources you find (this will take time!)
  3. Identify themes, debates and gaps
  4. Outline the structure
  5. Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources – it analyzes, synthesizes, and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

Need more information about Lit Reviews?

For more detailed information on conducting a literature review, check out Scribbr's in-depth tutorial here.

Reading Strategies

noun_freaked_out_1933915.pngReading scholarly literature can be tough - this content was written by subject matter experts FOR subject matter experts, so it should be challenging and take time for non-professionals to read. 

Check out our reading strategies here to learn some strategies for how to successfully read and understand this often highly technical, dense literature.