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Understanding Urban Communities: URBE 4496

Course guide for Elena Schmidt & Julia McWilliams' Fall 2016 Sections

Writing a Literature Review

Female student about to begin a literature review

Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students from NSCU Libraries

What's a Literature Review?

  • Provides comprehensive discussion of the scholarly research that has already been done on a topic.
  • Includes some summary of important articles on a topic.
  • Includes comparison: between how different authors discuss the same topic and how the topic has been handled over time.
  • Synthesizes previous ideas on a topic, but also looks for gaps in the literature: what needs to be investigated further?

Literature Review Examples & Tips

Steps for your Literature Review

From Brooklyn CUNY Writing a Literature Review Mini-Lesson

A successful literature review should have three parts that break down in the following way:

1. Defines and identifies the topic and establishes the reason for the literature review.
2. Points to general trends in what has been published about the topic.
3. Explains the criteria used in analyzing and comparing articles.

1. Groups articles into thematic clusters, or subtopics. Clusters may be grouped together chronologically, thematically, or methodologically (see below for more on this).
2. Proceeds in a logical order from cluster to cluster.
3. Emphasizes the main findings or arguments of the articles in the student’s own words. Keeps quotations from sources to an absolute minimum.

1. Summarizes the major themes that emerged in the review and identifies areas of controversy in the literature.
2. Pinpoints strengths and weaknesses among the articles (innovative methods used, gaps in research, problems with theoretical frameworks, etc.).
3. Concludes by formulating questions that need further research within the topic, and provides some insight into the relationship between that topic and the larger field of study or discipline.