Finding sources to write a literature review can seem daunting; especially, if you are not certain how to write a literature review or what is a literature review.

So what is a literature review? According to the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, literature reviews “are critical evaluations of material that has already been published” (2010, p. 10).

Literature reviews can be found:

  • in peer-reviewed journal articles,
  • as standalone pieces, or
  • as a chapter in a dissertation or thesis.

Literature reviews "serve a variety of purposes:

  • to give a historical overview of the topic
  • to give an overview of the current context in which the research is situated
  • to identify and select relevant theories and concepts for the current research
  • to define and discuss relevant terminology for the research
  • to justify current research by showing a gap in previous research
  • to justify current research by showing there is a practical problem which needs to be addressed
  • to justify current research by arguing that previously used methods will be extended
  • to justify sites of data collection To identify the roots of the methodology, to discuss the terminology used and to justify the approach chosen
  • to position oneself within the field by entering into written dialogue with authors in the field
  • to show an awareness and understanding of relevant theories and empirical research studies in the field" (Blue, 2010, p. 106-107).

Once you determine which of the purposes your literature review needs to fill, you can begin looking for the books and articles that you will need to fill that purpose(s) with your literature review.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Blue, G. (Ed.). (2010). Developing academic literacy. Oxford, GBR: Peter Lang AG. Retrieved from opens new window


Finding Books

quick search box, catalog panel

To find books on your topic, click on Books, Ebooks, and Media on the Library's homepage. You can change the dropdown to search by author, title, subject, etc.

Searching the catalog does not work like searching Google. You need to break your topic into key concepts.

For example, if your topic is What kinds of government funding are available for K-12 education?, break your search into the concepts of

government funding
K-12 education

Put your search terms of 2 or more words into quotation marks; e.g., "government funding" AND "K-12 education".

Another tip is to use a truncation symbol (usually the asterisk symbol *) to look for alternate endings of a stem word.

"government fund*"
"K-12 education"

For information on locating dissertations, see the Dissertations tab of this guide.

Finding Articles

See the Finding Articles box on the Articles page of this guide.