What is a Literature Review?

According to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2010), literature reviews “are critical evaluations of material that has already been published” (p. 10).

  • can be found:
    • in peer-reviewed journal articles
    • as standalone pieces
    • as a chapter in a dissertation
  • 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)


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association.

Blue, G. (Ed.). (2010). Developing academic literacy. Oxford, GBR: Peter Lang AG.

Wallen, N. E., & Fraenkel, J. R. (2000). Educational research: A guide to the process. Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum. Available from eBook Collection (EBSCOhost).