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Literature Review - 6 Steps to Find Quality Resources

Steps to finding relevant scholarship, including articles and books, to use in a literature review.

How to Use This Guide

Follow the tabs above from Step 1 through Step 6 to get an overview of the research process. You will find information and resources at each step.

  • Be sure to complete the "Activity" and "Self Check" before moving along to the next step.
  • Get help when you need it!

Have fun! Engaging in inquiry is an opportunity to follow your interests, so enjoy the process.

What is a Literature Review?

"A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. Occasionally you will be asked to write one as a separate assignment (sometimes in the form of an annotated bibliography...), but more often it is part of the introduction to an essay, research report, or thesis. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries."

Why Bother going through these steps?

Honing your ability to efficiently locate quality information will save you time in the long run. A skilled researcher is able to identify and navigate the academic and authoritative information sources in their field.

After working through the six steps in this guide, you will have the foundational skills to:

  • locate background information on a topic
  • craft keywords to use in a search
  • identify databases and search engines useful for your research
  • find relevant books and journal articles
  • cite sources using APA

A thorough review of existing literature will strengthen your papers by linking your ideas to the scholarship in your field. Tapping into lines of scholarship isn't always easy or intuitive, but going through the steps outlined by the tabs above, will provide a foundation for the skills and concepts you need to successfully perform academic research.

Here are some of the ways you will use these information-finding skills now and in the future:

  • papers and projects that ask you to find information beyond the course readings
  • literature reviews for theses and dissertations
  • evidence-based practice in your field

Videos to Help Get You Started

The following videos will help you navigate this guide as well as the sources listed on this page and the OPWL Lit Review Guide.