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Student Library Guide: Literature Review

This research guide is designed to provide all Barry University students a basic overview of the resources and services available at the Monsignor William Barry Memorial Library.

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a critical summary of what the scientific literature says about your specific topic or question. Often student research in APA fields falls into this category. Your professor might ask you to write this kind of paper to demonstrate your familiarity with work in the field pertinent to the research you hope to conduct.

While the APA Publication Manual does not require a specific order for a literature review, a good literature review typically contains the following components:

  • Introduction
  • Thesis statement
  • Summary and synthesis of sources
  • List of references

Some instructors may also want you to write an abstract for a literature review, so be sure to check with them when given an assignment. Also, the length of a literature review and the required number of sources will vary based on course and instructor preferences.

NOTE: A literature review and an annotated bibliography are not synonymous. While both types of writing involve examining sources, the literature review seeks to synthesize the information and draw connections between sources. If you are asked to write an annotated bibliography, you should consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association for the APA Format for Annotated Bibliographies.

Books in the Barry collection

Perdue OWL: Writing a Literature Review

A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research (scholarship) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably.

Perdue OWL: Social Work Literature Review Guidelines

Literature reviews are designed to do two things: 1) give your readers an overview of sources you have explored while researching a particular topic or idea and 2) demonstrate how your research fits into the larger field of study, in this case, social work.

Web Resources