Skip to main content

The Research Process: Read to Write

Literature Review

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review can be part of a larger work, e.g. a peer reviewed journal article or thesis / dissertation, or it can be the entirety of a journal article.

“. . . the purpose of a review is to analyze critically a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles.”

The Writer’s Handbook, UW-Madison Writing Center

A literature review is NOT an annotated bibliography.  An annotated bibliography would discuss one source at a time.

In contrast, a literature review would talk about the ideas from one author in relation to those of another. You can cite multiple articles in the same paragraph. Discussing articles by theme can be helpful.

"Architecture" of Peer Reviewed Article (esp in Science / Social Science)

When reading peer reviewed articles, do not read them straight through!  Instead, read the sections in the order that will best help you understand and analyze the content in relation to your own research question.

  • Read articles more than once. 
  • Read first for the big picture, then go back and re-read for the details. 
  • Look up words/concepts that are unfamiliar. 
  • Take notes in your own words, perhaps as answers to the questions posed below.

Chart derived from “How to Read and Comprehend Scientific Research Articles”,
a short video produced by the University of Minnesota Libraries