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Literature Reviews

What is the review for?

Is this review a section in a research paper? Is it for a dissertation? Is this for a journal article? A stand-alone project? Determining what the end product is can help you determine how extensive the review will be. 

Dissertations or stand-alone reviews may be extensive, more comprehensive, and may include peripheral literature that provides history or context for the topic. Reviews in a research paper or in the background section of a journal article may be limited to literature that is central to your research topic. 

Initial background reading

Do initial background reading on your topic. Using subject encyclopedias and handbooks can be good places to start finding topic overviews and essays. 

Read existing reviews related to your topic for ideas

You can also search databases in your subject area to find reviews on your topic. For recommendations on databases, take a look at our Research Guides or contact your librarian.

Do some exploratory literature searching


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Jason Kruse
Northwestern University Library
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Subjects: Sociology


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Lauren McKeen McDonald
Open Education Librarian
Northwestern University Libraries
Administrative Suite, 1392