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Information Research Strategies: Literature reviews

Introduction to literature reviews

Creating a comprehensive review of the literature requires skills in locating the best sources to demonstrate your knowledge of your research topic and synthesizing and analyzing the information you have gathered.    

In this module you will learn how to:

  • Recognize the components and characteristics of a good literature review
    for a dissertations or theses.
  • Recognize when you have enough information.


What are literature reviews?

Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students (from NCSU Libraries)

  • Explores the purpose and importance of a literature review, components of a literature review, and how to write a literature review.

How do I write a literature review?

Read this brief summary of key steps for writing a review of literature from The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

UA writing support and resources

Writing skills workshops

  • The Writing Skills Improvement Program (WSIP) offers free 50-minute workshops (September through May) and custom workshops.
  • Graduate writing groups: Free writing support from the UA's Writing Skills Improvement Program (WSIP). Groups of 3-4 graduate students meet together with a writing coach for two hours at a time.
  • Graduate Writing Institute: A summer writing program for graduate students focusing on writing projects, theses, and dissertation work. Applications are usually due by the end of April.

Library books on writing dissertations and theses:


Do you have enough information? If you are not sure, try this:

Ask yourself these questions:*

  • Has my search been wide enough to insure I've found all the relevant material?
  • Has it been narrow enough to exclude irrelevant material?
  • Is the number of sources I've used appropriate for the length of my paper?

You may have enough information for your literature review when:

  • You've used multiple databases and other resources (web portals, repositories, etc.) to get a variety of perspectives on the research topic.
  • The same citations are showing up in a variety of databases.
  • Your advisor and other trusted experts say you have enough!

In the end, don't be a perfectionist! You have to stop somewhere and get on with the business of writing.

*Taken from the University of Toronto's Writing Center literature review guide.