What is a literature review?

Your thesis/argument, which you present by reading, analyzing, evaluating and synthesizing a body of work you have critically selected that is relevant to your question, claim, argument, wherein you present new developments, gaps, directions, changes, which shows how your work contributes to the field.

Source: COE Graduate Student Writing Studio 2/28/11 (

Overview Video


1. Example of an article in which the literature review is provided in the first several pages before the author describes his data and methods.

Desmond, M. (2012). Eviction and the reproduction of urban poverty. American Journal of Sociology, 118, 88-133.

 2. Example of an article with the literature review in a section labeled “Background”

Ward, F.A. (2014). Economic impacts on irrigated agriculture of water conservation programs in drought. Journal of Hydrology, 508, 114–127.

3. Example of a dissertation with the literature review as Chapter 2.

Christopher, P.J. (2011). Health, well-being, and experiences of discrimination for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Doctoral Dissertation, University of New Mexico.

 4. Example of a review article, in which the entire article is devoted to a literature review.

Lebek, B., Uffen, J., Breitner, M.H., Neumann, M., & Hohler, B. (2013). Employees' Information Security Awareness and Behavior: A Literature Review, pp. 2978 - 2987. 2013 46th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS).