Skip to main content
University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

Literature Reviews

What is a literature review?

What is a Literature Review?

A literature or a narrative review is a comprehensive review and analysis of the published literature on a specific topic or research question. The literature that is reviewed contains: books, articles, academic articles, conference proceedings, association papers, and dissertations. It contains the most pertinent studies and points to important past and current research and practices. It provides background and context, and shows how your research will contribute to the field. 

A literature review should: 

  • Provide a comprehensive and updated review of the literature;
  • Explain why this review has taken place;
  • Articulate a position or hypothesis;
  • Acknowledge and account for conflicting and corroborating points of view

From Sage Research Methods

Purpose of a Literature Review

A literature review can be written as an introduction to a study to:

  • Demonstrate how a study fills a gap in research
  • Compare a study with other research that's been done

Or it can be a separate work (a research article on its own) which:

  • Organizes or describes a topic
  • Describes variables within a particular issue/problem

Limitations of a Literature Review

Some of the limitations of a literature review are:

  • It's a snapshot in time. Unlike other reviews, this one has beginning, a middle and an end. There may be future developments that could make your work less relevant.
  • It may be too focused. Some niche studies may miss the bigger picture.
  • It can be difficult to be comprehensive. There is no way to make sure all the literature on a topic was considered.
  • It is easy to be biased if you stick to top tier journals. There may be other places where people are publishing exemplary research. Look to open access publications and conferences to reflect a more inclusive collection. Also, make sure to include opposing views (and not just supporting evidence).

 

Source: Grant, Maria J., and Andrew Booth. “A Typology of Reviews: An Analysis of 14 Review Types and Associated Methodologies.” Health Information & Libraries Journal, vol. 26, no. 2, June 2009, pp. 91–108. Wiley Online Library, doi:10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x.

Librarians

Roxanne Bogucka: Nursing, Nutrition, Pharmacy, Public Health

Meryl Brodsky: Communication and Information Studies

Hannah Chapman Tripp: Biology, Neuroscience

Elle Covington: Educational Psychology, Kinesiology & Health Education, Social Work

Carolyn Cunningham: Human Development & Family Sciences, Psychology, Sociology

Larayne Dallas: Engineering

Janelle Hedstrom: Special Education, Curriculum & Instruction, Ed Leadership & Policy‚Äč

Susan Macicak: Linguistics

Imelda Vetter: Dell Medical School

Workshops

Periodically, UT Libraries runs a workshop covering the basics, and library support for literature reviews. While we try to offer these once per semester, we find providing the recording to be helpful to community members who have missed the session. Following is the most recent recording of the workshop, Conducting a Literature Review. To view recording, a UT login is required.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.