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Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE)

Summer 2024

What is a Literature Review?

What is a literature review?

A literature review provides an overview of the scholarly literature (e.g. books, articles, dissertations, proceedings) relevant to an area of research or theory. The review typically will include a summary of the major questions in a area and critical evaluations of work that has already been done. Literature reviews are also helpful for their comprehensive bibliographies. This webpage by the UC Santa Cruz Library does a good job of explaining lit reviews.

Literature reviews typically include these components:

  • An overview of the subject
  • Organization of relevant publications into subtopics, theoretical areas, or key debates
  • An analysis and discussion of how various works relate to one another the the relevant questions
  • A discussion of unresolved questions or future directions
  • Some will also include discussions of key data collection and analysis methodologies

The following resources are great places to start when compiling a comprehensive bibliography.

  • Oxford Bibliographies
  • Oxford Handbooks
    • Browse by Political Science, Economics or just run search. Note that you can limit by access that Emory has. In cases where we do not, check discoverE, and request needed chapters.
  • Routledge Handbooks (search portal for specific titles, or discoverE)
    • Great resource for building initial literature reviews, identifying important figures in the literature, and engaging with major theories. Emory has a subscription to all the Handbooks.
  • Annual Reviews Online
    • In-depth reviews of the literature in a discipline, published annually, with an emphasis on overviews and more recent approaches and theories.  Note that the HTML version is good for tracking citations, but does not have needed page numbers.

Scholarly Article Types

Scholarly journals may contain various types of scholarly literature. Knowing the different types of articles will help you find the best resources for your research needs.

  • Research articles (aka empirical articles) - primary sources of authors reporting their own studies.
  • Theoretical articles - concepts, frameworks, models, and perspectives.
  • Review articles - summarize studies in a field while identifying trends and drawing conclusions.
    • Literature reviews - summary of literature on a given topic.
    • Meta-analyses - use statistical methods to summarize studies.
    • Systematic reviews - high-level summary of literature to answer focused--often clinical--question.
  • Case studies and clinical trials - describe real patient cases/treatments.
  • Conference materials - proceedings, notes, etc.
  • Commentaries, book reviews, opinions, letters, etc. - opinion and thought pieces.