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Literature Reviews: Overview

A guide for UW Tacoma undergraduates working on literature reviews.

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review synthesizes scholarly literature on a topic by evaluating a selection of sources.

It describes common themes, but must also demonstrate the author's understanding of the literature through critical analysis, as well as identify gaps and/or controversies in the research.

Scholarly articles and your literature review


The Basics of a Literature Review. (2014). Teaching and Learning Center University of Washington Tacoma. Retrieved from


Additional Assistance

Have more questions about your literature review?

  • Contact a Librarian for help locating research


What is the Purpose of a Literature Review?

To help define the focus of your research topic.

To identify research already conducted in your field of interest, find gaps in existing scholarship, and avoid repetition of previous research.

To become familiar with significant earlier research and with current progress and/or controversy in your field of interest.

To diagnose the strengths and weaknesses in the works pertaining to your field of interest.

To assess the experts, theoretical approaches, methodologies, results, conclusions, and possible opportunities for future research in your field of interest.

Literature Review vs. Annotated Bibliography

Literature reviews and annotated bibliographies are highly useful for constructing your research project. Both provide an examination of relevant scholarly work pertaining to a specific topic, but there are also significant differences between them.

Literature Review vs. Annotated Bibliography Chart