How to read and write literature reviews

Literature Review Resources

Literature reviews in academic research serve as either a noun or a verb. As a noun, a literature review is a paper that examines the relevant literature to your topic and discusses the relationship between the various literature. As a verb, a literature review includes reviewing and exploring the published research relevant to your research question(s) and/or research model to understand what has been done.  When conducting a literature review you are trying to see what else and who else has conducted similar type work. Most importantly you are trying to identify the salient theories and work you must recognize in your research presentation (written or verbal). 

The process of the literature is as follows:

  1. Have a research questions and/or research model in mind
  2. Go to the library and the web
    • Depending on your field and topic - Look at academic, research centers, and practitioner sources
  3. Gather as much literature as you think is relevant to your question/model
    • If you think it has potential grab it
    • Follow the citation trails
    • Have a good doc management system in place (naming conventions help)
      • Having a citation management system helps this process
  4. Categorize your papers
    • Start an Excel document
      • Author’s name & year in the first columns
      • A sub idea/theory/theme along the top row
    • Record the sub ideas you come across in each paper and put a mark in the row for the paper that addresses that sub idea
    • Other things to consider categorizing
      • The academic weight of your source
      • The number of times the article was cited
  5. Pull it together
    • Write a summary of your findings for each of the relevant sub categories
      • Compare to each other - how are the authors same, different and why?
      • Compare to your research – how are the authors same, different and why?

Literature review as a verb:

Literature review as a noun:


  • ISU eLibrary
    • Indexes and Abstracts
    • E-Journals & e-Books
  • Google Scholar
    • Advanced search helps at times
  • Google Features
    • Timeline
  • Adobe 9
  • Papers 
  • Mendeley 
  • EndNote (client and online)
  • Excel
  • Mindmap or The Brain
  • Dropbox 
Last modified: Saturday, 20 October 2012, 10:09 PM