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PA 623: Decision Analysis and Decision Support Systems

Literature Reviews

A literature review surveys scholarly articles, books, and other sources relevant to a particular issue or area of research and provides a description, summary, and critical evaluation of each work. 

What is a Literature Review?

The literature review ...


  • an overview of research on a given topic and answers to related research questions
  • features of such an overview:
    • organizes literature
    • evaluates literature
    • identifies patterns and trends in literature
    • synthesizes literature
    • an overview of what we know and of what we do not know about a given topic
    • not necessarily exhaustive, but up-to-date and includes all major work on the topic
    • intellectual context for your original research
    • motivation for your original research
      • structure of review guided by your objectives
      • continually refers back to your thesis or research questions


  • a "laundry list" of everything written on a topic, where each source gets its summary paragraph
    • lacks organization guided by thesis or research questions
    • lacks synthesis of literature
    • lacks critical evaluation of literature
  • an annotated bibliography
  • a literary or book review

Extracted from What is a Literature Review? (and How Do I Write One?!), PowerPoint Presentation by Nicholas Shunda, University of Connecticut, 2007.

Guides to Writing a Literature Review

A literature review is a summary of previous research on a topic. The purpose of a literature review is to provide an overview of published research on a topic.

Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students

A Literature Review: A Basic Guide