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Literature Reviews

This guide will introduce you to how to conduct an effective literature review.

Evaluating Your Sources

All information has value, but some of it may not be valuable for your research. When going through a source, consider its value for your literature review. Here are some questions to determine if it fits the scope of your project.

  • Is it directly related, or is it only tangentially related to your research?
  • Does this source provide new insight, or is it rehashing something from another source?
  • Is there a better source for this information?

Read critically to determine if it needs to be included in your literature review.

In addition, you'll want to evaluate your sources for other important criteria.

  • Is it scholarly?
    • Some literature reviews include other forms of research, like newspapers, blogs, or government reports. Others may only include scholarly books and articles.
  • Is it a primary, secondary, or tertiary source?
    • Primary source include original research and first-hand accounts of events or topics. Secondary sources comment on existing research or events. Tertiary sources provide a broad overview of a topic, such as dictionaries and encyclopedias.
  • How old is it?
    • Depending on the scope of your literature review, you may exclude older content.
  • Who is the author?
    • Is the source written by an expert in the field?
  • Is it objective?
    • Consider whether the source presents fact or opinion.

In addition to evaluating each source, you'll want to evaluate all of your sources as a whole. How is the material presented? What debates are present? What connects these ideas together? What trends do you notice? What solutions or answers do the authors provide for your research question? What aspects of the topic are missing from the conversation? Answering these questions will help you refine what sources need to present in your literature review and how you might begin to structure the conversation.

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