WRITING A LITERATURE REVIEW
What is a literature review?
A literature review is a survey of everything that has been written about a particular topic,
theory, or research question. It may provide the background for larger work, or it may stand on
its own. Much more than a simple list of sources, an effective literature review analyzes and
synthesizes information about key themes or issues.
Analyzes and evaluates a
Summarizes relevant sources
and explains the significance
of that source to the research
Surveys all relevant literature
to determine what is known
and not known about a
Why write a literature review?
1. To discover what has been written about a topic already
2. To determine what each source contributes to the topic
3. To understand the relationship between the various contributions, identify and (if
possible) resolve contradictions, and determine gaps or unanswered questions
What is involved in writing a literature review?
1. Research – to discover what has been written about the topic
2. Critical Appraisal – to evaluate the literature, determine the relationship between the
sources and ascertain what has been done already and what still needs to be done
3. Writing – to explain what you have found
Steps to writing an effective literature review:
Focus your topic: A literature review aims to cover all of the research on a given topic. If the
topic is too large, there will be too much material to cover it adequately.
Read with a purpose: Although you will need to briefly summarize sources, a good literature
review requires that you isolate key themes or issues related to your own
For each book or article consider:
Credentials: Is the author an expert?
Argument/Evidence: Does the evidence support the conclusion? Is the argument or
When comparing sources, consider:
Conclusions: Does all research arrive at the same conclusion or are there differing
opinions? What evidence or reasoning are the differences based on?
Gaps or omissions: What questions are raised by the literature?
Writing a Literature Review
The introduction should identify your topic, some discussion of the significance of that topic and
a thesis statement that outlines what conclusion you will draw from your analysis and synthesis
of the literature. If your literature review is part of a larger work, explain the importance of the
review to your research question.
In the body, discuss and assess the research according to specific organizational principles (see
examples below), rather than addressing each source separately. Most, if not all, paragraphs
should discuss more than one source. Avoid addressing your sources alphabetically as this does
not assist in developing the themes or key issues central to your review.
When to Use
-When explaining key
themes or issues
relevant to the topic
(also called a
-This is the most
common way to
approaches to a topic or
when discussing a
number of studies with
a different approach.
changes are central to
explaining the topic.
A literature review of 31 relevant articles published between January
1999 and March 2004 identified 12 categories of neighborhood
characteristics relevant to maternal and child health: income/wealth,
employment, family structure, population composition, housing,
mobility, education, occupation, social resources, violence and
crime, deviant behavior and physical conditions.
[Example adapted from Rajaratnama, J.K., Burke, J.G. & O’Campo, P. (2006).
Maternal and child health and neighborhood context: The selection and construction
of area-level variables. Health and Place, 12, 547-556.]
In dentistry, fluorescent imaging been used for many applications
revealing a variety of information about bonded restorations. This
review evaluates the different methods used in this area with the
intent of determining if standardized methodologies exist.
[Example adapted from D’Alpino, P.H.P. et al (2006).Use of fluorescent compounds
in assessing bonded resin-based restorations: A literature review Journal of Dentistry,
A literature review is presented on the evolution of water pollution
management and its impact on land pollution from 1900 to 2000
within a hypothesis of whether we could have done more, sooner.
Stream pollution science in the context of the fundamental sanitary
engineering concepts of reasonable use and assimilative capacity is
examined in light of evolving regulatory frameworks from the early
1900s, when regulation and standards were mostly lacking, to the
zero discharge goals and comprehensive federal command/control
regulations of the late 20th century.
[Example adapted from Shrifin, N.S. (2005). Pollution Management in the Twentieth
Century. Journal of Environmental Engineering, 131, 676-691.]
The conclusion should provide a summary of YOUR findings from the literature review. Explain
what your analysis of the material leads you to conclude about the overall state of the literature,
what it provides and where it is lacking. You can also provide suggestions for future research or
explain how your future research will fill the gaps in the existing body of work on that topic.
© Allyson Skene. The Writing Centre, University of Toronto at Scarborough. See terms and conditions for use at
Literature Review Assignment
Write a short (3-5 pg) research paper on a recreation and leisure problem formulated from your interest
and reading in the form of a scholarly scientific review paper. Since the primary purpose of this
assignment is meant to introduce you to literature searches, scientific writing, citation procedures, and
bibliography formatting, please do not submit anything longer than five pages (excluding title page).
GRADING RUBRIC: Lit Review Rubric.doc
Please review the information presented in this lab description and follow the format described.
Follow the following criteria:
1. Must be double-space typed using a standard font (e.g., arial or times) and font size (12 pt).
2. Top, bottom and side margins must be no less the 1 inch and no greater than 1.25 inch.
3. Pages must be numbered
4. There must be a title page that presents the descriptive title of your paper, your full name and
the date of submission.
5. The body of the text should be made of the following titled sections: Abstract, Introduction,
Discussion, and Conclusion (conclusion can be included as the final paragraph or two of the
Discussion). See the lab description to understand what gets presented in each of these
6. Include a Literature Cited section for cited sources of information.
7. Direct quoting of other authors is not permitted. All of your written text should be in your own
8. Be sure to appropriately cite all of your information sources using the format given in the lab
description (i.e., provide author's last name and year of publication. I am expecting that you cite
a minimum of four scholarly sources. Three of these sources should come from the primary
9. Be sure to provide the appropriate bibliographic details (as presented in the lab description) for
all cited literature sources in the Literature Cited section of your paper. Do not present
bibliographic details for sources not cited. Be consistent with the format used.
10. If your scholarly literature sources were obtained from an Internet site (e.g., online journal
article), include the URL and the date downloaded as part of the bibliographic details present.
11. Grammar and spelling must be correct.
12. Write in an objective, non-emotional style.
See the attached PDF
for more information about Literature Reviews.
A short literature review - concerning issues and problems in the recreation and leisure science field.
There are numerous issues in the field from youth sport decline, diversity in the outdoors, safety and
protocol for recreational sports, barriers and ceilings for professional advancement among gender and
- Your first goal on this project is to find an issue in the field you would like to research further.
- Your second goal is to locate professional research concerning this topic or issue via Ebscohost or
Academic Search Premier located HERE: http://www.deltastate.edu/library/
- You should be able to locate 4-9 articles that highlight and illustrate the problem you are seeking - if
not - then you may need to alter your area of concern, or find another issue with ample resources.
- Next, you should consider creating a mind-map (examples are illustrated on your assignment details
located here: https://deltastate.instructure.com/courses/19553/assignments/133411
- HERE is an excellent overview of developing a literature review in recreation, leisure, and
tourism: http://libguides.ecu.edu/c.php?g=17278&p=763177 (Links to an external site.)Links to an
external site. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Example 1: Literature_Review_Sample_3.docx
Example 2: Literature_Review_Sample_2 (1).docx
Grading Rubric: Lit Review Rubric.doc
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