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ANTH 8010 Qualitative Methods in Anthropology (Burnet)

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review does not present an original argument, but instead is an overview or discussion of existing literature (scholarly writing) on a particular topic. The literature may come from books, articles, reports, or other formats.

It's a review because it usually contains a summary, synthesis, or analysis of the central arguments in the existing literature.

A lit review is not...

...an annotated bibliography.

  • An annotated bib is a list of sources with a summary of each one.
  • A lit review synthesizes and highlights the ideas from many sources, pointing out strengths, weaknesses, common themes and contradictions among them.

...a research paper, although it is often part of one.

  • A research paper presents a single idea or argument and uses sources to support its conclusion.
  • A lit review compares and discusses sources that may contradict each other, without drawing any final conclusions.

Literature Reviews

This video by NC State Libraries is an excellent explanation:

"Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students" by North Carolina State University Libraries.