A literature review is often a required section of a research paper. It can also be a stand-alone document. In either case, a literature review typically demonstrates your understanding of important / relevant / recent research related to your focus.

Literature reviews require more organization and synthesis than annotated bibliographies. They generally survey / synthesize the key recent concerns, developments, or approaches in recent scholarship to identify a research gap, research question, guiding question, or hypothesis. Literature reviews typically promise / end with a reason, opportunity, or direction for further work. 

Literature Reviews: An Overview: this useful one-page JMU Writing Center resource defines literature reviews, distinguishes between types of literature reviews, diagrams a typical literature review structure/organization, and includes advice on synthesizing sources.

Sample Literature Review with Annotations: this JMU Writing Center resource shares a student's APA-formatted literature review, pointing out the paper's key organizational choices and synthesis of sources.

Working on an empirical research paper? Check out the UWC's Empirical Research Writing suite of resources, which features two pages related to lit reviews: Overview of Introduction/Literature Review section(s) and Annotated Introduction/Literature Review section.

What kinds of questions should I ask or answer?: this handy JMU Writing Center resource offers lists of questions to guide your work as you start your lit review research and then as you plan your introduction (purpose), body (research synthesis), and conclusion (research gap) 

Lit Review 101: this Virginia Commonwealth University Library Guide offers a complete set of resources as you write your first literature review. The site addresses what is often the sticky part in creating a lit review: navigating between "What am I looking for?" and "What am I finding?" 

Literature Reviews: Construction and Form: this friendly text-based UNC Chapel Hill page covers the basics as it anticipates your lit review questions

Strategies for Writing Literature Reviews: want a step-by-step guide in PowerPoint form? This Penn State University resource is especially helpful in discussing different ways of organizing literature reviews (straight chronology or—more usefully—by trend, theme, or research method).

Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students: like your advice in video form? This < 10-minute NC State Library Guide video introduces literature reviews and their purpose(s) as it offers useful advice on what to expect in your researching and writing processes.

Literature Review flow chart, and a short example

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