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 and enables you to frame your own research question or hypothesis.

More directed than "all about" topic-based research papers or annotated bibliographies, literature reviews generally focus in on and synthesize key, recent scholarship to identify a "research gap," a reason, opportunity, or direction for further work. 

What kinds of questions should I ask or answer?: this handy JMU Writing Center-created 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

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