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IQP Research Guide: Background Chapter / Literature Review

Literature Reviews

A literature review is a survey of information found in scholarly articles, books, and other literature related to your area of study. The goal of a literature review is to describe, summarize, evaluate and clarify the prior research on your topic. A literature review goes beyond summing up the research of others and explores the relationships within the literature. It determines what has already been investigated, identifies potential relationships between concepts, defines and measures key concepts and relates to research already completed in the field of study.

A literature review:

  • Describes, summarizes, evaluates, clarifies and integrates information on your project 
  • Surveys scholarly articles, books and other sources relevant to your area of research
  • Provides a description, summary, and critical evaluation of significant works 
Why do a literature review?
  • To identify methods, information, and/or ideas that could be relevant to your project
  • To identify seminal works in your area
  • To place your project into the context of established work 

What types of questions will help guide your literature review?

  • Facts about your sponsor
  • Facts about your topic
  • Information about your geographic area - culture, demographics, language, economy, climate, etc.
  • What research has already been done on your topic?
  • What solutions or ideas have already been tried? 
  • How do the previous solutions, ideas, and research relate to each other?

Websites & Guides

Research Tip

When completing a literature review it is important to consider how your project may be considered within different disciplines.  For example, if you are attempting to create an effective children's program for a museum, within your literature review you would want to consider research in museum studies, early childhood education, marketing, and cultural studies in the locale where you will be working.

Related Guides

Books about Literature Reviews

Books at WPI: