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Graduate Research Seminar

What is a Literature Review?

When writing a literature review, you will synthesize the related prior research discovered after a comprehensive review of the literature. In academic or scholarly work, this usually is a summary of key or seminal works in a focused area. Often one of the first sections any scholarly research article will have is a review and synthesis of the previously published literature on the topic addressed in the article. The review will tell the reader how it is related to the topic of the actual project. The unique research being done should build on and reference prior work.

Short Video Clips - Researchers Speak about Background Research & Literature Reviews:

What Does a Literature Review Look Like?

Compare the following examples. When you are reading research articles, observe how authors are pulling together the literature in order to set the context for their own research. Generally new research fills a void and researchers are breaking new ground.

Find Key Journals

As you are researching, keep track of key journals that are coming up. Follow up and search directly. Check the Library catalog to determine what titles WPI has access to.

Web of Science - Sort by Times Cited & Analyze Results

Try searching the ISI Web of Knowledge: Web of Science on your research keywords and then analyze the results by journal to obtain a listing of those publishing content about your research area. This search works well for finding authors as well. You can also try Google Scholar and view "Cited by."

How to Research

Research Databases

Search library databases then follow up on bibliographies of articles found within the specific area of research.

Good researchers follow up on:

  • key authors, 
  • seminal or important works and
  • key journals in a field.

Much time and a comprehensive understanding of the field of research is needed in order to produce quality work.

Research Tips

Expose Similarities & Gaps in Your Literature Review Grid

See Also