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Literature Reviews in Education

Scholarship is a Conversation

A literature review is a survey of current scholarly sources on a topic. It is a summary of the scholarly conversation about the topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, relevant theories and models, and highlights gaps in understanding. This is an important piece of a graduate-level research project, thesis, or dissertation. The literature review demonstrates your understanding of scholarship on your topic and how your own research fits into the conversation. Your job is not merely to summarize the research, but to synthesize, analyze, and evaluate the sources you include. Because of this, literature reviews are among the most valuable types of research writing. 

We can think about five steps to a literature review: 

1. Search for sources

2. Evaluate the sources you find. 

3. Identify important themes, major debates, and gaps in understanding. 

4. Outline the organizational structure of your review.

5. Write your literature review.