Literature Review

Submitted by Lindsey McLean on May 8th, 2015
Share this on: 
Short Description: 

The primary purpose of a literature review is to provide a rationale for your proposed research question(s). You need to locate your research question within the broader conversation of a particular discipline. A review of literature should present a synthesis of existing theory and research literature that argues for the usefulness of the research question. The process of constructing a literature review acquaints the researcher with the studies already done in a particular area and allows the researcher to build/extend existing knowledge and enter into the discourse of a particular field. The student selects a research topic that is related to course material and of interest and gets it approved by the instructor. Then they must locate 8-10 scholarly sources that address the research topic. Finally, they write a literature review that includes a clear introduction stating the research topic; and a body that summarizes and synthesizes the 8-10 sources required, ending with a new research question. All sources must be cited in proper APA style. Grading is based on source quality and source relationship to the research topic, organization, ability to synthesize, quality of the research question, and adherence to the proper citation style.

Matrices-Worksheet.pdfDownloaded 7104 times186.4 KB
Learning Outcomes: 
  • Construct a well-supported research-based question
  • Find and use scholarly and discipline-specific professional information
  • Select an appropriate documentation style and use it consistently to cite sources
  • Evaluate scholarly articles and understand the research method used

Individual or Group:

Course Context (e.g. how it was implemented or integrated): 

This assignment works well when paired with an earlier annotated bibliography assignment.

Additional Instructor Resources (e.g. in-class activities, worksheets, scaffolding applications, supplemental modules, further readings, etc.): 

The library’s subject LibGuides (research guides) available at and the ARC’s Writing LibGuide available at

Potential Pitfalls and Teaching Tips: 

Students lean towards summarizing rather than synthesizing.

Suggested Citation: 
McLean, Lindsey. "Literature Review." CORA (Community of Online Research Assignments), 2015.