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Illinois Tech Library Guides

Completing a Successful Literature Review: Introduction

Step-by-step guide to forming keywords and searching for articles for a literature review.

What's a literature review?

A literature review ("lit review" for short) is a compilation of the relevant scholarly materials (i.e., not "popular" materials such as news articles) on your subject, which you then read, synthesize, and cite to as needed within your assignment, paper, thesis, or dissertation. See the chart below for the types of sources that are typically included in a lit review. *For a systematic literature review, often used in health-related fields such as psychology, see additional tips on the Systematic Literature Review tab.

Include in literature review Exclude from literature review
  • academic, peer-reviewed articles
    • These will compile the majority of your lit review, and possibly all of it
  • academic books, such as textbooks (sometimes)
  • conference proceedings (sometimes)
  • past dissertations (sometimes)
  • Wikipedia and other encyclopedias
  • news articles
  • magazine articles
  • most books
    • non-fiction books written for a general audience are not appropriate either; for example, books by Erik Larson are non-fiction but written with a popular "spin."

This guide provides step-by-step instructions detailing one strategy for completing a literature review. Librarians can also help you with the lit review process. Contact your subject librarian to make a research appointment.

*If any suggestions on this guide conflict with specific assignment instructions, follow your instructor's (or adviser's) instructions.

Examples of lit reviews

Below are some examples of lit reviews from journal articles.

Paul V. Galvin Library

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IIT Galvin Library
Paul V. Galvin Library
Illinois Institute of Technology
(312) 567-3616