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AidData Researchers


This page provides an overview of a literature review and suggests some strategies and resources for finding the information you need using the Swem Library.

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Literature Review

A literature review is a systematic survey of the scholarly literature published on a given topic.  Rather than providing a new research insight, a literature review lays the groundwork for an in-depth research project analyzing previous research. Type of documents surveyed will vary depending on the field, but can include:

  • books
  • journal articles,
  • theses
  • dissertations.

A thorough literature review will also require surveying what librarians call "conference papers," which includes difficult-to-locate documents such as:

  • technical reports
  • government publications
  • working papers
  • preprints

Why we do them!

Purpose of the Literature Review

The purpose of the literature review remains the same regardless of the research method you use. It tests your research question against what already is known about your subject.  So your review will

  •  Determine the limits or boundaries of the research problem
  • Identify studies, models, case studies, etc.,  supporting your topic
  • Identify  gaps in research
  • Give direction for new research