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GOVT 402: Borders, Boundaries, and Democracy

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 include:

  • books
  • journal articles
  • technical reports
  • government publications
  • working papers
  • research reports

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.  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

Jeffrey W. Knopf goes into terrific detail and description about doing a literature review - what it includes, what it doesn't include, how to approach your search, and how to arrange the scholarship when writing the review. It is a short, but great read, if you would like more detail:

Jeffrey W. Knopf. (Jan 2006). "Doing a Literature Review," PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 39, No. 1: pp. 127-132.