What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a body of text that aims to review the critical points of current knowledge on a particular topic. Most often associated with science-oriented literature, such as a thesis, the literature review usually proceeds a research proposal, methodology and results section. Its ultimate goals is to bring the reader up to date with current literature on a topic and forms that basis for another goal, such as the justification for future research in the area. (retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literature_review)

Print Resources

Many resources on research methodology include a chapter on literature review. Try these titles:


There are many resources available on the internet and in print to help you conduct a literature review. For graduate students working on a thesis, the most important resource is your graduate committee chair. Also, if you are an ILR student, don't forget to speak with one of Catherwood's reference librarians. They have subject matter expertise and can help you find research materials, as well as show you relevant databases and resources, including Zotero, an online bibliographic management system. Cornell students can also take advantage of the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, which offers a walk-in tutoring Service.

Additional Resources for Writing Literature Reviews

Searching the Library Catalog

Conducting a guided keyword search from the Cornell University Library Catalog, using the terms "research methodology" or "qualitative research" will provide additional results, and adding the term "social sciences" to the search will help narrow the results. You can also use this list of the classification numbers for theses by department. We also offer a finding guide to dissertations and theses that you may find useful!

We also recommend you look through other theses - often your graduate chair will have copies.

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