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Literature Review: Role of the literature review

The role of the literature review

Your literature review gives readers an understanding of the scholarly research on your topic.

In your literature review you will:

  • demonstrate that you are a well-informed scholar with expertise and knowledge in the field by giving an overview of the current state of the literature
  • find a gap in the literature, or address a business or professional issue, depending on your doctoral study program; the literature review will illustrate how your research contributes to the scholarly conversation
  • provide a synthesis of the issues, trends, and concepts surrounding your research

We want to help you maintain the vision of the big picture. It’s easy to lose sight of this when you’re doing your research, following various threads of interest, sometimes getting bogged down in the details. The literature review is not a comprehensive history of your topic, but a way to provide context to your reader about research that has preceded your study. 

Be aware that the literature review is an iterative process. As you read and write initial drafts, you will find new threads and complementary themes, at which point you will return to search, find out about these new themes, and incorporate them into your review.

The purpose of this guide is to help you through the literature review process. Take some time to look over the resources in order to become familiar with them. The tabs on the left side of this page have additional information.


Here are some useful resources from the Writing Center, the Office of Research and Doctoral Services, and other departments within the Office of Academic Support. Take some time to look at what is available to help you with your capstone/dissertation.


You can watch recorded webinars on the literature review in our Library Webinar Archives.