Skip to Main Content

HPHE 6900: Research Procedures in Human Performance and Health Education

This is a library research guide for students enrolled in HPHE 6900: Research Procedures in Human Performance and Health Education

What is a literature review?

What is a literature review? 

A literature review is an overview and synthesis of the literature related to the topic you are researching. It 

  • surveys the literature in your chosen area of study.

  • synthesizes the information in that literature into a summary.

  • critically analyzes the information gathered by identifying gaps in current knowledge; by showing limitations of theories and points of view; and by formulating areas for further research and reviewing areas of controversy.

  • presents the literature in an organized way.
    Royal Literary Fund


A literature review is a common paper type in the sciences and social sciences. In a literature review, you will be asked to describe and summarize the current scholarship in a specific field on a particular topic. To write a literature review, you would gather primary research on your chosen topic. You might divide your paper to focus on a variety of areas, study methodologies, different study focuses, or results across the various sources you review.  For example, you may write a literature review for an environmental science class summarizing current scholarship on the topic of preventive efforts against invasive insect species. You would survey recent scholarship on the subject and, based on your assignment's requirements, select an order and strategy for your analysis.

Why write a literature review

  • highlights the core works that relate to your topic.
  • points out the research that has been done previously so you do not repeat conducting research that has already been done.
  • Adapted from Royal Literary Fund

  • points out gaps in the research that has been done and provides you with an opportunity to highlight how your work addresses this gap.
  • identifies research methods others have used that may relate to your research method.
  • may show you are building or scaffolding on others research in a new way.
  • establishes the depth of your knowledge in an area.
  • may point out opposing positions.

How to write a literature review

  • Read and evaluate sources
  • Choose and use a clean structure for writing your literature review
  • Interpret the research you have found
  • Critique the research you have found
  • Present solutions written on your topic
  • Use your own voice

Literature Reviews: an Overview for Graduate Students

This excellent overview of the literature review explains what a literature review and outlines processes and best practices for doing one. It includes input from an NCSU professor on what a literature review is and what it should do. (Shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US license, attributed to North Carolina State University Libraries).

Video: Writing the literature review