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Writing a Literature Review in the Arts and Humanities

Process of Literature Review

This guide was created to help FSU students in the arts and humanities with writing a literature review.

Whether you are writing a literature review for your term paper, research article, or thesis/dissertation, we hope you will find some helpful tips for completing the task.

Each tab in this guide was designed to correspond to each stage of the literature review process. However, research and writing are iterative processes; they do not necessarily follow a linear process. You may find yourself cycling through stages more than once, perhaps going back to your topic after a first reading of articles and books you have discovered. The outline here is meant only as a guide for thinking about the process.

What is a Literature Review?

A Literature Review IS...

  • a selective, integrated analysis and synthesis of what has been researched and published on a particular topic
  • a process, typically starting from selecting a topic to review and concluding with writing a manuscript to report the published works on the topic
  • an iterative process: you may have to keep coming back to previous stage(s) to refine your topic, modify the search statements, and/or revise a working thesis, etc.

A Good Literature Review IS NOT...

  • a mere summary of what you have read on a topic
  • a summary of everything that is reported on a topic
  • an annotated bibliography 

         ...BUT IS

  • a critical summary of relevant and selective literature on the topic
  • written in clear language
  • a piece of research on its own

         ...AND DOES

  • situate and focus your research in context
  • use credible and most relevant sources
  • add value to the existing knowledge on the topic

FSU Reading Writing Center

The Florida State University Reading-Writing Center and Digital Studio offers writing support to all FSU students across all the disciplines.

Video Tutorials

These tutorials are hosted on YouTube and may include advertising. FSU Libraries do not endorse ads promoted by YouTube.

Guide Authors

This guide was authored by Abby Scheel in 2017.
Adam Beauchamp maintains the guide and is the point of contact for inquiries.

Except where otherwise noted, the content in this guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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