Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Research Guides

Literature Reviews: 1. Get Started

What is the Literature Review?

The literature review is defined by a guiding concept - your thesis or research question!  It is not simply a list of summaries or the literature in your field. It serves several purposes:

  • provides a background and theoretical basis for your research question or problem
  • demonstrates your ability to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize previous work in your field
  • sets the context and significance for your research topic
  • identifies gaps in the literature (i.e. - shows why your work is important!)

Significance of your topic

Find UI Theses & Dissertations

One of the best ways to get started is to read a completed thesis or dissertation from your department. 

  1. Find a thesis or dissertation using the UI Library's Theses and Dissertations page.
  2. Use a keyword search, enter your department name and theses ("theses" will find either a thesis or dissertation).  For example, Biochemistry and Biophysics and theses, or Public Health and theses.




Tutorials on Literature Reviews

Checklist for Starting

Each department has its own unique expectations for the literature review.  Make sure you're on the right track by doing some background work.

  1. First, read theses done by others in your department and take notes about your questions (it will make you look smart).
  2. Next, talk to your advisor about their expectations for your literature review (and thesis).
  3. Find out where the final product of your literature review will end up (literature reviews can be different in scope, length and rhetorical purpose depending on how they are used) -
  •    In a thesis or dissertation only
  •    In a journal article
  •    In a grant proposal


The content for this guide was borrowed with permission from the OSU Libraries Literature Review guide.