ECO 495: Senior Economic Project: Literature Review

Guide for students enrolled in ECO 495

Definition of Literature Reviews


A literature review surveys books, scholarly articles, and any other sources relevant to your research topic or thesis statement. It should provide a theoretical summary or critical evaluation of these scholarly works. You will need to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize the research that you’ve found on your topic. A literature review should give context to your thesis and, if possible, reveal any gaps in current literature. 

5 Steps for completing your Literature Review

Step 1:

  • Look at other literature reviews
  • Choose a topic
    • Choose a topic that interests you
  • Narrow your topic down
    • This is important to do otherwise the literature you find will be too massive 

Step 2:​

  • Once you've narrowed your topic look for resources
    • You can look for books using the Library Search
    • Or look for articles in one of the Economics databases
    • AT FIRST--skim and scan by reading titles, abstracts, methodologies and review references or bibliographies. Only keep items related to your topic 
      • Once you have found books or articles that you feel relate to your topic, then do a "Citation Chase"
        • Do this by looking at the articles' or books' bibliographies or reference pages
          • Find sources from the reference papers that relate to your topic
          • Search for those items by typing in the titles in the University Libraries “Find It box

​Step 3:

  • Read and keep notes on each source
    • You could keep notes on index cards, in a special notebook, or by using an electronic device or app
      • I recommend keeping notes with Evernote because it is Open Source and once you create an account you can access it from any device
    • You may want to use a citation manager to organize all of your citations, there are many to choose from, here is a comparative list of some of the most popular. 
      • I recommend Zotero, again it is Open Source and accessible from anywhere

​​Step 4:

  • Once you've collected, read, noted, and saved your citations and resources you should begin to see patterns
  • ​​Skim your notes to sort out themes (methodologies, data, results, etc.) 
  • In each theme are you noticing any chronological or structural order, if so, make note of that information
    • Does a topic develop over time 
    • Do authors agree with each other or disagree on methodology or conclusions
    • What strengths or weaknesses did you find in the literature
  • Don't forget that you're trying to relate this literature to the story you wish to tell and you may find some of your articles fall out of your scope--make note of that to determine whether to mention them or not--talk to your professor about out of scope titles

Step 5:

  • Write your literature review
    • Make an outline or structural form of your review
    • Remember your audience when writing
    • Avoid too much jargon
    • ​Be concise; don't go off on tangents; stay focused on your thesis statement
    • Introduction should contain some of the following:
      • Your purpose for writing the review
      • Overview of the problem
      • What is the scope of your review
      • Talk about the amount of literature you found
    • Body of the review should contain some of the following:
      • Themes
      • Chronological order
      • Advancements of theories 
      • Questions related to topic
    • Conclusion should contain some of the following:
      • Summarize your findings
      • Expose gaps in knowledge
      • Provide a rationale for future research
    • References in APA style

What is in a Literature Review?

A literature review may consist of simply a summary of key sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis, often within specific conceptual categories. 

  • A summary is a recap of the important information of the source
  • A synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information in a way that informs how you are planning to investigate a research problem.


What is the purpose of a literature review?

  • To demonstrate to your readers what you know about your topic
  • To bring your readers up-to-date and fill them in on what has been published on your topic
  • To allow you a better understanding of your topic

Lit. Review, How-to videos

Subjects: Economics
  • Last Updated: May 21, 2024 9:32 AM
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