COM 275: Foundations of Communication Research: Literature Review

Definition & Purpose 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. See Davis Lachlan textbook ch. 4.

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.

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

Video tutorials

How to Conduct an Effective Literature Review: 5-minute 40-second video from Sage Research Methods discusses the process of visualizing, mapping, or diagramming your lit review.

  • Last Updated: May 23, 2022 2:38 PM
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