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Michigan State University

BE 820-Research Methods in Biosystems Engineering: Literature Review

Dr. Tim Harrigan, Fall 2022

What is a literature review

The term "literature review" can mean different things in different contexts.  All share in common the idea of examining the scholarly literature on a topic.  It is the end result that differs:

An Annotated Bibliography is "a bibliography that includes brief explanations or notes for each reference" (from  The notes may be evaluative or simply a summary.

A literature review can be free-standing article. "A review article or review of the literature article considers the state and progress of current literature on a given topic or problem by organizing, integrating, and evaluating previously published books and articles. In short, a review article is a critical evaluation of material that has already been published." (Writing Literature Reviews)  "The purpose is to offer an overview of significant literature published on a topic." (Write a Literature Review)

A literature review is a vital part of research papers including theses and dissertations.  "Surveying the literature is necessary because scholarship is cumulative -- no matter what you write, you are standing on someone else's shoulders. Scholars must say something new while connecting what they say to what has already been said." (Writing Literature Reviews);

Below are some useful links for writing a literature review.

Literature Review: A Few Tips on Conducting It - University of Toronto

Online Articles & Chapters on Lit Reviews

Related interest

Video Summarizing the Literature Review Process

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Courtesy of the University of North Carolina State University Libraries

Ebooks on lit reviews

Print resouces on lit reviews

Systematic Review compared to a Literature Review

Systematic Review compared to a Literature Review

Kysh, Lynn (2013): Difference between a systematic review and a literature review. [figshare]. Available at: