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OSU Libraries

Literature Review: 1. Get Started

How to guide for researching and managing the literature review.

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 OSU 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 1Search
  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.
  3. If you receive too many results, narrow down on the left-hand side. First, narrow by Topic - OSU-Theses. Second, narrow by date.
  4. Choose a recent thesis.  All theses published after 2006 are required to be posted online in the "ScholarsArchive". 
  5. Open the View Online tab and click view full text. This will take you to the ScholarsArchive where you can click on the link for the PDF of the thesis or dissertation you are interested in.

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