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How To Do A Literature Review: Welcome!

This guide was created to help students understand and write a literature review. This guide was originally created by Michelle Spomer.

APU Books

The following books, available in APU libraries, have helpful information on literature reviews.

LINK+ Books

Looking for more books? Click on the link below to see what's available through LINK+ (for more info on LINK+, click here). 

LINK+ Books On Literature Reviews

Literature Review Examples in Journals

The following articles are either stand-alone literature reviews or contain sections that are literature reviews. These are available online in APU Libraries databases.

Carnochan, S., Lee, C., & Austin, M. J. (2013). Achieving Exits to Permanency for Children in Long Term CareJournal Of Evidence-Based Social Work, 10(3), 220-234. doi:10.1080/15433714.2013.788952

Hesselbrock, M. N., Hesselbrock, V. M., & Chartier, K. G. (2013). Genetics of Alcohol Dependence and Social Work Research: Do They Mix?. Social Work In Public Health, 28(3/4), 178-193. doi:10.1080/19371918.2013.758999

Krueger, S. J., & Glass, C. R. (2013). Integrative psychotherapy for children and adolescents: A practice-oriented literature review. Journal Of Psychotherapy Integration, 23(4), 331-344. doi:10.1037/a0034949

McColl, L. D., Rideout, P. E., Parmar, T. N., & Abba-Aji, A. (2014). Peer support intervention through mobile application: An integrative literature review and future directions. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 55(4), 250-257. doi:10.1037/a0038095

Simkiss, D. E., Stallard, N., & Thorogood, M. (2013). A systematic literature review of the risk factors associated with children entering public care. Child: Care, Health & Development, 39(5), 628-642. doi:10.1111/cch.12010

Solberg, L. M., Solberg, L. B., & Peterson, E. N. (2014). Measuring impact of stress in sandwich generation caring for demented parents. Geropsych: The Journal Of Gerontopsychology And Geriatric Psychiatry, 27(4), 171-179. doi:10.1024/1662-9647/a000114

Varga, M. D. (2012). Adderall Abuse on College Campuses: A Comprehensive Literature Review. Journal Of Evidence-Based Social Work, 9(3), 293-313. doi:10.1080/15433714.2010.525402

The Basics Of A Literature Review

"Not to be confused with a book review, a literature review surveys scholarly articles, books and other sources (e.g. dissertations, conference proceedings) relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, providing a description, summary, and critical evaluation of each work. The purpose is to offer an overview of significant literature published on a topic."

from Write a Literature Review (University of California Santa Cruz University Library)

Writing literature reviews is a common practice for students in both graduate and doctoral programs. Here is a general outline of the elements of a literature review. For more in-depth information, please consult the many resources contained in the rest of this guide (which were used to create this outline).

  1. Identify Your Topic
    You probably already have a topic once you've been asked to write a literature review. However, it is important to make sure that your topic is not too broad, making a literature review overwhelming and unwieldy. A possible topic might be "the causes of depression among teenagers." You can narrow this down by adding descriptors such as gender, location, economic level, etc. A narrower topic would be "the causes of depression among homeless teenagers" or more specifically, "the causes of depression among homeless teenagers in Los Angeles."
  2. Find & Organize Resources
    Use library resources (library catalog, LINK+, journal article databases) to find books, journal articles, conference proceedings, and dissertations on your topic. Reliable information may also be found by using Google Scholar or by including '' in a basic Google search (this will limit results to .edu sites). However, be aware that most resources in literature reviews are from peer-reviewed journals and scholarly books. While you are finding resources for your literature review, it may be useful for you to use proprietary or free bibliographic software, which will allow you to keep track of your resource citations. APU offers current students free access to EndNote - the download page is here
  3. Assess Resources
    Analyze and evaluate the resources you've discovered. Do your resources represent a variety of perspectives? Who funded the research (identify bias)? What are the credentials of the researcher(s)? How directly relevant is each resource to your topic? How does each resource fit into the larger field of study? How reliable was the methodology used in the research?
  4. Write the Literature Review
    A good literature review doesn't simply summarize the major research on a particular topic - it also identifies future directions and questions that must be addressed. Be sure to show that you've grasped what's already been done and how this is relevant to your research question (if the literature review is part of a paper) and/or what needs to be done in the field (esp. if it is a stand-alone literature review).

Database Search Example

Try a search like the one you see below in one of APU Libraries' journal article databases.

Several EBSCOhost databases (such as SocINDEX with Full Text, Academic Search Premier, Communication & Mass Media Complete, GreenFILE, CINAHL Plus with Full Text) provide "Cited References" and "Times Cited in the Database" links for items in the results list. "Cited References" are essentially the bibliography of the article, which can be useful in finding more resources on the same topic. The "Times Cited in the Database" number in parentheses indicates how many other articles in the database have the article in their bibliographies, and can indicate the importance of the article (which is great for literature reviews). Two of the ProQuest databases (ABI/INFORM Complete and ProQuest Disseratations and Theses) provide these links, too, but call them "References" and "Cited by."

The Web of Science database provides a very useful feature called the Citation Report. Once you've done a search, and your results list is under 10,000 results, you will see the Create Citation Report link on the right side of your results list (see image below). Once you click this link and scroll down, you will see a list of the most cited articles from the original results list. This can be very useful in identifying important articles on your topic.

YouTube Videos

The following videos were created by David Taylor, University of Maryland University College.

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Internet Resources

The following Internet resources provide helpful information on creating literature reviews.

WorldCat Books

If APU Libraries and LINK+ are not providing enough books on literature reviews, try the WorldCat catalog (click on the link below). Request these items through interlibrary loan.

NOTE: Be sure the books you find in WorldCat are not also in APU Libraries or LINK+ before you try requesting them through interlibrary loan.

WorldCat Books On Literature Reviews

Other Online Guides

Academic librarians at other institutions have created guides on doing literature reviews, a few of which are listed below.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research, including articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Look for the 'APU Library FT Finder' link off to the right of results - these will take you into an APU journal article database where you can usually view the full text of the article. Feel free to play around with the search you see below - just click 'Search,' and modify the terms in the search box.

Google Scholar results will often have a Cited by link that lists other Google Scholar results that cite the article (see image below). 

Note: If you are off-campus, you will need to go through the following steps to see which items are available through APU databases:

  • Go to Google Scholar ( and click on Settings near the top of the page
  • Select Library Links from the menu on the left
  • Type Azusa Pacific University in the search box and click the search icon
  • Azusa Pacific University should show up in the list below the search box - check the box for Azusa Pacific University
  • Click the Save button