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MEERL Program Library Guide

What is a Literature Review?

  • An account and evaluation of studies related to your topic
  • Found in theses & dissertations, primary journal articles, reports
  • May be published as book chapters or review articles

For information about other types of reviews, see the guide for Systematic Reviews & Other Syntheses.

Check these sites for additional information:

What are the possible goals of a literature review?

1. Overview of a particular topic – the state of knowledge
2. Identifies problems/controversies about a particular topic – raises questions, but doesn’t  necessarily answer them
3. Historical account - the chronological development of a particular field of study
4. Theory evaluation – are theories valid?
5. Development of new theory

From: Baumeister, R.F. & M.R. Leary.  (1997) . Writing Narrative Literature Reviews.  Review of General Psychology, 1(3): 311 – 320.

Check some examples:

H. N. Pollack.  The Heat Flow from the Continents.  Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences.  1982, 10: 459-481.  (Contains goals 1-4)

Paula F. Baillie-Hamilton. Chemical Toxins: A Hypothesis to Explain the Global Obesity Epidemic.  The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2002, 8(2): 185-192.  (Most notably, goal 5)

David W. Eaton, Erick Adam, Bernd Milkereit, Matthew Salisbury, Brian Roberts, Don While, James Wright.  Enhancing base-metal exploration with seismic imaging. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 2010, 47(5): 741-760.  https://doi.rog/10.1139/E09-047  (This paper is part of a Special Issue on the theme Lithoprobe – parameters, processes, and the evolution of a continent)

“The purpose of this paper is to review some of the numerous contributions made by Lithoprobe toward the development of seismic technology for deep mineral exploration.  We will begin with a brief overview of the petrophysical basis for this technique, i.e., why base-metal deposits are expected to produce strong seismic reflections and (or) scattered signals.  Next, we will consider case studies that illustrate Lithoprobe results, with a view toward both the potential for, and the limitations of, MCS applied to mineral deposit exploration and development.  Lastly, we will summarize a few representative Lithoprobe followup projects, including how these studies fit into the global context and future prospects for MCS survey tetchniques as a cost-effective tool for deep mineral exploration and orebody delineation.”

(Eaton et al, 2010, p. 742)

Analyzing Citations

Review article analysisA quick way to find related research is to check a particular publication's reference list.  It is also possible to find papers that have cited that same paper: use the "cited by" feature that is available in Google Scholar and Web of Science.

Finding Reviews