Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

CAFES Research Central

Understanding Literature Reviews

What are Literature Reviews?
In Literature Review and Research Design : A Guide to Effective Research Practice, author David Harris identifies three basic types of literature review that appear in scholarly writing (p. 139):
  • Summary Overview: "surveys different ideas found in some body of literature on a given subject. Reviews and summarizes what has been published by others on a subject without aspiring to provide any novel analytical insight."
    • Example: Textbooks, traditional review articles
  • Research Background: “provides background for a specific study by discussing the ideas that helped define the research questions. Its purpose is to explain the intellectual sources that inform a specific research project”. 
    • Examples: Dissertations, theses and empirical studies (i.e. most research articles). 
  • Research Study:  “formal and methodical analysis of a body of literature that is an empirical research study in its own right."
    • Examples: Systematic reviews and meta-analyses

Adapted from Harris, David J. Literature Review and Research Design : A Guide to Effective Research Practice . 1st edition, Routledge, 2019