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Research and Conducting a Lit Review in MAE: Literature Review Overview

What's my goal in a literature review?

Your goal in a literature review is to present and analyze the literature about a particular topic. In research and grant proposals, literature reviews show the gaps in knowledge your study or project will address.

Each source in a lit review is a piece of a larger puzzle. You'll want to discover:

puzzle pieces Which sources talk about what part of your topic?

Where do your sources agree?

Where do your sources contradict one another or show lack of consensus?

Where are the gaps in knowledge about your topic?

How did research on your topic develop over time?

Conducting a Literature Review


What's the focus of you research? What are you focusing on? The library can help you choose an interesting and focused topic. Once you have a topic, do a preliminary search to see what you find, then narrow your topic based on what turns up. 


Next, you want to pick where you're going to search. Pick multiple options - specialized databases, Google Scholar, library databases, etc... Think about your topic and where you'll find information to fit the different sub-topics related to your research. 


You can consult with a librarian to help you develop keywords and search strings, use subject searching and filtering to your advantage, and track down full text of sources.


Make sure you're capturing multiple perspectives on your issue or topic, not just a narrow view.  Evaluate your sources carefully for credibility and relevancy. 


Make your reading an active process by highlighting and taking notes. Consider using a matrix to organize your sources and identify scholarly conversations.


Remember that your voice has a place in this conversation. Your analysis and organization is the glue of the lit review. 

Help for Statewide Campus/Online Students

As a USU Statewide or Online student, you can access all of the library's databases, articles, and e-books from home or anywhere with Internet. To access library resources from the USU Libraries website, a research guide (like this!), or your Canvas course, you will be prompted to enter your A number and password. For more information on how to order physical books, get research help, and other time-saving tips, visit the Library Services for Statewide and Online Users website.