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How to Write a Research Paper: Literature Review

Step by step description of how to write a research paper

What Sources Can I Use?

You can use a variety of sources for your literature review:


Use our Central Dakota Library Network to find books available at Welder Library or other regional libraries. You can also search for books through WorldCat. You may request books in WorldCat by using our Interlibrary Loan Service

Reference Materials:

Reference Materials such as encyclopedia and dictionaries provide good overall views of topics and provide keyword hints for searching. Many will include lists of sources to consider for your literature review. You can access Welder Library's reference materials in the library or use the electronic resources. 


Journal are a major source of materials for a literature review. With the library's databases, you can located and requested journals through our Interlibrary Loan Service


General websites can be a valuable resource for information. However, most websites are largely unregulated. Be sure to review the Evaluating Sources before using a website as a source. 

Government Publications:

The U.S. government produces a wide variety of information sources, from consumer brochures to Congressional reports to large amounts of data to longitudinal studies. For the United States, and official state websites are good places to start.

What is a Literature Review?

What is a literature review? 

  • It is more than a summary of sources. 
  • It must have organizational pattern that combines both summary and synthesis.
    • Summary is a recap of the important information of the source.
    • Synthesis is the organization of that information. 
  • It is different from a research paper, because literature reviews focus on the sources.

Why do we write them?

  • They provide a handy guide of resources to a particular topic. 
  • Helps keep professionals up to date with what is current in the field. 
  • For scholars, the depth and breadth of the literature review emphasizes the credibility of the writer in their field. 

What is a Literature Review?

Other Helpful Tips

Use evidence:

Your interpretation of the available sources must be backed up with evidence to show that what you are saying is valid. 

Be selective: 

Select only the most important points in each source to highlight in the review. The type of information you choose to mention should relate directly to the review's focus, whether is it thematic, methodological, or chronological. 

Use quotes sparingly:

The nature of a literature review does not allow for in-depth discussion or detailed quotes from the text. Some short quotes are okay, if you want to emphasize a point, or if what the author said just cannot be rewritten in your own words. 

Summarize and Synthesize:

Remember to summarize and synthesize your sources within each paragraph as well as throughout the review. You can synthesize the information by rephrasing the study's significance and relate it to their work. 

Keep Your Own Voice:

While the literature review represent other's ideas, your voice (the writer's) should remain front and center. 

Use Caution when Paraphrasing:

When paraphrasing a source that is not your own, be sure to represent the author's information or opinions accurately and in your own words. 

("Literature Reviews" from The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)