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Literature Review Challenge


A Bit More on Literature Reviews, Plus Examples

You may do any or all of the following as you prepare literature reviews for projects, publications, conference papers, and presentations.

A. You will likely conduct an initial literature review to:

  • explore and better understand the existing research on your topic;
  • develop your own perspective on an issue or problem;
  • and begin to synthesize what you know about your topic.

You may have an initial thesis or hypothesis that, once you become more informed on your topic, you revise (sometimes multiple times).

B. As you further refine your research question(s) or interests, a more focused literature review will help you zero in on the concepts that are important to your particular area of inquiry.

C. As you conduct your experiment, ethnography, analysis, or field experience, other questions may arise, and further literature searching may become important. 

D. Once you've completed your experiment, ethnography, analysis, or field experience, you will want to situate your findings in the literature. This may be come, in part, from literature you already have on hand. However, you may also encounter issues or themes during the course of your study that you want to further understand or expand upon through additional literature searching.


As you think about ways to weave literature into your work (and depending on the expectations in your field), consider these three examples of how literature reviews show up in different types of publications. You will find descriptions and links to three types of literature-rich papers below, and snapshots of the papers themselves in the carousel at the bottom of the page.

1. Understanding Information Spreading in Social Media during Hurricane Sandy The type of literature review we're most likely familiar with is the one that serves as a section of a piece of writing, usually near the beginning (e.g., in a paper, article, or book chapter). Although often called "Literature Review," this section is sometimes called "Introduction" or "Background." This type of literature review sets the stage for the research, critique, or analysis to come, and gives the reader a sense of the most important scholarship on a particular topic (and with context!). 

2. Providing Health Consumers with Emergency Information A literature review can also comprise an entire paper. For example, a review article can help define or describe the scope of a particular issue or phenomenon to date. In this article, the authors examine a range of research focused on the effectiveness of social media use during public crises. These types of articles can be rich resources, not only to get a general understanding of where things stand with a particular issue, but also for identifying additional relevant literature on one's topic(s).

3. Does Compassion Go Viral? While not called a ‘literature review’ per se, we often see cited literature return to a paper/article/book chapter in the Discussion section (scroll to the Discussion section of this article as an example). Authors will often situate their findings within other, relevant scholarship by suggesting how their own research builds on, adds to, or echoes existing literature. You may also see authors address ways in which their findings diverge from or disagree with previous scholarship - this has the potential to spur new lines of thinking (and research questions!) around a topic, as well as novel approaches to addressing that topic.


Literature Review Examples

Does Compassion Go Viral?

While not called a ‘literature review’ per se, we often see cited literature return to a paper/article/book chapter in the Discussion section (scroll to the Discussion section of this article as an example). Authors will often situate their findings within other, relevant scholarship by suggesting how their own research builds on, adds to, or echoes existing literature. You may also see authors address ways in which their findings diverge from or disagree with previous scholarship - this has the potential to spur new lines of thinking (and research questions!) around a topic, as well as novel approaches to addressing that topic.

Providing Health Consumers with Emergency Information

A literature review can also comprise an entire paper. For example, a review article can help define or describe the scope of a particular issue or phenomenon to date. In this article, the authors examine a range of research focused on the effectiveness of social media use during public crises. These types of articles can be rich resources, not only to get a general understanding of where things stand with a particular issue, but also for identifying additional relevant literature on one's topic(s).

Understanding Information Spreading in Social Media during Hurricane Sandy

The type of literature review we're most likely familiar with is the one that serves as a section of a piece of writing, usually near the beginning (e.g., in a paper, article, or book chapter). Although often called "Literature Review," this section is sometimes called "Introduction" or "Background." This type of literature review sets the stage for the research, critique, or analysis to come, and gives the reader a sense of the most important scholarship on a particular topic (and with context!). 

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