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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Neurosciences Research and Scholarship

This guide provides an access point for library resources and services for research and scholarship in the area of neurosciences. It is intended for use by students and faculty.

Literature Review

A review of the literature is often necessary in order to survey and analyze current (you determine time frame) literature relating to a particular issue, problem, theory, methodology, model, framework, etc.

A thorough literature review involves a comprehensive search of all known/findable scholarly literature that addresses the topic. In some cases other types of sources, such as books or book chapters, theses or dissertations, “gray literature” such as technical reports, documents, media, social media, or conversations  may also be appropriate.

The written review provides a summary and analysis of this literature in order to put research into a context, to explain what has been done to date, and/or to identify gaps or missing elements. 

Basic Steps of a Literature Review

A literature review is a survey of current (you determine time frame) literature relating to a particular issue, problem, theory, etc. The review involves a comprehensive search of all of the known/findable scholarly literature related to the issue or topic. The written review provides a summary of this literature and can be a publication in its own right, or may be part of a larger academic research publication.

  • Identify the problem
  • Formulate the research question

  • Conduct preliminary search(es) of the literature as appropriate in order to:

    • find out if the same or similar research has already been published
    • broaden or refine the scope of the problem
    • bring to light new issues or quesitons related to the topic
    • provide models or frameworks that can inform your research
    • identify experts or scholars in the field
    • provide background or context for your research
  • Refine the topic

  • Conduct a comprehensive review of the literature using multiple dabases and other appropriate resrouces

  • Review/evaluatle/analyze results

    • Glance at the title; if you think the publication may be relevant look at the abstract.
    • If the abstract indicates that the article will be important go to the full text and skim the intorudction, methods and results. (If you find a structured abstract this process will be much easier.)
    • Save citations/full text for all potentially important literature.

Limits AND Filters

Most databases offer options that will refine or limit your search results.

Typical options include:

  • Date(s)
  • Language
  • Demographic Variables
    • Gender
    • Age
    • Race or Ethnicity
  • Publication or Study Type
  • Peer Review