An introduction to the research process and useful tools for Penn State Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Health graduate students. See also General Library Services for borrowing, InterLibrary loan and course reserves
Often the first interaction a graduate student has with the library is when they are instructed by their advisor to "get started on your literature review". But what does that mean? What is a literature review? What purpose does it serve in research? What should you expect when writing one?
Simply defined, a literature review is critical analysis of the literature already published on a topic. Science graduate students often develop their research question as a result of the work being done in the lab with which they are associated. They must then be able to step back and describe how their specific question fits in the context of the field or discipline. This requires that the student spend time finding, reading, interpreting, and synthesizing the available information so that it is connected to their thesis.