What is a literature review?
A literature review describes key prior research that is related in a significant way to your intended research project. Typically, you will see a literature review as a section of an article, as an entire article of its own, or as a chapter of a dissertation.
Why do a literature review?
What does a literature review involve?
What next? What else do I need to know?
[ 9.38 minutes ]
Read the following paragraph. Then answer the questions below it. 
“Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer [her]; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.”
Questions (click on question for answer):
You wouldn’t be taken seriously, because you’ve interrupted the conversation without knowing where the conversation has been or where is headed.Not much. You could only describe what one person said.Think of research in the literature of a topic as if you were JOINING A CONVERSATION -- a scholarly conversation that has been going on for some time. Question 1 is intended to help you understand a situation in which you develop a research question and carry out original research without first doing a literature review. Essentially, your work could not be taken seriously because you would be attempting to enter the scholarly discussion without understanding what anyone else has done or is doing. Question 2 is intended to help you understand the ramifications of carrying out original research after reading only one or two articles. Without a more complete knowledge of the conversation, you may be repeating something that's already been said or done or repeating errors that have already been recognized and avoided by others. When doing a literature review in preparation for carrying out your own original research, you are joining a scholarly conversation. For your research to make a worthwhile contribution to that conversation, you need to be very familiar with what other researchers have done and are doing. Preparing a literature review is a way to familiarize yourself with the work of others and writing a literature review is a way of demonstrating to other scholars that you fully comprehend how your own research fits into and contributes to the conversation.
 Use of the Burkean Parlor and questions was suggested by Erika Bennett (Reference Librarian, Capella University) on the Information Literacy discussion list of the American Library Association, ILI-L, on 13 February 2009.
 K. Burke, The philosophy of literary form; studies in symbolic action. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1941, pp. 110-111.
Karl E. Mundt Library, Dakota State University, Madison, South Dakota 57042