A literature review identifies, summarizes and synthesizes the previously published work on your subject of interest. Your synthesis is key in providing new interpretations of the studies, demonstrating gaps, or discussing flaws in the existing studies. The literature review can be organized by categories or in the order of your research questions/hypotheses.
While you have been including literature reviews in your research papers and collecting citations for your dissertation, the literature review for a grant proposal is shorter and includes only those studies that are essential in showing your study’s importance.
When you are the researcher:
The literature review establishes your credibility to conduct the study in your grant proposal. It indicates your knowledge of the subject and how your study fits into the larger realms of your discipline.
When you are the reader:
The literature review benefits you as the reader by providing an overview of the subject of interest and describing current research. This can be very helpful at the exploration stage when you are developing your ideas. Literature reviews are written in a formal, distinctive style which you will absorb as you read and be able to replicate more easily when you write. When you are near the end of your library research, the literature review might be helpful in determining how thorough you have been. You will know if you have included all relevant studies.
Paula Neves' helpful document on the literature review process:
What is a Literature Review?
The Functions of a Literature Review:
How to Write a Literature Review (redacted and adapted from “Guidelines for writing a literature review” by Helen Mongan-Rallis. at http://www.duluth.umn.edu/~hrallis/guides/researching/litreview.html)
Guide from the University of North Carolina's Writing Center:
Guide from the University of California: Santa Clara:
Wesleyan University Library guide including extensive information about
the types of literature reviews: http://libguides.wesleyan.edu/litreview
This section of the guide was originally created by Ann Watkins.