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In a literature review you explore research that has come before you and is relevant to your topic. It can help you identify:
- core research in the field
- experts in the subject area
- methodology you may want to use (or avoid)
- gaps in the literature -- or where your research would fit in
- see what literature reviews already exist on your topic (databases like PubMed and PsycInfo -- can help you get started, and save you a lot of time.) For PsycInfo, restrict by literature review, for PubMed by review.
- citation slogging (aka "snowballing") -- work your way back through citations (or footnotes) to key articles
- forward citation -- see who has cited key articles using Google Scholar and Web of Science Citation Indexes.
- see the American Psychological Association's Literature Review Guidelines for some helpful tips.