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PSCI 361 - Political Research

Organizing Your Literature Review

Literature reviews can be confusing if you've never written one, and sometimes students write one that looks more like an annotated bibliography. What's the difference?


Annotated Bibliography

Literature Review


Ordered list of sources for additional reading, along with brief explanations describing the credibility and relevance of each source. A topical overview that summarizes and explains the most significant sources.


Each source is listed separately in alphabetical order and is only included once. Sources integrated into paragraphs organized by theme. Each paragraph can include several sources, and sources can be repeated.


Each source is listed individually in a citation style such as APA or APSA, along with a short summary and evaluation. Begins with an introduction summarizing the topic, then synthesizes sources into a discussion organized by theme, and ends with a summary

Adapted from "Comparing the Annotated Bibliography to the Literature Review" (pdf), accessed from on 10 October 2016.

Since literature reviews are organized thematically and not by source, it can be difficult to keep track of the themes you encounter in the sources you read. If you create a matrix such as this one and record the themes you find as you read, it will be easier to organize your literature review when it's time to start writing.

  Source 1 Source 2 Source 3 Source 4
Main Idea A        
Main Idea B        
Main Idea C        

Adapted from "Writing a Literature Review and Using a Synthesis Matrix (pdf)," accessed from on 8 April 2019.