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- How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates
How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates
Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes .
What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .
There are five key steps to writing a literature review:
- Search for relevant literature
- Evaluate sources
- Identify themes, debates, and gaps
- Outline the structure
- Write your literature review
A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.
Table of contents
What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, frequently asked questions, introduction.
- Quick Run-through
- Step 1 & 2
When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:
- Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
- Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
- Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
- Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
- Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.
Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.
Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.
- Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
- Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
- Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
- Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)
You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.
Download Word doc Download Google doc
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Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .
If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .
Make a list of keywords
Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.
- Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
- Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
- Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth
Search for relevant sources
Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:
- Your university’s library catalogue
- Google Scholar
- Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
- Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
- EconLit (economics)
- Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)
You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.
Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.
You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.
For each publication, ask yourself:
- What question or problem is the author addressing?
- What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
- What are the key theories, models, and methods?
- Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
- What are the results and conclusions of the study?
- How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?
Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.
You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.
Take notes and cite your sources
As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.
It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.
To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:
- Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
- Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
- Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
- Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
- Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?
This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.
- Most research has focused on young women.
- There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
- But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.
There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).
The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.
Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.
If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.
For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.
If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:
- Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
- Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
- Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources
A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.
You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.
Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.
The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.
Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.
As you write, you can follow these tips:
- Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
- Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
- Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
- Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts
In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.
When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !
This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.
Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.
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A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .
It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.
There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:
- To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
- To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
- To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
- To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
- To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic
Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.
The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .
A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .
An annotated bibliography is a list of source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a paper .
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Writing a Literature Review
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A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research ( scholarship ) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably.
Where, when, and why would I write a lit review?
There are a number of different situations where you might write a literature review, each with slightly different expectations; different disciplines, too, have field-specific expectations for what a literature review is and does. For instance, in the humanities, authors might include more overt argumentation and interpretation of source material in their literature reviews, whereas in the sciences, authors are more likely to report study designs and results in their literature reviews; these differences reflect these disciplines’ purposes and conventions in scholarship. You should always look at examples from your own discipline and talk to professors or mentors in your field to be sure you understand your discipline’s conventions, for literature reviews as well as for any other genre.
A literature review can be a part of a research paper or scholarly article, usually falling after the introduction and before the research methods sections. In these cases, the lit review just needs to cover scholarship that is important to the issue you are writing about; sometimes it will also cover key sources that informed your research methodology.
Lit reviews can also be standalone pieces, either as assignments in a class or as publications. In a class, a lit review may be assigned to help students familiarize themselves with a topic and with scholarship in their field, get an idea of the other researchers working on the topic they’re interested in, find gaps in existing research in order to propose new projects, and/or develop a theoretical framework and methodology for later research. As a publication, a lit review usually is meant to help make other scholars’ lives easier by collecting and summarizing, synthesizing, and analyzing existing research on a topic. This can be especially helpful for students or scholars getting into a new research area, or for directing an entire community of scholars toward questions that have not yet been answered.
What are the parts of a lit review?
Most lit reviews use a basic introduction-body-conclusion structure; if your lit review is part of a larger paper, the introduction and conclusion pieces may be just a few sentences while you focus most of your attention on the body. If your lit review is a standalone piece, the introduction and conclusion take up more space and give you a place to discuss your goals, research methods, and conclusions separately from where you discuss the literature itself.
- An introductory paragraph that explains what your working topic and thesis is
- A forecast of key topics or texts that will appear in the review
- Potentially, a description of how you found sources and how you analyzed them for inclusion and discussion in the review (more often found in published, standalone literature reviews than in lit review sections in an article or research paper)
- Summarize and synthesize: Give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
- Analyze and interpret: Don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
- Critically Evaluate: Mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
- Write in well-structured paragraphs: Use transition words and topic sentence to draw connections, comparisons, and contrasts.
- Summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance
- Connect it back to your primary research question
How should I organize my lit review?
Lit reviews can take many different organizational patterns depending on what you are trying to accomplish with the review. Here are some examples:
- Chronological : The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time, which helps familiarize the audience with the topic (for instance if you are introducing something that is not commonly known in your field). If you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze the patterns, turning points, and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred (as mentioned previously, this may not be appropriate in your discipline — check with a teacher or mentor if you’re unsure).
- Thematic : If you have found some recurring central themes that you will continue working with throughout your piece, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic. For example, if you are reviewing literature about women and religion, key themes can include the role of women in churches and the religious attitude towards women.
- Qualitative versus quantitative research
- Empirical versus theoretical scholarship
- Divide the research by sociological, historical, or cultural sources
- Theoretical : In many humanities articles, the literature review is the foundation for the theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. You can argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach or combine various theorical concepts to create a framework for your research.
What are some strategies or tips I can use while writing my lit review?
Any lit review is only as good as the research it discusses; make sure your sources are well-chosen and your research is thorough. Don’t be afraid to do more research if you discover a new thread as you’re writing. More info on the research process is available in our "Conducting Research" resources .
As you’re doing your research, create an annotated bibliography ( see our page on the this type of document ). Much of the information used in an annotated bibliography can be used also in a literature review, so you’ll be not only partially drafting your lit review as you research, but also developing your sense of the larger conversation going on among scholars, professionals, and any other stakeholders in your topic.
Usually you will need to synthesize research rather than just summarizing it. This means drawing connections between sources to create a picture of the scholarly conversation on a topic over time. Many student writers struggle to synthesize because they feel they don’t have anything to add to the scholars they are citing; here are some strategies to help you:
- It often helps to remember that the point of these kinds of syntheses is to show your readers how you understand your research, to help them read the rest of your paper.
- Writing teachers often say synthesis is like hosting a dinner party: imagine all your sources are together in a room, discussing your topic. What are they saying to each other?
- Look at the in-text citations in each paragraph. Are you citing just one source for each paragraph? This usually indicates summary only. When you have multiple sources cited in a paragraph, you are more likely to be synthesizing them (not always, but often
- Read more about synthesis here.
The most interesting literature reviews are often written as arguments (again, as mentioned at the beginning of the page, this is discipline-specific and doesn’t work for all situations). Often, the literature review is where you can establish your research as filling a particular gap or as relevant in a particular way. You have some chance to do this in your introduction in an article, but the literature review section gives a more extended opportunity to establish the conversation in the way you would like your readers to see it. You can choose the intellectual lineage you would like to be part of and whose definitions matter most to your thinking (mostly humanities-specific, but this goes for sciences as well). In addressing these points, you argue for your place in the conversation, which tends to make the lit review more compelling than a simple reporting of other sources.
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A literature review is a written approach to examining published information on a particular topic or field. Authors use this review of literature to create a foundation and justification for their research or to demonstrate knowledge on the current state of a field. This review can take the form of a course assignment or a section of a longer capstone project. Read on for more information about writing a strong literature review!
Students often misinterpret the term "literature review" to mean merely a collection of source summaries, similar to annotations or article abstracts. Although summarizing is an element of a literature review, the purpose is to create a comprehensive representation of your understanding of a topic or area of research, such as what has already been done or what has been found. Then, also using these sources, you can demonstrate the need for future research, specifically, your future research.
There is usually no required format or template for a literature review. However, there are some actions to keep in mind when constructing a literature review:
- Include an introduction and conclusion . Even if the literature review will be part of a longer document, introductory and concluding paragraphs can act as bookends to your material. Provide background information for your reader, such as including references to the pioneers in the field in the beginning and offering closure in the end by discussing the implications of future research to the field.
- Avoid direct quotations . Just like in an annotated bibliography, you will want to paraphrase all of the material you present in a literature review. This assignment is a chance for you to demonstrate your knowledge on a topic, and putting ideas into your own words will ensure that you are interpreting the found material for your reader. Paraphrasing will also ensure your review of literature is in your authorial voice.
- Organize by topic or theme rather than by author. When compiling multiple sources, a tendency can be to summarize each source and then compare and contrast the sources at the end. Instead, organize your source information by your identified themes and patterns. This organization helps demonstrate your synthesis of the material and inhibits you from creating a series of book reports.
- Use headings . APA encourages the use of headings within longer pieces of text to display a shift in topic and create a visual break for the reader. Headings in a literature review can also help you as the writer organize your material by theme and note any layers, or subtopics, within the field.
- Show relationships and consider the flow of ideas. A literature review can be lengthy and dense, so you will want to make your text appealing to your reader. Transitions and comparison terms will allow you to demonstrate where authors agree or disagree on a topic and highlight your interpretation of the literature.
Randolph, J. J. (2009). A guide to writing the dissertation literature review. Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation , 14 (13), 1–13. https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1219&context=pare
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Learn how to write a review of literature
What is a review of literature.
The format of a review of literature may vary from discipline to discipline and from assignment to assignment.
A review may be a self-contained unit — an end in itself — or a preface to and rationale for engaging in primary research. A review is a required part of grant and research proposals and often a chapter in theses and dissertations.
Generally, the purpose of a review is to analyze critically a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles.
Writing the introduction
In the introduction, you should:
Define or identify the general topic, issue, or area of concern, thus providing an appropriate context for reviewing the literature.
Point out overall trends in what has been published about the topic; or conflicts in theory, methodology, evidence, and conclusions; or gaps in research and scholarship; or a single problem or new perspective of immediate interest.
Establish the writer’s reason (point of view) for reviewing the literature; explain the criteria to be used in analyzing and comparing literature and the organization of the review (sequence); and, when necessary, state why certain literature is or is not included (scope).
Writing the body
In the body, you should:
Group research studies and other types of literature (reviews, theoretical articles, case studies, etc.) according to common denominators such as qualitative versus quantitative approaches, conclusions of authors, specific purpose or objective, chronology, etc.
Summarize individual studies or articles with as much or as little detail as each merits according to its comparative importance in the literature, remembering that space (length) denotes significance.
Provide the reader with strong “umbrella” sentences at beginnings of paragraphs, “signposts” throughout, and brief “so what” summary sentences at intermediate points in the review to aid in understanding comparisons and analyses.
Writing the conclusion
In the conclusion, you should:
Summarize major contributions of significant studies and articles to the body of knowledge under review, maintaining the focus established in the introduction.
Evaluate the current “state of the art” for the body of knowledge reviewed, pointing out major methodological flaws or gaps in research, inconsistencies in theory and findings, and areas or issues pertinent to future study.
Conclude by providing some insight into the relationship between the central topic of the literature review and a larger area of study such as a discipline, a scientific endeavor, or a profession.
For further information see our handouts on Writing a Critical Review of a Nonfiction Book or Article or Reading a Book to Review It .
To learn more about literature reviews, take a look at our workshop on Writing Literature Reviews of Published Research.
Sample Literature Reviews
An important strategy for learning how to compose literature reviews in your field or within a specific genre is to locate and analyze representative examples. The following collection of annotated sample literature reviews written and co-written by colleagues associated with UW-Madison showcases how these reviews can do different kind of work for different purposes. Use these successful examples as a starting point for understanding how other writers have approached the challenging and important task of situating their idea in the context of established research.
- Sample 1 (PDF) A brief literature review within a political scientists’ National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship grant
- Sample 2 (PDF) A several-page literature review at the beginning of a published, academic article about philosophy
- Sample 3 (PDF) A brief literature review at the beginning of a published, academic article about photochemistry
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How To Structure Your Literature Review
3 options to help structure your chapter.
By: Amy Rommelspacher (PhD) | Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | November 2020
Writing the literature review chapter can seem pretty daunting when you’re piecing together your dissertation or thesis. As we’ve discussed before , a good literature review needs to achieve a few very important objectives – it should:
- Demonstrate your knowledge of the research topic
- Identify the gaps in the literature and show how your research links to these
- Provide the foundation for your conceptual framework (if you have one)
- Inform your own methodology and research design
To achieve this, your literature review needs a well-thought-out structure . Get the structure of your literature review chapter wrong and you’ll struggle to achieve these objectives. Don’t worry though – in this post, we’ll look at how to structure your literature review for maximum impact (and marks!).
But wait – is this the right time?
Deciding on the structure of your literature review should come towards the end of the literature review process – after you have collected and digested the literature, but before you start writing the chapter.
In other words, you need to first develop a rich understanding of the literature before you even attempt to map out a structure. There’s no use trying to develop a structure before you’ve fully wrapped your head around the existing research.
Equally importantly, you need to have a structure in place before you start writing , or your literature review will most likely end up a rambling, disjointed mess.
Importantly, don’t feel that once you’ve defined a structure you can’t iterate on it. It’s perfectly natural to adjust as you engage in the writing process. As we’ve discussed before , writing is a way of developing your thinking, so it’s quite common for your thinking to change – and therefore, for your chapter structure to change – as you write.
Need a helping hand?
Like any other chapter in your thesis or dissertation, your literature review needs to have a clear, logical structure. At a minimum, it should have three essential components – an introduction , a body and a conclusion .
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
1: The Introduction Section
Just like any good introduction, the introduction section of your literature review should introduce the purpose and layout (organisation) of the chapter. In other words, your introduction needs to give the reader a taste of what’s to come, and how you’re going to lay that out. Essentially, you should provide the reader with a high-level roadmap of your chapter to give them a taste of the journey that lies ahead.
Here’s an example of the layout visualised in a literature review introduction:
Your introduction should also outline your topic (including any tricky terminology or jargon) and provide an explanation of the scope of your literature review – in other words, what you will and won’t be covering (the delimitations ). This helps ringfence your review and achieve a clear focus . The clearer and narrower your focus, the deeper you can dive into the topic (which is typically where the magic lies).
Depending on the nature of your project, you could also present your stance or point of view at this stage. In other words, after grappling with the literature you’ll have an opinion about what the trends and concerns are in the field as well as what’s lacking. The introduction section can then present these ideas so that it is clear to examiners that you’re aware of how your research connects with existing knowledge .
2: The Body Section
The body of your literature review is the centre of your work. This is where you’ll present, analyse, evaluate and synthesise the existing research. In other words, this is where you’re going to earn (or lose) the most marks. Therefore, it’s important to carefully think about how you will organise your discussion to present it in a clear way.
The body of your literature review should do just as the description of this chapter suggests. It should “review” the literature – in other words, identify, analyse, and synthesise it. So, when thinking about structuring your literature review, you need to think about which structural approach will provide the best “review” for your specific type of research and objectives (we’ll get to this shortly).
There are (broadly speaking) three options for organising your literature review.
Option 1: Chronological (according to date)
Organising the literature chronologically is one of the simplest ways to structure your literature review. You start with what was published first and work your way through the literature until you reach the work published most recently. Pretty straightforward.
The benefit of this option is that it makes it easy to discuss the developments and debates in the field as they emerged over time. Organising your literature chronologically also allows you to highlight how specific articles or pieces of work might have changed the course of the field – in other words, which research has had the most impact . Therefore, this approach is very useful when your research is aimed at understanding how the topic has unfolded over time and is often used by scholars in the field of history. That said, this approach can be utilised by anyone that wants to explore change over time .
For example , if a student of politics is investigating how the understanding of democracy has evolved over time, they could use the chronological approach to provide a narrative that demonstrates how this understanding has changed through the ages.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you structure your literature review chronologically.
- What is the earliest literature published relating to this topic?
- How has the field changed over time? Why?
- What are the most recent discoveries/theories?
In some ways, chronology plays a part whichever way you decide to structure your literature review, because you will always, to a certain extent, be analysing how the literature has developed. However, with the chronological approach, the emphasis is very firmly on how the discussion has evolved over time , as opposed to how all the literature links together (which we’ll discuss next ).
Option 2: Thematic (grouped by theme)
The thematic approach to structuring a literature review means organising your literature by theme or category – for example, by independent variables (i.e. factors that have an impact on a specific outcome).
As you’ve been collecting and synthesising literature, you’ll likely have started seeing some themes or patterns emerging. You can then use these themes or patterns as a structure for your body discussion. The thematic approach is the most common approach and is useful for structuring literature reviews in most fields.
For example, if you were researching which factors contributed towards people trusting an organisation, you might find themes such as consumers’ perceptions of an organisation’s competence, benevolence and integrity. Structuring your literature review thematically would mean structuring your literature review’s body section to discuss each of these themes, one section at a time.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when structuring your literature review by themes:
- Are there any patterns that have come to light in the literature?
- What are the central themes and categories used by the researchers?
- Do I have enough evidence of these themes?
Option 3: Methodological
The methodological option is a way of structuring your literature review by the research methodologies used . In other words, organising your discussion based on the angle from which each piece of research was approached – for example, qualitative , quantitative or mixed methodologies.
Structuring your literature review by methodology can be useful if you are drawing research from a variety of disciplines and are critiquing different methodologies. The point of this approach is to question how existing research has been conducted, as opposed to what the conclusions and/or findings the research were.
For example, a sociologist might centre their research around critiquing specific fieldwork practices. Their literature review will then be a summary of the fieldwork methodologies used by different studies.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself when structuring your literature review according to methodology:
- Which methodologies have been utilised in this field?
- Which methodology is the most popular (and why)?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the various methodologies?
- How can the existing methodologies inform my own methodology?
3: The Conclusion Section
Once you’ve completed the body section of your literature review using one of the structural approaches we discussed above, you’ll need to “wrap up” your literature review and pull all the pieces together to set the direction for the rest of your dissertation or thesis.
The conclusion is where you’ll present the key findings of your literature review. In this section, you should emphasise the research that is especially important to your research questions and highlight the gaps that exist in the literature. Based on this, you need to make it clear what you will add to the literature – in other words, justify your own research by showing how it will help fill one or more of the gaps you just identified.
Last but not least, if it’s your intention to develop a theoretical framework for your dissertation or thesis, the conclusion section is a good place to present this.
In this article, we’ve discussed how to structure your literature review for maximum impact. Here’s a quick recap of what you need to keep in mind when deciding on your literature review structure:
- Just like other chapters, your literature review needs a clear introduction , body and conclusion .
- The introduction section should provide an overview of what you will discuss in your literature review.
- The body section of your literature review can be organised by chronology , theme or methodology . The right structural approach depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your research.
- The conclusion section should draw together the key findings of your literature review and link them to your research questions.
If you’re ready to get started, be sure to download our free literature review template to fast-track your chapter outline.
Psst… there’s more (for free)
This post is part of our research writing mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.
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Great work. This is exactly what I was looking for and helps a lot together with your previous post on literature review. One last thing is missing: a link to a great literature chapter of an journal article (maybe with comments of the different sections in this review chapter). Do you know any great literature review chapters?
I agree with you Marin… A great piece
I thank you immensely for this wonderful guide
It is indeed thought and supportive work for the futurist researcher and students
Very educative and good time to get guide. Thank you
Great work, very insightful. Thank you.
Thank you very much, very helpful
This is very educative and precise . Thank you very much for dropping this kind of write up .
Pheeww, so damn helpful, thank you for this informative piece.
I’m doing a research project topic ; stool analysis for parasitic worm (enteric) worm, how do I structure it, thanks.
comprehensive explanation. Help us by pasting the URL of some good “literature review” for better understanding.
great piece. thanks for the awesome explanation. it is really worth sharing. I have a little question, if anyone can help me out, which of the options in the body of literature can be best fit if you are writing an architectural thesis that deals with design?
I am doing a research on nanofluids how can l structure it?
Beautifully clear.nThank you!
Brilliant work, well understood, many thanks
I like how this was so clear with simple language 😊😊 thank you so much 😊 for these information 😊
Insightful. I was struggling to come up with a sensible literature review but this has been really helpful. Thank you!
You have given thought-provoking information about the review of the literature.
Thank you. It has made my own research better and to impart your work to students I teach
I learnt a lot from this teaching. It’s a great piece.
I am doing research on EFL teacher motivation for his/her job. How Can I structure it? Is there any detailed template, additional to this?
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120 Fresh and Thought-Provoking Topics for Literature Reviews in Different Disciplines
A literature review is an account of the scholarly works published on a topic. It is different from an annotated bibliography – and far more interesting at that. Instead of being just a list of summaries, a literature review synthesizes the information from all available sources in an overall relationship to your guiding concept. This may be the problem you are discussing, a statement you are arguing, a theory you are verifying, etc.
The goals of a literature review may vary:
- giving a historical overview of the research in the field
- summarizing the existing state of the topic
- finding a problem or a gap in the research field
- developing a new theory, etc.
That is why good literature review topics are often formulated as research questions. This type of paper is not an easy writing. You will need to parse immense volumes of information, synthesize and summarize coherently. You also need to devote plenty of time to reading.
This post contains a list of literature review topics suggested for various subjects. However, when choosing the most fitting one to dig into, ask yourself, what are the passions that you can apply to this research? This assignment will take a while, so you will need more than just a good study discipline to soldier on. A bit of enthusiasm and intrinsic motivation will get you much farther.
Literature Review Topics Examples on English and World Literature
Some of the suggestions in this post are linked to literature review examples in our free database. By clicking on a title, you get to a corresponding sample page, where you can read the entire text. If the topic you like isn't linked, but you would like to read an example, you can order it. We will arrange the most qualified paper writer to prepare it for you exclusively.
Ready? Let's start with topics for literature review papers on English and World Literature.
- Phoenix as a symbol for endurance in a worn path
- The novel Intuition by Allegra Goodman
- Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Birthmark through Girard's Lens
- Ender's Game by an Orson Scott Card
- Depiction of freedom and happiness in Brave New World
- Feminism and Post-Colonialism in Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake and Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games
- Rationality, logic, and mathematics in the novel The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time
- Victims of their time as a character type in the World literature
- The last days of Judas Iscariot : a play by Stephen Adly Guirgis
- The use of symbolism in Kafka's prose
- Naturalism in American literature
- Grotesque and Sublime in the prose of Edgar Allan Poe
Lit Review Topic Ideas on Science and Technology
Next are some literature review topic ideas on science and technology.
- Electronic library and effects of its implementation
- Benjamin Franklin: scientist and inventor
- Virtual Reality, science fiction, and society today
- Science, Technology, and Society as a field of knowledge
- Frederick Winslow Taylor and the principles of scientific management
- What is the future of work
- Concepts of science and technology
- The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis and influence of technological advancement on man and nature
- Types of machine learning
- Internet of Things and biometrics: implications, benefits, threats
- Emotional intelligence and natural language processing
- SmartCity projects that have already been implemented and their lessons
As the field is vast, we can barely scratch the surface with these suggestions. To help you with brainstorming, here are a few tips on how to choose good topics for a literature review yourself:
- Make sure the topic ties nicely with class requirements as well as your interests
- Do some preliminary research to see if there is enough literature on your topic
- Scale up if the information is scarce or down if there are too many sources to handle
- Use sources recommended for reading in the class materials
- Supplement the list with only trustworthy scholarly sources
Follow these guidelines, and you are on a path to some great ideas!
Psychology Literature Review Topics
When brainstorming topics on psychology, don't forget about the subdisciplines: biopsychology, social, educational, organizational, etc. If the suggestions below won't be enough, try looking for inspiration in Biology, Sociology, Education, or Business. The most exciting topics are often at the intersection of different areas of knowledge!
- Tricyclic antidepressants vs. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) in treatment of depression
- Stress, its causes, effects, and coping strategies
- The family system and psychology
- Tibetan compassion practices: working with terror, trauma, and transcendence
- Behaviorism psychology
- Culture and psychopathology
- Correlation between diet and cognitive functions in primary school students
- The evolutionary role of phobias and intrusive thoughts
- Popular psychology and its implications
- PTSD in mass disasters survivors: immediate relief and long-term assistance
- Cults and vulnerable populations
- False memories and gaslighting
Nursing Literature Review Topics
Nursing lit review topics are probably the most diverse in scale, as you can see from the examples below. They can describe a larger issue or a concrete solution applied to a narrowly defined problem. Following this principle, you can modify our lit review topics suggestions zooming out or in on the subject material.
- Legalization of medical marijuana and its effects on the youth
- Health effects of fiber: research findings
- Achieving higher levels of education and training for nurses
- Organic foods and cardiovascular disease
- The importance of Central Venous Line (CVL) and Central Venous Access Devices (CVAD)
- What effects do different types of music have on humans and their mental health?
- The use of laboratory-grown organs for transplantation
- The role of xylitol in alleviating dry mouth
- The detection of tar and nicotine content of cigarette smoke extract using HPLC
- Rheumatoid arthritis: etiology, diagnosis, vulnerable populations
- Mobility aids for the elderly and quality of life
- The role of play in the recuperation of hospitalized children
Education Literature Review Topics
To get more ideas from these literature review topic examples, try isolating an issue and put it in another educational context. For instance, student motivation in primary school vs. middle school or sleep deprivation in high school vs. college. This should give you plenty of material for brainstorming.
- Simulation education for crisis prevention program
- A critical consideration of the new pedagogy in its relation to modern science
- Lack of students interest in studying science
- Discovery-based learning and student-centered learning with a focus on mathematics at a high school level
- The adverse effects of sleep deprivation on academic performance: a college student's struggle
- Gender bias in special education programs
- Higher education for senior citizens: challenges and best practices
- Significant challenges of the teaching profession in the US
- Factors contributing to international student mobility
- Student motivation in private vs. state colleges
- Benefits and challenges of homeschooling for students and families
- Correlation between workload, stress levels, and self-esteem in middle-school students
Sociology Literature Review Topics
The best advice on finding current sociology topics is to look at the challenges your community faces. Become the first one to notice and address these issues!
- Are video games affecting our current and future students ?
- Ways to prevent social media bullying
- Spanking of children in the USA
- The relation of poverty and exposure to crime in adolescent men
- Transgender discrimination
- The link between science and Utopia in Utopia and the New Atlantis
- Effectiveness of group therapy in social work
- Peer pressure, depression, and causes of suicide in the adolescents
- Religious separatism social issues connected with it
- Causes and effects of domestic abuse
- Physical appearance and social status
- Race, nationality, ethnicity, and identity
Political Science Literature Review Topics
Political science is one of the more formal disciplines on this list. Being heavy with abstract concepts, it doesn't lend itself easily to casual brainstorming. Well, at least start with these:
- Electoral College, its functions, and role in public life
- Why American and the British IPE are so different
- Contingency planning
- Effects of political gerrymandering
- American political parties
- The present urban regimes in Canada
- International policies and domestic regulations: precedence and clashes
- Tolerance as a political virtue
- Grassroots activism and its impact on state and federal law
- National security and constitutional freedoms
- Historical analysis of anarchism
- The effect of social media on civic engagement
Criminal Justice Literature Review Topics
Criminal justice is a complex field. It's ripe with variance and challenges – which is good for topic ideas at least. And you have state, federal, and international levels to add more variables.
- Juvenile justice and the Missouri model
- Car-related crime in the USA
- An analysis of the impact of sexual harassment/sexual assault in the military
- The process of the arbitration without the involvement of national courts
- Serial killers and profiling
- Policing and criminal justice systems
- Psychological effects of cyberbullying on adolescents
- Sexual human trafficking from the Central America region
- Human sex-trafficking: the Canadian perspective
- Gender and racial bias in criminal investigations
- Possible ethical and legal dilemmas of using sniffer dogs
- Sting operations vs. entrapment: ethics and regulations
Chemistry and Biology Literature Review Topics
Biology is fascinating. It has something for everyone: from biochemistry and genetics to ecosystems and nature preservation. Here are some suggestions to guide your choice:
- Brain size correlation
- Haruko Obokata, ethics of stem cells research, and scientific misconduct
- Genomic and molecular genetics major and its perspectives for students
- DNA use in mass disasters
- DNA detection from dried blood spots
- Captive breeding of marine mammals: pros and cons
- The Dynamics of ER and mitochondria
- Biomarkers in gastric cancer treatment
- The chemistry behind gene splicing
- Carcinogens and hyper-processed foods
- Primates and monkeys as potential sources of novel zoonotic infections
- Natural gases, ecosystems, and the global warming
Business and Marketing Literature Review Topics
Finally, here are some business and marketing topics as well. These disciplines might be relatively new, but they are among the most dynamic and information-rich – which means great fun to explore.
- Effectiveness of neuromarketing in comparison to traditional marketing methods
- Green supply chain management
- Effectiveness of e-marketing to non-profit making organizations
- The value of information
- Shareholder engagement/activism and corporate performance
- The relationship between ethics, stress, and productivity in the workplace
- The role of integrity in business
- Client confidentiality and its role in a prosperous business
- Businesses, their impact on the community, and social responsibility
- Startup fundraising stages
- Innovative marketing in the age of instant feedback: risks and possibilities
- Strategies for staff motivation
Jana Rooheart came to WowEssays.com with a mission to put together and then slice and dice our vast practical experience in crafting all kinds of academic papers. Jana is an aspired blogger with rich expertise in psychology, digital learning tools, and creative writing. In this blog, she willingly shares tricks of pencraft and mind-altering ideas about academic writing any student will find utterly beneficial.
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How to Write a Literature Review
As every student knows, writing informative essay and research papers is an integral part of the educational program. You create a thesis, support it using valid sources, and formulate systematic ideas surrounding it. However, not all students know that they will also have to face another type of paper known as a Literature Review in college. Let's take a closer look at this with our custom essay writer .
Literature Review Definition
As this is a less common academic writing type, students often ask: "What is a literature review?" According to the definition, a literature review is a body of work that explores various publications within a specific subject area and sometimes within a set timeframe.
This type of writing requires you to read and analyze various sources that relate to the main subject and present each unique comprehension of the publications. Lastly, a literature review should combine a summary with a synthesis of the documents used. A summary is a brief overview of the important information in the publication; a synthesis is a re-organization of the information that gives the writing a new and unique meaning.
Typically, a literature review is a part of a larger paper, such as a thesis or dissertation. However, you may also be given it as a stand-alone assignment.
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The main purpose of a literature review is to summarize and synthesize the ideas created by previous authors without implementing personal opinions or other additional information.
However, a literature review objective is not just to list summaries of sources; rather, it is to notice a central trend or principle in all of the publications. Just like a research paper has a thesis that guides it on rails, a literature review has the main organizing principle (MOP). The goal of this type of academic writing is to identify the MOP and show how it exists in all of your supporting documents.
Why is a literature review important? The value of such work is explained by the following goals it pursues:
- Highlights the significance of the main topic within a specific subject area.
- Demonstrates and explains the background of research for a particular subject matter.
- Helps to find out the key themes, principles, concepts, and researchers that exist within a topic.
- Helps to reveal relationships between existing ideas/studies on a topic.
- Reveals the main points of controversy and gaps within a topic.
- Suggests questions to drive primary research based on previous studies.
Here are some example topics for writing literature reviews:
- Exploring racism in "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," and "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
- Isolationism in "The Catcher in the Rye," "Frankenstein," and "1984"
- Understanding Moral Dilemmas in "Crime and Punishment," "The Scarlet Letter," and "The Lifeboat"
- Corruption of Power in "Macbeth," "All the King's Men," and "Animal Farm"
- Emotional and Physical survival in "Lord of the Flies," "Hatchet," and "Congo."
How Long Is a Literature Review?
When facing the need to write a literature review, students tend to wonder, "how long should a literature review be?" In some cases, the length of your paper's body may be determined by your instructor. Be sure to read the guidelines carefully to learn what is expected from you.
Keeping your literature review around 15-30% of your entire paper is recommended if you haven't been provided with specific guidelines. To give you a rough idea, that is about 2-3 pages for a 15-page paper. In case you are writing a literature review as a stand-alone assignment, its length should be specified in the instructions provided.
Literature Review Format: APA, MLA, and Chicago
The essay format you use should adhere to the citation style preferred by your instructor. Seek clarification from your instructor for several other components as well to establish a desired literature review format:
- How many sources should you review, and what kind of sources should they be (published materials, journal articles, or websites)?
- What format should you use to cite the sources?
- How long should the review be?
- Should your review consist of a summary, synthesis, or a personal critique?
- Should your review include subheadings or background information for your sources?
If you want to format your paper in APA style, then follow these rules:
- Use 1-inch page margins.
- Unless provided with other instructions, use double-spacing throughout the whole text.
- Make sure you choose a readable font. The preferred font for APA papers is Times New Roman set to 12-point size.
- Include a header at the top of every page (in capital letters). The page header must be a shortened version of your essay title and limited to 50 characters, including spacing and punctuation.
- Put page numbers in the upper right corner of every page.
- When shaping your literature review outline in APA, don't forget to include a title page. This page should include the paper's name, the author's name, and the institutional affiliation. Your title must be typed with upper and lowercase letters and centered in the upper part of the page; use no more than 12 words, and avoid using abbreviations and useless words.
For MLA style text, apply the following guidelines:
- Double your spacing across the entire paper.
- Set ½-inch indents for each new paragraph.
- The preferred font for MLA papers is Times New Roman set to 12-point size.
- Include a header at the top of your paper's first page or on the title page (note that MLA style does not require you to have a title page, but you are allowed to decide to include one). A header in this format should include your full name; the name of your instructor; the name of the class, course, or section number; and the due date of the assignment.
- Include a running head in the top right corner of each page in your paper. Place it one inch from the page's right margin and half an inch from the top margin. Only include your last name and the page number separated by a space in the running head. Do not put the abbreviation p. before page numbers.
Finally, if you are required to write a literature review in Chicago style, here are the key rules to follow:
- Set page margins to no less than 1 inch.
- Use double spacing across the entire text, except when it comes to table titles, figure captions, notes, blockquotes, and entries within the bibliography or References.
- Do not put spaces between paragraphs.
- Make sure you choose a clear and easily-readable font. The preferred fonts for Chicago papers are Times New Roman and Courier, set to no less than 10-point size, but preferably to 12-point size.
- A cover (title) page should include your full name, class information, and the date. Center the cover page and place it one-third below the top of the page.
- Place page numbers in the upper right corner of each page, including the cover page.
Read also about harvard format - popular style used in papers.
Structure of a Literature Review
How to structure a literature review: Like many other types of academic writing, a literature review follows a typical intro-body-conclusion style with 5 paragraphs overall. Now, let’s look at each component of the basic literature review structure in detail:
You should direct your reader(s) towards the MOP (main organizing principle). This means that your information must start from a broad perspective and gradually narrow down until it reaches your focal point.
Start by presenting your general concept (Corruption, for example). After the initial presentation, narrow your introduction's focus towards the MOP by mentioning the criteria you used to select the literature sources you have chosen (Macbeth, All the King's Men, and Animal Farm). Finally, the introduction will end with the presentation of your MOP that should directly link it to all three literature sources.
Generally, each body paragraph will focus on a specific source of literature laid out in the essay's introduction. As each source has its own frame of reference for the MOP, it is crucial to structure the review in the most logically consistent way possible. This means the writing should be structured chronologically, thematically or methodologically.
Breaking down your sources based on their publication date is a solid way to keep a correct historical timeline. If applied properly, it can present the development of a certain concept over time and provide examples in the form of literature. However, sometimes there are better alternatives we can use to structure the body.
Instead of taking the "timeline approach," another option can be looking at the link between your MOP and your sources. Sometimes, the main idea will just glare from a piece of literature. Other times, the author may have to seek examples to prove their point. An experienced writer will usually present their sources by order of strength. For example, in "To Kill A Mockingbird," the entire novel was centralized around racism; in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," racism was one of many themes.
As made obvious by the terminology, this type of structuring focuses on the methods used to present the central concept. For example, in "1984", George Orwell uses the law-and-order approach and shows the dangers of a dystopia for a social species.
In "Frankenstein," Mary Shelley exposes the character's physical traits as repulsive and horrifying, forcing him to suffer in an isolated environment. By showcasing the various methods used to portray the MOP, the writer can compare them based on things like severity, ethicality, and overall impact.
After presenting your key findings in the body paragraphs, there are 3 final objectives to complete in the essay's conclusion. First, the author should summarize the findings they have made or found, in other words, and briefly answer the question: "What have you learned?"
After discussing that information, the next step is to present the significance of the information about our current world today. In other words, how can the reader take the information and apply it to today's society? From that point, we finish off with a breadcrumb trail.
As the author, you want to leave the readers' trail of thought within the actual essay topic. This provides them with a means of further investigation—meaning that the reader may consider where the discussion will go next.
Writing an Outline for a Literature Review
Students often underestimate the importance of planning the structure of their papers in advance. However, this is not a wise approach. Having a rough APA literature review outline (or other style outlines) will not only help you follow the right format and structure but will also make the writing process simpler and help ensure that you include all of the important information without missing anything.
How to write a literature review outline: As you already know from the Structure section of this guide, every part of your literature review performs its own important role. Therefore, you should create your outline while keeping the general introduction-body-conclusion structure in mind and ensuring that each section meets its own objectives. However, it is important to remember that a literature review outline is slightly different from outlines of other types of essays because it does not provide new information. Instead, it focuses on existing studies relevant to the main topic.
Here is a literature review outline example on the subject of the Ebola virus to help you get it right:
- Introduce the general topic. Provide background information on the Ebola virus: genome, pathogenesis, transmission, epidemiology, treatment, etc.
- Shape the main research question: What is the potential role of arthropods (mechanical or biological vectors) in the distribution of the Ebola virus?
- Methodology: For example, the information was searched through X databases to find relevant research articles about the Ebola virus and arthropods' role in its spreading. The data was extracted using a standardized form.
- Expected outcomes
- Overall trends in the literature on this topic: While the natural reservoir of the virus is still not known with certainty, many researchers believe that arthropods (and fruit bats, in particular) pay a significant role in the distribution of the virus.
- Subject 1: A brief overview of the particular piece of literature in general terms; an analysis of the key aspects of the study; a review of the research questions, methods, procedures, and outcomes; and an overview of the strong and weak points, gaps, and contradictions.
- Subject 2: A brief overview of the particular piece of literature in general terms; an analysis of the key aspects of the study; a review of the research questions, methods, procedures, and outcomes; and an overview of the strong and weak points, gaps, and contradictions.
- Subject 3: A brief overview of the particular piece of literature in general terms; an analysis of the key aspects of the study; a review of the research questions, methods, procedures, and outcomes; and an overview of the strong and weak points, gaps, and contradictions.
- Indicate the relationships between the pieces of literature discussed. Emphasize key themes, common patterns, and trends. Talk about the pros and cons of the different approaches taken by the authors/researchers.
- State which studies seem to be the most influential.
- Emphasize the major contradictions and points of disagreement. Define the gaps still to be covered (if any).
- If applicable: define how your own study will contribute to further disclosure of the topic.
Hopefully, this sample outline will help you to structure your own paper. However, if you feel like you need some more advice on how to organize your review, don’t hesitate to search for more literature review outline examples in APA or other styles on the Web, or simply ask our writers to get a dissertation help .
How to Write a Good Literature Review
Whether you are writing a literature review within the framework of a large research project (e.g. thesis, dissertation, or other) or as a stand-alone assignment, the approach you should take to writing generally remains the same.
Whether you are writing a literature review within the framework of a large research project (e.g., thesis, dissertation, or other) or as a stand-alone assignment, the approach you should take to writing generally remains the same.
Now, as you know about the general rules and have a basic literature review outline template, let's define the steps to take to handle this task right with our service:
Step 1: Identifying the Topic
This is probably the only matter you may approach differently depending on whether your literature review comes within a research paper or a separate assignment altogether. If you are creating a literature review as a part of another work, you need to search for literature related to your main research questions and problems. Respectively, if you are writing it as a stand-alone task, you will have to pick a relevant topic and central question upon which you will collect the literature. Earlier in this guide, we suggested some engaging topics to guide your search.
Step 2: Conducting Research
When you have a clearly defined topic, it is time to start collecting literature for your review. We recommend starting by compiling a list of relevant keywords related to your central question—to make the entire research process much simpler and help you find relevant publications faster.
When you have a list of keywords, use them to search for valid and relevant sources. At this point, be sure to use only trusted sources, such as ones from university libraries, online scientific databases, etc.
Once you have found some sources, be sure to define whether or not they are actually relevant to your topic and research question. To save time, you can read abstracts to get general ideas of what the papers are about instead of the whole thing.
Pro Tip: When you finally find a few valid publications, take a look at their bibliographies to discover other relevant sources as well.
Step 3: Assess and Prioritize Sources
Throughout your research, you will likely find plenty of relevant literature to include in your literature review. At this point, students often make the mistake of trying to fit all the collected sources into their reviews. Instead, we suggest looking at what you've collected once more, evaluating the available sources, and selecting the most relevant ones. You most likely won't be able to read everything you find on a given topic and then be able to synthesize all of the sources into a single literature review. That's why prioritizing them is important.
To evaluate which sources are worth including in your review, keep in mind the following criteria:
- Key insights;
Furthermore, as you read the sources, don’t forget to take notes on everything you can incorporate into the review later. And be sure to get your citations in place early on. If you cite the selected sources at the initial stage, you will find it easier to create your annotated bibliography later on.
Step 4: Identify Relationships, Key Ideas, and Gaps
Before you can move on to outlining and writing your literature review, the final step is determining the relationships between the studies that already exist. Identifying the relationships will help you organize the existing knowledge, build a solid literature outline, and (if necessary) indicate your own research contribution to a specific field.
Some of the key points to keep an eye out for are:
- Main themes;
- Contradictions and debates;
- Influential studies or theories;
- Trends and patterns;
Here are a few examples: Common trends may include a focus on specific groups of people across different studies. Most researchers may have increased interest in certain aspects of the topic regarding key themes. Contradictions may include some disagreement concerning the theories and outcomes of a study. And finally, gaps most often refer to a lack of research on certain aspects of a topic.
Step 5: Make an Outline
Although students tend to neglect this stage, outlining is one of the most important steps in writing every academic paper. This is the easiest way to organize the body of your text and ensure that you haven't missed anything important. Besides, having a rough idea of what you will write about in the paper will help you get it right faster and more easily. Earlier in this guide, we already discussed the basic structure of a literature review and gave you an example of a good outline. At this workflow stage, you can use all of the knowledge you've gained from us to build your own outline.
Step 6: Move on to Writing
Having found and created all of your sources, notes, citations, and a detailed outline, you can finally get to the writing part of the process. At this stage, all you need to do is follow the plan you've created and keep in mind the overall structure and format defined in your professor's instructions.
Step 7: Adding the Final Touches
Most students make a common mistake and skip the final stage of the process, which includes proofreading and editing. We recommend taking enough time for these steps to ensure that your work will be worth the highest score. Do not underestimate the importance of proofreading and editing, and allocate enough time for these steps.
Pro Tip: Before moving on to proofreading and editing, be sure to set your literature review aside for a day or two. This will give you a chance to take your mind off it and then get back to proofreading with a fresh perspective. This tip will ensure that you won't miss out on any gaps or errors that might be present in your text.
These steps will help you create a top-notch literature review with ease! Want to get more advice on how to handle this body of work? Here are the top 3 tips you need to keep in mind when writing a literature review:
1. Good Sources
When working on a literature review, the most important thing any writer should remember is to find the best possible sources for their MOP. This means that you should select and filter through about 5-10 different options while doing initial research.
The stronger a piece of literature showcases the central point, the better the quality of the entire review.
2. Synthesize The Literature
Make sure to structure the review in the most effective way possible, whether it be chronologically, thematically, or methodologically. Understand what exactly you would like to say, and structure the source comparison accordingly.
3. Avoid Generalizations
Remember that each piece of literature will approach the MOP from a different angle. As the author, make sure to present the contrasts in approaches clearly and don't include general statements that offer no value.
Literature Review Examples
You can find two well-written literature reviews by the EssayPro writing team below. They will help you understand what the final product of a literature review should ideally look like.
The first literature review compares monolingual and bilingual language acquisition skills and uses various sources to prove its point:
The second literature review compares the impact of fear and pain on a protagonist’s overall development in various settings:
Both reviews will help you sharpen your skills and provide good guidelines for writing high-quality papers.
Get Help from an Essay Writer
Still aren’t sure whether you can handle literature review writing on your own? No worries because you can pay for essay writing and our service has got you covered! By choosing EssayPro, you will acquire a reliable friend who can help you handle any kind of literature review or other academic assignments of any level and topic. All you need to do to get help from the best academic writers now and boost your grades is to place an order in a few quick clicks and we will satisfy your write my paper request.
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How to Review a Journal Article
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For many kinds of assignments, like a literature review , you may be asked to offer a critique or review of a journal article. This is an opportunity for you as a scholar to offer your qualified opinion and evaluation of how another scholar has composed their article, argument, and research. That means you will be expected to go beyond a simple summary of the article and evaluate it on a deeper level. As a college student, this might sound intimidating. However, as you engage with the research process, you are becoming immersed in a particular topic, and your insights about the way that topic is presented are valuable and can contribute to the overall conversation surrounding your topic.
Some disciplines, like Criminal Justice, may only want you to summarize the article without including your opinion or evaluation. If your assignment is to summarize the article only, please see our literature review handout.
Before getting started on the critique, it is important to review the article thoroughly and critically. To do this, we recommend take notes, annotating , and reading the article several times before critiquing. As you read, be sure to note important items like the thesis, purpose, research questions, hypotheses, methods, evidence, key findings, major conclusions, tone, and publication information. Depending on your writing context, some of these items may not be applicable.
Questions to Consider
To evaluate a source, consider some of the following questions. They are broken down into different categories, but answering these questions will help you consider what areas to examine. With each category, we recommend identifying the strengths and weaknesses in each since that is a critical part of evaluation.
Evaluating Purpose and Argument
- How well is the purpose made clear in the introduction through background/context and thesis?
- How well does the abstract represent and summarize the article’s major points and argument?
- How well does the objective of the experiment or of the observation fill a need for the field?
- How well is the argument/purpose articulated and discussed throughout the body of the text?
- How well does the discussion maintain cohesion?
Evaluating the Presentation/Organization of Information
- How appropriate and clear is the title of the article?
- Where could the author have benefited from expanding, condensing, or omitting ideas?
- How clear are the author’s statements? Challenge ambiguous statements.
- What underlying assumptions does the author have, and how does this affect the credibility or clarity of their article?
- How objective is the author in his or her discussion of the topic?
- How well does the organization fit the article’s purpose and articulate key goals?
- How appropriate are the study design and methods for the purposes of the study?
- How detailed are the methods being described? Is the author leaving out important steps or considerations?
- Have the procedures been presented in enough detail to enable the reader to duplicate them?
- Scan and spot-check calculations. Are the statistical methods appropriate?
- Do you find any content repeated or duplicated?
- How many errors of fact and interpretation does the author include? (You can check on this by looking up the references the author cites).
- What pertinent literature has the author cited, and have they used this literature appropriately?
Following, we have an example of a summary and an evaluation of a research article. Note that in most literature review contexts, the summary and evaluation would be much shorter. This extended example shows the different ways a student can critique and write about an article.
Chik, A. (2012). Digital gameplay for autonomous foreign language learning: Gamers’ and language teachers’ perspectives. In H. Reinders (ed.), Digital games in language learning and teaching (pp. 95-114). Eastbourne, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Be sure to include the full citation either in a reference page or near your evaluation if writing an annotated bibliography .
In Chik’s article “Digital Gameplay for Autonomous Foreign Language Learning: Gamers’ and Teachers’ Perspectives”, she explores the ways in which “digital gamers manage gaming and gaming-related activities to assume autonomy in their foreign language learning,” (96) which is presented in contrast to how teachers view the “pedagogical potential” of gaming. The research was described as an “umbrella project” consisting of two parts. The first part examined 34 language teachers’ perspectives who had limited experience with gaming (only five stated they played games regularly) (99). Their data was recorded through a survey, class discussion, and a seven-day gaming trial done by six teachers who recorded their reflections through personal blog posts. The second part explored undergraduate gaming habits of ten Hong Kong students who were regular gamers. Their habits were recorded through language learning histories, videotaped gaming sessions, blog entries of gaming practices, group discussion sessions, stimulated recall sessions on gaming videos, interviews with other gamers, and posts from online discussion forums. The research shows that while students recognize the educational potential of games and have seen benefits of it in their lives, the instructors overall do not see the positive impacts of gaming on foreign language learning.
The summary includes the article’s purpose, methods, results, discussion, and citations when necessary.
This article did a good job representing the undergraduate gamers’ voices through extended quotes and stories. Particularly for the data collection of the undergraduate gamers, there were many opportunities for an in-depth examination of their gaming practices and histories. However, the representation of the teachers in this study was very uneven when compared to the students. Not only were teachers labeled as numbers while the students picked out their own pseudonyms, but also when viewing the data collection, the undergraduate students were more closely examined in comparison to the teachers in the study. While the students have fifteen extended quotes describing their experiences in their research section, the teachers only have two of these instances in their section, which shows just how imbalanced the study is when presenting instructor voices.
Some research methods, like the recorded gaming sessions, were only used with students whereas teachers were only asked to blog about their gaming experiences. This creates a richer narrative for the students while also failing to give instructors the chance to have more nuanced perspectives. This lack of nuance also stems from the emphasis of the non-gamer teachers over the gamer teachers. The non-gamer teachers’ perspectives provide a stark contrast to the undergraduate gamer experiences and fits neatly with the narrative of teachers not valuing gaming as an educational tool. However, the study mentioned five teachers that were regular gamers whose perspectives are left to a short section at the end of the presentation of the teachers’ results. This was an opportunity to give the teacher group a more complex story, and the opportunity was entirely missed.
Additionally, the context of this study was not entirely clear. The instructors were recruited through a master’s level course, but the content of the course and the institution’s background is not discussed. Understanding this context helps us understand the course’s purpose(s) and how those purposes may have influenced the ways in which these teachers interpreted and saw games. It was also unclear how Chik was connected to this masters’ class and to the students. Why these particular teachers and students were recruited was not explicitly defined and also has the potential to skew results in a particular direction.
Overall, I was inclined to agree with the idea that students can benefit from language acquisition through gaming while instructors may not see the instructional value, but I believe the way the research was conducted and portrayed in this article made it very difficult to support Chik’s specific findings.
Some professors like you to begin an evaluation with something positive but isn’t always necessary.
The evaluation is clearly organized and uses transitional phrases when moving to a new topic.
This evaluation includes a summative statement that gives the overall impression of the article at the end, but this can also be placed at the beginning of the evaluation.
This evaluation mainly discusses the representation of data and methods. However, other areas, like organization, are open to critique.
- How it works
Literature Review Samples And Examples
A literature review is a part of your academic writing and discusses the existing published content in that particular area. It can be hard for some students to work on the literature review. A smooth way to tackle this issue is to check the already available free samples of literature reviews available online to take inspiration from or to understand the structure and format of a literature review completely. We have curated some professional literature review samples to help students with this.
Literature Review Sample
Quality: 1st / 74%
Discipline: Health Care
Quality: 2:2 / 59%
Quality: 2:2 / 58%
Quality: 1st / 71%
Quality: 1st / 70%
Quality: 2:1 / 69%
Quality: 2:1 / 67%
Quality: 2:1 / 66%
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We provide a 100% plagiarism-free literature review with proper references to ensure originality.
Our literature review samples are thoroughly researched and properly referenced.
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We offer free revisions to customers until they are completely satisfied with the results.
As you can see in our free literature review samples, your work will be properly cited.
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Frequently Ask Questions?
How can our literature review samples help you.
A literature review is an integrated analysis of scholarly sources. You evaluate the existing literature on a similar topic as yours to understand the problem you are trying to solve.
Your literature review should include all concepts, models, and frameworks associated with the topic under investigation. All the critical theories about the topic should also be a part of your literature review.
To write a captivating literature review, you should pay attention to two points: the recency and relevancy of the sources.
To assess the relevancy of the scholarly source, you will have to evaluate its research aims and question, the methods of research employed the author employed, and the results’ reliability.
Once you know your chosen source’s relevancy, make sure it is not older than a few years. We recommend not to base your research on studies that were completed more than ten years ago. Following this recommendation will help you eliminate obsolete models and frameworks and draft a literature review based on the latest theories and concepts.
To help you write a winning literature review, we have published several undergraduate and postgraduate level literature review examples on our website. You will notice that each of our literature review samples introduces the topic by providing background information before analyzing the sources.
Pay attention to your writing style. Along with descriptive writing, you should be critical. You should be able to demonstrate your understanding by comparing and analysing one study with another. Do not forget to cite your sources while discussing them accurately.
Your final step should be to identify critical gaps and then find research questions that stem from these sources. These should be logical, and the research questions should not seem out of place.
If you are unsure how this should be structured, follow our literature review sample . Focus on how the writing is descriptive first, then critical, and in the end, gaps are identified.
Also, look at how the chapter is divided and the sub-headings that are used. This should be according to the topic of your study. It will help develop your literature review straight out of the dissertation outline so that it flows smoothly and is consistent.
Seek help from our literature review writing examples to comprehend these essential aspects and draft a literature review according to dissertation requirements.
We are here to guide you further! Talk to us , and we can help you prepare a literature review that is in line with your study requirements. Our expert writers take on the responsibility of including all essential elements of a literature review and helping you put together an outstanding dissertation.
What usually is the length of a Literature Review?
Literature reviews of undergraduate and Masters’ dissertations are generally 3000-6000 words in length depending on the module specifications. PhD-level dissertation literature reviews are much longer. The length of a PhD dissertation can vary anywhere between 10,000 to 20,000 words.
What does your literature review writing service include?
The Research Prospect literature review writing service covers literature review coursework assignments, also literature reviews for Ph.D., master’s, and undergraduate proposals and dissertations.
Who will write my literature review?
To provide the best writers, that’s who we picked – the best. They’ve all been through our rigorous academic assault course to prove their worth. Every writer is qualified to write for you.
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A general guide on how to conduct and write a literature review.
Please check course or programme information and materials provided by teaching staff , including your project supervisor, for subject-specific guidance.
What is a literature review?
A literature review is a piece of academic writing demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the academic literature on a specific topic placed in context. A literature review also includes a critical evaluation of the material; this is why it is called a literature review rather than a literature report. It is a process of reviewing the literature, as well as a form of writing.
To illustrate the difference between reporting and reviewing, think about television or film review articles. These articles include content such as a brief synopsis or the key points of the film or programme plus the critic’s own evaluation. Similarly the two main objectives of a literature review are firstly the content covering existing research, theories and evidence, and secondly your own critical evaluation and discussion of this content.
Usually a literature review forms a section or part of a dissertation, research project or long essay. However, it can also be set and assessed as a standalone piece of work.
What is the purpose of a literature review?
…your task is to build an argument, not a library. Rudestam, K.E. and Newton, R.R. (1992) Surviving your dissertation: A comprehensive guide to content and process. California: Sage, p49.
In a larger piece of written work, such as a dissertation or project, a literature review is usually one of the first tasks carried out after deciding on a topic. Reading combined with critical analysis can help to refine a topic and frame research questions. Conducting a literature review establishes your familiarity with and understanding of current research in a particular field before carrying out a new investigation. After doing a literature review, you should know what research has already been done and be able to identify what is unknown within your topic.
When doing and writing a literature review, it is good practice to:
- summarise and analyse previous research and theories;
- identify areas of controversy and contested claims;
- highlight any gaps that may exist in research to date.
Conducting a literature review
Focusing on different aspects of your literature review can be useful to help plan, develop, refine and write it. You can use and adapt the prompt questions in our worksheet below at different points in the process of researching and writing your review. These are suggestions to get you thinking and writing.
Developing and refining your literature review (pdf)
Developing and refining your literature review (Word)
Developing and refining your literature review (Word rtf)
Writing a literature review has a lot in common with other assignment tasks. There is advice on our other pages about thinking critically, reading strategies and academic writing. Our literature review top tips suggest some specific things you can do to help you submit a successful review.
Literature review top tips (pdf)
Literature review top tips (Word rtf)
Our reading page includes strategies and advice on using books and articles and a notes record sheet grid you can use.
Reading at university
The Academic writing page suggests ways to organise and structure information from a range of sources and how you can develop your argument as you read and write.
The Critical thinking page has advice on how to be a more critical researcher and a form you can use to help you think and break down the stages of developing your argument.
As with other forms of academic writing, your literature review needs to demonstrate good academic practice by following the Code of Student Conduct and acknowledging the work of others through citing and referencing your sources.
Good academic practice
As with any writing task, you will need to review, edit and rewrite sections of your literature review. The Editing and proofreading page includes tips on how to do this and strategies for standing back and thinking about your structure and checking the flow of your argument.
Editing and proofreading
Guidance on literature searching from the University Library
The Academic Support Librarians have developed LibSmart I and II, Learn courses to help you develop and enhance your digital research skills and capabilities; from getting started with the Library to managing data for your dissertation.
Searching using the library’s DiscoverEd tool: DiscoverEd
Finding resources in your subject: Subject guides
The Academic Support Librarians also provide one-to-one appointments to help you develop your research strategies.
1 to 1 support for literature searching and systematic reviews
Advice to help you optimise use of Google Scholar, Google Books and Google for your research and study: Using Google
Managing and curating your references
A referencing management tool can help you to collect and organise and your source material to produce a bibliography or reference list.
Referencing and reference management
Information Services provide access to Cite them right online which is a guide to the main referencing systems and tells you how to reference just about any source (EASE log-in may be required).
Cite them right
Published study guides
There are a number of scholarship skills books and guides available which can help with writing a literature review. Our Resource List of study skills guides includes sections on Referencing, Dissertation and project writing and Literature reviews.
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Looking for a Literature Review Sample for your Assignment?
Author : Andy
Sample assignment on literature review, literature review on dye sensitized solar cells (dssc), 1. historical background, 2. introduction to dssc.
- TCO – stands for Transparent Conducting Oxide (WE – working electrode)
- Mesoporous oxide – underlayer
- Mesoporous oxide that is photoactive and consists of dye molecules that are coated
- Electrolyte consisting of redox mediators
- Sealing separator / gasket
- Layer of Pt catalyst (finely divided)
- TCO - Transparent Conducting Oxide (CE – counter electrode) (Kalyanasundaram and Grätzel, 2009)
3.The principle of Operation of a dye-sensitized nano - crystalline solar cell (DSC)
4.Working of a Dye – Sensitized Solar Cell (DSSC)
- The photoactive material that is present in a typical DSSC is the dye which has the capability to produce electricity the moment it is sensitized by natural visible light or artificial light
- The photons present in the incoming natural visible light and artificial light are caught by the dye and uses the available energy to excite the electrons which resembles the functioning of chlorophyll in the process of photosynthesis
- Next, the excited electrons are injected into Titanium Dioxide by the dye. (Titanium Dioxide is a white pigment that is usually present in white paint)
- Conduction of electrons is done by nano – crystalline titanium dioxide, which is its crystallized form
- A chemical electrolyte that is present in the DSSC cell completes the circuit by closing it so that all available electrons are returned to the dye
- Movement of all the electrons back to dye is the main source to generate energy which can be easily stored in a rechargeable battery, any electrical device or super capacitor. (GCell, 2014)
5. Characteristics of DSSC
- Conversion efficiency of high energy – Efficiency of a DSSC is same as that of a Silicon solar cell (amorphous type) which has been acquired during the process of development in the laboratory and efficiencies slightly greater than 10 % might be possible
- Low – cost fabrication – The construction process of a DSSC is quite simple and the materials used in its fabrication are of low – cost. Thus, it is quite clear that the fabrication cost of DSSC is less than traditional solar cells.
- Component materials abundant availability – Availability of various oxide semi conductors for instance, iodine, dye and TiO 2 is abundant in nature. Although there is limited availability of Ru metal deposits, the quantity of Ru complex that is been used in the DSSC is only approximately 1 x 10 -7 mol cm -2 . If there is any issue of limited availability of resources of Ru complexes, use of organic dye photo sensitizers can be made. (Kalyanasundaram, 2010)
- Potential for adaptable and colourful consumer goods – Transparent and colourful solar cells can be manufactured by making use of various types of dyes that is dependent on the application of the solar cell (DSSC). For instance, instead of window panes, use of transparent solar cells can be made. Also, in addition, the plastic substrate can be used instead of glass. This is only possible if processing of TiO 2 in lower temperatures is available. This factor expands the usage of a DSSC (Kalyanasundaram, 2010)
- Environmental pollution is less – materials such as dyes, iodine and TiO2 that are used in Dye – Sensitized Solar Cells are not toxic in nature. Only possibility is the organic solvents component that is present in the electrolyte solution can harm to a certain extent. Researches that will be carried out in future must be focussing on generating a solid – state electrolyte that does not cause any harm to the environment
- Recyclability is good – The organic dye photo sensitizers that are normally present on the electrode can be easily removed or wiped off by cleaning the electrode using any kind of alkali solution or also combustion, thus ensuring good recyclability of the Dye – Sensitized Solar Cell. (Kalyanasundaram, 2010)
6. Present DSC Research and Development
7. performance of state of the art, best online literature review assignment help.
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What this handout is about.
This handout will explain what literature reviews are and offer insights into the form and construction of literature reviews in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.
OK. You’ve got to write a literature review. You dust off a novel and a book of poetry, settle down in your chair, and get ready to issue a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” as you leaf through the pages. “Literature review” done. Right?
Wrong! The “literature” of a literature review refers to any collection of materials on a topic, not necessarily the great literary texts of the world. “Literature” could be anything from a set of government pamphlets on British colonial methods in Africa to scholarly articles on the treatment of a torn ACL. And a review does not necessarily mean that your reader wants you to give your personal opinion on whether or not you liked these sources.
What is a literature review, then?
A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period.
A literature review can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information. It might give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates. And depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant.
But how is a literature review different from an academic research paper?
The main focus of an academic research paper is to develop a new argument, and a research paper is likely to contain a literature review as one of its parts. In a research paper, you use the literature as a foundation and as support for a new insight that you contribute. The focus of a literature review, however, is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of others without adding new contributions.
Why do we write literature reviews?
Literature reviews provide you with a handy guide to a particular topic. If you have limited time to conduct research, literature reviews can give you an overview or act as a stepping stone. For professionals, they are useful reports that keep them up to date with what is current in the field. For scholars, the depth and breadth of the literature review emphasizes the credibility of the writer in his or her field. Literature reviews also provide a solid background for a research paper’s investigation. Comprehensive knowledge of the literature of the field is essential to most research papers.
Who writes these things, anyway?
Literature reviews are written occasionally in the humanities, but mostly in the sciences and social sciences; in experiment and lab reports, they constitute a section of the paper. Sometimes a literature review is written as a paper in itself.
Let’s get to it! What should I do before writing the literature review?
If your assignment is not very specific, seek clarification from your instructor:
- Roughly how many sources should you include?
- What types of sources (books, journal articles, websites)?
- Should you summarize, synthesize, or critique your sources by discussing a common theme or issue?
- Should you evaluate your sources?
- Should you provide subheadings and other background information, such as definitions and/or a history?
Look for other literature reviews in your area of interest or in the discipline and read them to get a sense of the types of themes you might want to look for in your own research or ways to organize your final review. You can simply put the word “review” in your search engine along with your other topic terms to find articles of this type on the Internet or in an electronic database. The bibliography or reference section of sources you’ve already read are also excellent entry points into your own research.
Narrow your topic
There are hundreds or even thousands of articles and books on most areas of study. The narrower your topic, the easier it will be to limit the number of sources you need to read in order to get a good survey of the material. Your instructor will probably not expect you to read everything that’s out there on the topic, but you’ll make your job easier if you first limit your scope.
Keep in mind that UNC Libraries have research guides and to databases relevant to many fields of study. You can reach out to the subject librarian for a consultation: https://library.unc.edu/support/consultations/ .
And don’t forget to tap into your professor’s (or other professors’) knowledge in the field. Ask your professor questions such as: “If you had to read only one book from the 90’s on topic X, what would it be?” Questions such as this help you to find and determine quickly the most seminal pieces in the field.
Consider whether your sources are current
Some disciplines require that you use information that is as current as possible. In the sciences, for instance, treatments for medical problems are constantly changing according to the latest studies. Information even two years old could be obsolete. However, if you are writing a review in the humanities, history, or social sciences, a survey of the history of the literature may be what is needed, because what is important is how perspectives have changed through the years or within a certain time period. Try sorting through some other current bibliographies or literature reviews in the field to get a sense of what your discipline expects. You can also use this method to consider what is currently of interest to scholars in this field and what is not.
Strategies for writing the literature review
Find a focus.
A literature review, like a term paper, is usually organized around ideas, not the sources themselves as an annotated bibliography would be organized. This means that you will not just simply list your sources and go into detail about each one of them, one at a time. No. As you read widely but selectively in your topic area, consider instead what themes or issues connect your sources together. Do they present one or different solutions? Is there an aspect of the field that is missing? How well do they present the material and do they portray it according to an appropriate theory? Do they reveal a trend in the field? A raging debate? Pick one of these themes to focus the organization of your review.
Convey it to your reader
A literature review may not have a traditional thesis statement (one that makes an argument), but you do need to tell readers what to expect. Try writing a simple statement that lets the reader know what is your main organizing principle. Here are a couple of examples:
The current trend in treatment for congestive heart failure combines surgery and medicine. More and more cultural studies scholars are accepting popular media as a subject worthy of academic consideration.
You’ve got a focus, and you’ve stated it clearly and directly. Now what is the most effective way of presenting the information? What are the most important topics, subtopics, etc., that your review needs to include? And in what order should you present them? Develop an organization for your review at both a global and local level:
First, cover the basic categories
Just like most academic papers, literature reviews also must contain at least three basic elements: an introduction or background information section; the body of the review containing the discussion of sources; and, finally, a conclusion and/or recommendations section to end the paper. The following provides a brief description of the content of each:
- Introduction: Gives a quick idea of the topic of the literature review, such as the central theme or organizational pattern.
- Body: Contains your discussion of sources and is organized either chronologically, thematically, or methodologically (see below for more information on each).
- Conclusions/Recommendations: Discuss what you have drawn from reviewing literature so far. Where might the discussion proceed?
Organizing the body
Once you have the basic categories in place, then you must consider how you will present the sources themselves within the body of your paper. Create an organizational method to focus this section even further.
To help you come up with an overall organizational framework for your review, consider the following scenario:
You’ve decided to focus your literature review on materials dealing with sperm whales. This is because you’ve just finished reading Moby Dick, and you wonder if that whale’s portrayal is really real. You start with some articles about the physiology of sperm whales in biology journals written in the 1980’s. But these articles refer to some British biological studies performed on whales in the early 18th century. So you check those out. Then you look up a book written in 1968 with information on how sperm whales have been portrayed in other forms of art, such as in Alaskan poetry, in French painting, or on whale bone, as the whale hunters in the late 19th century used to do. This makes you wonder about American whaling methods during the time portrayed in Moby Dick, so you find some academic articles published in the last five years on how accurately Herman Melville portrayed the whaling scene in his novel.
Now consider some typical ways of organizing the sources into a review:
- Chronological: If your review follows the chronological method, you could write about the materials above according to when they were published. For instance, first you would talk about the British biological studies of the 18th century, then about Moby Dick, published in 1851, then the book on sperm whales in other art (1968), and finally the biology articles (1980s) and the recent articles on American whaling of the 19th century. But there is relatively no continuity among subjects here. And notice that even though the sources on sperm whales in other art and on American whaling are written recently, they are about other subjects/objects that were created much earlier. Thus, the review loses its chronological focus.
- By publication: Order your sources by publication chronology, then, only if the order demonstrates a more important trend. For instance, you could order a review of literature on biological studies of sperm whales if the progression revealed a change in dissection practices of the researchers who wrote and/or conducted the studies.
- By trend: A better way to organize the above sources chronologically is to examine the sources under another trend, such as the history of whaling. Then your review would have subsections according to eras within this period. For instance, the review might examine whaling from pre-1600-1699, 1700-1799, and 1800-1899. Under this method, you would combine the recent studies on American whaling in the 19th century with Moby Dick itself in the 1800-1899 category, even though the authors wrote a century apart.
- Thematic: Thematic reviews of literature are organized around a topic or issue, rather than the progression of time. However, progression of time may still be an important factor in a thematic review. For instance, the sperm whale review could focus on the development of the harpoon for whale hunting. While the study focuses on one topic, harpoon technology, it will still be organized chronologically. The only difference here between a “chronological” and a “thematic” approach is what is emphasized the most: the development of the harpoon or the harpoon technology.But more authentic thematic reviews tend to break away from chronological order. For instance, a thematic review of material on sperm whales might examine how they are portrayed as “evil” in cultural documents. The subsections might include how they are personified, how their proportions are exaggerated, and their behaviors misunderstood. A review organized in this manner would shift between time periods within each section according to the point made.
- Methodological: A methodological approach differs from the two above in that the focusing factor usually does not have to do with the content of the material. Instead, it focuses on the “methods” of the researcher or writer. For the sperm whale project, one methodological approach would be to look at cultural differences between the portrayal of whales in American, British, and French art work. Or the review might focus on the economic impact of whaling on a community. A methodological scope will influence either the types of documents in the review or the way in which these documents are discussed. Once you’ve decided on the organizational method for the body of the review, the sections you need to include in the paper should be easy to figure out. They should arise out of your organizational strategy. In other words, a chronological review would have subsections for each vital time period. A thematic review would have subtopics based upon factors that relate to the theme or issue.
Sometimes, though, you might need to add additional sections that are necessary for your study, but do not fit in the organizational strategy of the body. What other sections you include in the body is up to you. Put in only what is necessary. Here are a few other sections you might want to consider:
- Current Situation: Information necessary to understand the topic or focus of the literature review.
- History: The chronological progression of the field, the literature, or an idea that is necessary to understand the literature review, if the body of the literature review is not already a chronology.
- Methods and/or Standards: The criteria you used to select the sources in your literature review or the way in which you present your information. For instance, you might explain that your review includes only peer-reviewed articles and journals.
Questions for Further Research: What questions about the field has the review sparked? How will you further your research as a result of the review?
Once you’ve settled on a general pattern of organization, you’re ready to write each section. There are a few guidelines you should follow during the writing stage as well. Here is a sample paragraph from a literature review about sexism and language to illuminate the following discussion:
However, other studies have shown that even gender-neutral antecedents are more likely to produce masculine images than feminine ones (Gastil, 1990). Hamilton (1988) asked students to complete sentences that required them to fill in pronouns that agreed with gender-neutral antecedents such as “writer,” “pedestrian,” and “persons.” The students were asked to describe any image they had when writing the sentence. Hamilton found that people imagined 3.3 men to each woman in the masculine “generic” condition and 1.5 men per woman in the unbiased condition. Thus, while ambient sexism accounted for some of the masculine bias, sexist language amplified the effect. (Source: Erika Falk and Jordan Mills, “Why Sexist Language Affects Persuasion: The Role of Homophily, Intended Audience, and Offense,” Women and Language19:2).
In the example above, the writers refer to several other sources when making their point. A literature review in this sense is just like any other academic research paper. Your interpretation of the available sources must be backed up with evidence to show that what you are saying is valid.
Select only the most important points in each source to highlight in the review. The type of information you choose to mention should relate directly to the review’s focus, whether it is thematic, methodological, or chronological.
Use quotes sparingly
Falk and Mills do not use any direct quotes. That is because the survey nature of the literature review does not allow for in-depth discussion or detailed quotes from the text. Some short quotes here and there are okay, though, if you want to emphasize a point, or if what the author said just cannot be rewritten in your own words. Notice that Falk and Mills do quote certain terms that were coined by the author, not common knowledge, or taken directly from the study. But if you find yourself wanting to put in more quotes, check with your instructor.
Summarize and synthesize
Remember to summarize and synthesize your sources within each paragraph as well as throughout the review. The authors here recapitulate important features of Hamilton’s study, but then synthesize it by rephrasing the study’s significance and relating it to their own work.
Keep your own voice
While the literature review presents others’ ideas, your voice (the writer’s) should remain front and center. Notice that Falk and Mills weave references to other sources into their own text, but they still maintain their own voice by starting and ending the paragraph with their own ideas and their own words. The sources support what Falk and Mills are saying.
Use caution when paraphrasing
When paraphrasing a source that is not your own, be sure to represent the author’s information or opinions accurately and in your own words. In the preceding example, Falk and Mills either directly refer in the text to the author of their source, such as Hamilton, or they provide ample notation in the text when the ideas they are mentioning are not their own, for example, Gastil’s. For more information, please see our handout on plagiarism .
Revise, revise, revise
Draft in hand? Now you’re ready to revise. Spending a lot of time revising is a wise idea, because your main objective is to present the material, not the argument. So check over your review again to make sure it follows the assignment and/or your outline. Then, just as you would for most other academic forms of writing, rewrite or rework the language of your review so that you’ve presented your information in the most concise manner possible. Be sure to use terminology familiar to your audience; get rid of unnecessary jargon or slang. Finally, double check that you’ve documented your sources and formatted the review appropriately for your discipline. For tips on the revising and editing process, see our handout on revising drafts .
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.
Jones, Robert, Patrick Bizzaro, and Cynthia Selfe. 1997. The Harcourt Brace Guide to Writing in the Disciplines . New York: Harcourt Brace.
Lamb, Sandra E. 1998. How to Write It: A Complete Guide to Everything You’ll Ever Write . Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
Rosen, Leonard J., and Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook , 5th ed. New York: Longman.
Troyka, Lynn Quittman, and Doug Hesse. 2016. Simon and Schuster Handbook for Writers , 11th ed. London: Pearson.
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How to Write a Literature Review in APA
A literature review is a written survey of what researchers have said about a particular group of related concepts. Literature reviews introduce the reader to the current state of understanding on a topic and highlight gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed. They may group or categorize studies as well as provide an evaluation or synthesis of those studies.
Literature reviews should be written in present tense and past tense and generally follow the order of introduction to the research question, review of the literature, and analysis or synthesis of results.
Literature reviews are common assignments in undergraduate and graduate courses, especially in the social sciences. Knowing how to write one is an important skill that students should master during their first year of school.
This guide will teach you how to write a literature review in APA style, including examples and suggestions for success.
When writing a literature review, the following steps are key to creating a compelling piece of writing:
- Research for relevant literature
When researching for this assignment, students should focus on a scholarly research paper, academic journals, and professional magazines rather than newspaper and magazine articles. These should be used sparingly and only to support arguments or prove a point that is not covered by other works. When searching for articles, make sure you include those from peer-reviewed publications as well as those from the target journal’s archives.
- Evaluate the sources
Once you’ve found your sources, it’s important to critically evaluate each one before including it in the paper. This means scanning the information and making sure that key elements are included.
When assessing a source, ask yourself questions like:
- Are the methods described clearly enough for me to understand them?
- Does this article provide enough foundational background information for me to understand the context of the study?
- Is the literature reviewed relevant to my research question?
If you can’t answer yes to these questions, it’s probably not a good idea to include this source in your paper.
- Identify debates and gaps in the literature.
Evaluating your sources and choosing those that are relevant to your topic can be difficult. One way to make this process easier is to identify gaps in the research as well as debates that include contrasting views on a subject. When doing so, focus on how current studies contribute or attempt to contribute to these gaps and debates.
- Create an outline for the review
Once you have a list of articles, it’s time to start planning out your paper. The easiest way to do this is to make an outline that includes the key points that should be included in each section of the paper. This helps ensure that your literature review has all necessary components while also helping you create an introduction and conclusion for the entire piece.
- Write the literature review.
The final step of the process is writing the actual literature review itself. Start by writing an introductory paragraph that includes a thesis, your research question, and key points about your paper.
APA Formatting Guidelines for a Literature Review Paper
APA (7th edition) style is the most commonly used citation and formatting system. This guide will outline how to format a paper in APA style, along with examples for each component.
General APA formatting rules include:
1) On all sides of the page, use 1-inch margins (top, bottom, left, and right).
2) Use a comprehensible font. Many fonts are appropriate, including Calibri 11-point, Arial 11-point, Times New Roman 12-point, and Georgia 11 point. The word-processing program’s default font is still ok.
3) Double-spacing is recommended for the entire paper, even for the block quotations and the reference list. Blank lines should not be added before or after headings. There should be no additional space between paragraphs.
4) Text paragraphs should be aligned to the left margin and indented. Allow for a ragged right margin. Use partial justification rather than complete justification. Using the tab key or your word-processing program’s paragraph-formatting feature, indent the first line of each paragraph of text by 0.5 inches.
5) Place a page number in the upper right corner of each page, including the cover page or title page, which is page 1. On any page of a student paper, there is no need for a running head.
Structure of a Literature Review Paper
Just like other papers, a literature review should start with an introduction. This section should include a thesis statement, the research question(s) being addressed, and key points about your paper. This is typically done in one paragraph.
Make sure that the thesis statement includes your argument, which you will develop more fully in the body of the paper. The thesis should help orient readers to what they can expect from the literature review, especially relative to your research question(s) and its context within existing scholarship about your topic.
An introduction should be interesting and grab the reader’s attention. You might include an anecdote or refer directly to an interesting passage from one of the articles you discuss in your paper.
The body section
The body should be divided into subsections, each of which covers a distinct aspect of your research question(s). Each section should begin with an introductory sentence that summarizes the main point you are addressing. As you develop these subheadings, make sure they reflect the purpose of your paper. For example, let’s say you are writing a paper about a certain type of superstition. The sections may be labeled as follows:
- History and prevalence
- Cause of the superstition
- Effects of the superstition
The final sentence of each subsection should include a transition sentence that signals to your reader that you are moving on to another aspect related to your research question(s).
The job of the body section is to present, evaluate and analyze your research results. The section should be well-written and organized, and formal.
The conclusion should begin with a short paragraph restating the thesis statement. The conclusion can also contain some theoretical implications of your research, limitations of your paper, and ideas for future research in the area. It should be one to three paragraphs long, depending on what you are writing about.
It is important that you write an engaging literature review that is not too brief or too long, uses proper English, and is free of grammatical errors. Use the correct APA format for literature review papers.
Organizing the Body of a Literature Review
There are different approaches to organizing a literature review, which includes the following:
This type of approach in structuring a literature review involves looking at the development of a particular concept or idea from the earliest to most recent times. It involves organizing the content according to date.
In this case, you should write about the first known occurrence of what you are writing about to its latest form.
For example, if you are writing about superstition, you can begin with its earliest known roots in prehistoric societies and the practices of various cultures.
According to this method, each new section should cover a distinct era.
This approach to structuring a literature review requires you to look at the content in terms of specific themes, key concepts, topics, or ideas.
Accordingly, it is best to divide your paper into distinct thematic categories, with each section addressing one topic, which you organize chronologically.
For each theme or topic, include a brief description of what it entails and provide examples where necessary. Make sure you give detailed explanations and avoid broad generalities, which often lead to misunderstandings.
Organizing the literature review by topic, theme, or idea is best suited for a paper that addresses an interdisciplinary research question. This type of organization gives you the liberty to discuss, draw connections, compare, and differentiate theories and views on your topic in separate sections.
A thematic approach is most appropriate when you intend to use your literature review papers to argue key findings on your topic.
A thematic approach is most appropriate when you intend to use your literature review papers to argue for a certain standpoint on your topic.
This structuring of a literature review involves dividing the content into sections that address distinct methodological approaches used in researching the particular topic.
This approach is particularly effective if you address a complex research question requiring you to discuss different types of research design and methods used in studying the area.
For example, if your literature review focuses on various ways of measuring job satisfaction, your methodology section can address:
- Quantitative studies on job satisfaction
- Qualitative studies on job satisfaction
- Combined quantitative and qualitative approaches in studying job satisfaction
This approach is particularly useful when there are many distinct ways of conducting research. It allows you to address each method separately in different sections of your paper, making it easier for the reader to follow the argument being put forward.
Citation and References of a Literature Review in APA Format
In a paper, you have to include all the references used in your work. Citing references gives credit and accountability to authors who helped you with their research work. To maintain uniformity of style, a specific format must be followed when writing citations for APA papers, including those written for literature review.
For a literature review, whenever a reference is mentioned, it should be cited in parentheses. The parenthetical citation includes the author’s last name and the year of publication.
For example: (Blaikie, 2000)
The references at the end of your paper should be organized alphabetically by the first author’s last name. At the end of each reference, there must be a full citation formatted according to APA style guidelines. For example:
Blaikie, N. (2000). Human geographies of the Global South: Development, nature and social transformation. London, UK: Longman Press.
Tips for Writing an Excellent Literature Review Paper
- Be specific and clear.
Clarity of expression is one of the most important aspects of good academic writing. When making conclusions in your literature review, make sure that your argument is based on solid reasoning and evidence.
Based on the specific question asked for this paper, establish what exactly needs to be included in the paper. You need to choose the areas that require in-depth analysis.
- Give good examples
When making your point, you must provide relevant examples so that the reader can easily understand what you mean. As you are providing examples, try to use appropriate cases or, if possible international case studies.
- Use formal language
A literature review is a formal document. For the reader to trust what you have written, it is important to use appropriate language and structure of writing. Avoid slang and words that are not commonly used for academic writing.
- Do not include any reference that does not support your argument.
Be careful when you include information from internet sources. You should avoid using unreliable citations or references that have no backing evidence. If you are not sure about the credibility of a source, it is better to avoid including it.
- Avoid plagiarism
As an academic writing assignment, it is important to avoid plagiarism. When you are paraphrasing or summarizing a source , use quotation marks and citation as appropriate.
- Include a reference list at the end of your paper.
At the end of your paper, include a comprehensive list of all references used in your paper. The reference must be cited within the text and listed alphabetically at the end according to APA style guidelines.
Following these tips will help you write an effective literature review. If you are still having trouble or need more advice on how to complete an individual assignment, please feel free to contact us, and we will be happy to help.
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A Literature review is an in-depth analysis of published academic literature on a particular topic. It provides the current state of knowledge about a research question and helps understand how future research can meet aims.
The purpose of a literature review will vary between disciplines, and the work done in your field is likely to influence the structure and tone.
If you need help with the writing process of a literature review in APA style, please contact us today. We can help you finish your assignment successfully and according to the required standards. Our rates are reasonable, and we guarantee satisfaction.
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Examples of literature reviews Step 1 - Search for relevant literature Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure Step 5 - Write your literature review Free lecture slides Frequently asked questions Introduction Quick Run-through Step 1 & 2 Step 3 Step 4
For example: Qualitative versus quantitative research Empirical versus theoretical scholarship Divide the research by sociological, historical, or cultural sources Theoretical: In many humanities articles, the literature review is the foundation for the theoretical framework.
This example shows how a literature review from a PhD thesis can be analysed for its structure, purpose and content. Three sections of the thesis are analysed to show the: relationship between the introduction and the literature review structure and purpose of dedicated literature review chapters
Literature Review: Conducting & Writing Sample Lit Reviews from Communication Arts Literature Review Sample 1 Literature Review Sample 2 Literature Review Sample 3 Have an exemplary literature review? Have you written a stellar literature review you care to share for teaching purposes?
of a literature review are. The Purpose of a Literature Review A literature review demonstrates your ability to research; it also showcases your expertise on your chosen topic. By including a literature review in your project or thesis, you are also providing your reader with the most prevalent theories and studies on your topic, evaluations ...
The need for a literature review in a publication will vary from one situation to the other and the field/discipline of research. These two factors determine what is expected from the lit review. For example, a scientific review will be more analytical on the methods and results of previous research.
A literature review is a written approach to examining published information on a particular topic or field. Authors use this review of literature to create a foundation and justification for their research or to demonstrate knowledge on the current state of a field.
There are a few notable examples of research studies on the topic of the redevelopment of regional malls. However, gaps in the body of literature and research still remain. These provide a challenge in identifying best practices in the field and relating them to the Vallco example. Below is a summary of the key findings of the literature review ...
Assignment Description: For this assignment you are asked to complete a small-scale literature review on an educational topic of your choice. You are asked to locate at least 5 educational journal articles on your topic and write a 4 -5 page literature review on the articles you've selected. Steps to complete your small-scale literature review: 1.
Literature Review Assignment Sample Online January 17, 2018 Author : Administrator Category : Assignment Help A literature review analyses the most relevant literature in respective fields of study. Doing so gives a student a better picture of all extant research work undertaken in their subject.
The format of a review of literature may vary from discipline to discipline and from assignment to assignment. A review may be a self-contained unit — an end in itself — or a preface to and rationale for engaging in primary research. A review is a required part of grant and research proposals and often a chapter in theses and dissertations.
Here's an example of the layout visualised in a literature review introduction: Your introduction should also outline your topic (including any tricky terminology or jargon) and provide an explanation of the scope of your literature review - in other words, what you will and won't be covering (the delimitations ).
This assignment will take a while, so you will need more than just a good study discipline to soldier on. A bit of enthusiasm and intrinsic motivation will get you much farther. Literature Review Topics Examples on English and World Literature. Some of the suggestions in this post are linked to literature review examples in our free database ...
Here is a literature review outline example on the subject of the Ebola virus to help you get it right: Introduction Introduce the general topic. Provide background information on the Ebola virus: genome, pathogenesis, transmission, epidemiology, treatment, etc.
literature review as well as the main supporting points you found in the literature. •See back for example. Write Literature Review •Use an introduction, body paragraph(s), and a conclusion. •Include summary, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (if appropriate). •Lit review may be as short as a few paragraphs or as long as a chapter.
How to Review a Journal Article. For many kinds of assignments, like a literature review, you may be asked to offer a critique or review of a journal article.This is an opportunity for you as a scholar to offer your qualified opinion and evaluation of how another scholar has composed their article, argument, and research.That means you will be expected to go beyond a simple summary of the ...
These should be logical, and the research questions should not seem out of place. If you are unsure how this should be structured, follow our literature review sample. Focus on how the writing is descriptive first, then critical, and in the end, gaps are identified. Also, look at how the chapter is divided and the sub-headings that are used.
A literature review also includes a critical evaluation of the material; this is why it is called a literature review rather than a literature report. It is a process of reviewing the literature, as well as a form of writing. To illustrate the difference between reporting and reviewing, think about television or film review articles.
This is a sample assignment on literature review that was written by our writers. The literature review was for a project titled, "Increasing Efficiency of Solar Panels by using Dye-Sensitised Solar Cells". If you need to understand how to write your own, read on! Our literature review writing experts studied the literature of Dye ...
Here is a sample paragraph from a literature review about sexism and language to illuminate the following discussion: ... So check over your review again to make sure it follows the assignment and/or your outline. Then, just as you would for most other academic forms of writing, rewrite or rework the language of your review so that you've ...
1. Literature Review Sample 2. University Literature Review 3. Research Literature Review 1. Literature Review Sample unh.edu Details File Format PDF Size: 163 KB Download 2. University Literature Review cmu.edu Details File Format PDF Size: 226 KB Download 3. Research Literature Review liberty.edu Details File Format PDF Size: 71 KB Download 4.
Literature Reviews. The literature of a literature review is not made up of novels and short stories and poetry—but is the collection of writing and research that has been produced on a particular topic. The purpose of the literature review is to give you an overview of a particular topic. Your job is to discover the research that has been ...
Literature reviews should be written in present tense and past tense and generally follow the order of introduction to the research question, review of the literature, and analysis or synthesis of results. Literature reviews are common assignments in undergraduate and graduate courses, especially in the social sciences.