How to Write a Good Literature Review

If you are trying to figure out how to write a good literature review, you have come to the right place. In this article, professional writers explain what a literature review format involves, what should be written in this document and how to create one, step by step.

In general, this document should contain a detailed and rigorous review of various scholarly sources (including books, dissertations, journal articles, theses, etc.) on a specific topic. The author should present a summary, description, and a short evaluation of each source utilized.  This paper is also supposed to provide a clear overview of the main findings, developments, or concepts related to a certain research problem or research question(s). All the sources should directly discuss one single chosen theme or issue. Read on to find out how to cope with this task or order literature review from a reputable writing company, whose experts are capable of solving all your problems with written assignments.

 

Purpose of the literature review: Essential tips

Custom literature review writers know that the key purpose of this document is to provide a critically discussed and written account of the up-to-date research conducted so far on the topic under study:

  • It is necessary to identify previous scholarly works.
  • It is recommended to place every source in the context of its contributions to the comprehension of a certain area of research, issue, or theory that is under thorough review.
  • It is advised to describe the relationship of every source to the other ones that have been selected.
  • It is necessary to identify new ways to further interpret the findings of the scholars and shed light on possible gaps found in previous studies.
  • It is recommended to point out the way for future research.

Below are some of the essential literature review guidelines suggested by our experts.

Each literature review should be composed of such elements Each literature review should be composed of such elements (mobile)

Cases when a literature review is required

If you work on your dissertation or thesis, you are supposed to present a review of the scholarly sources in order to place your future research within the framework of existing and current knowledge. You should incorporate it into your introductory section. It could also be a separate section or chapter coming before the methodology, as well as discussion and results chapters. You could also be asked to present a literature review as a separate paper. Take into account that the information to be provided in the paper may differ in each of the cases. Still, the procedure for carrying out a literature review should follow the clear steps outlined below. Please, carefully read all the steps; they will explain to you how to organize a literature review.

Learn more about how to write a literature review for dissertation: "Dissertation literature review"

step1 Step 1: Collection, evaluation, and selection of literature on the chosen topic

  • Before you start seeking the sources needed, you should define your topic very clearly.

If the composed literature review will be just one of the sections of a greater written work (research paper or thesis), you should find the sources related to the research questions and problem set. It is the first step in assessing what is already known on the chosen topic before you commence detailed research. In case you are supposed to compose a separately written document, you should choose a specific theme and then coin a key question that will direct your future search. In addition, it should be possible to answer it without the need for the collection or generation of novel data. One should be capable of answering it based only on the review of the available and up-to-date articles and other publications.

  • Search for the related sources utilizing citations and key phrases

Start by completing the list of frequently used key phrases and words linked to the topic and research question set. When you come across relevant articles, check the list of references to look for more sources related to your theme. In order to spot any significant and related publications that failed to show up in the search of your keyword, analyze the citations that reoccur. If the same books, manuscripts, and articles, are repeatedly mentioned in the reading, make sure to check them, too. 

  • Evaluation and selection of the publications related to the topic

Most likely, you will not be capable of reading all the materials related to the topic chosen by you—begin by reading the abstracts to determine whether the selected articles are useful and significant. You should evaluate which of the publications are most relevant and valuable to your research questions. So, while reading the article you may want to use, ask yourself:

  1. What problem or question has the researcher addressed?
  2. Are the key concepts of the research related to my topic? How have they been defined and explicated?
  3. Does the article contain the most recent theories, methods, strategies, techniques, designs, etc.? Has the researcher applied the traditional framework or taken new approaches?
  4. Are the main results, and findings of this research related to my topic?
  5. How is the chosen source related to other publications in the same field of science? (It may either confirm or challenge and contradict the previous findings or achievements).
  6. How does the chosen source help to better understand the set topic? Does it present significant ideas, arguments, or counter-arguments?
  7. Are there obvious weaknesses or strengths in the study?

Ensure the articles used are credible and reliable. Consider that the scope of your paper greatly depends on the chosen subject: in the exact sciences, you are to review the recently published articles, but in the humanities and arts, you should make emphasis on historical perspective to find out how the concept chosen has shifted in meaning over some time.

  • Write down important ideas and cite sources accordingly

While reading, you should commence the process of composing the review — put down significant ideas and findings that you will be capable of utilizing later by incorporating them into the body of your future paper. Please, note that it is of great significance to keep scrupulous track of each source with citations as you don't want to be accused of academic dishonesty. It is reasonable to prepare an annotated bibliography. You may want to save complete citation info and a short summary for each publication. This step will help you to keep track of what you have reviewed and save you some time later in the process of writing. 

Check also our article: "Top tips on how to review an article"

step2 Step 2: Find common themes and connections

To commence structuring a literature review, you should clearly identify possible connections between the selected articles. Using the info you have already collected, you should find the following:

  • Common structure and trends (check the theory, design, methodology, or findings);
  • Themes: what conceptions, issues, or notions are repeated in different articles?
  • Debates, contradictions, and conflicts: where do the sources under analysis conflict?
  • Essential sources: is it possible to trace any dominant studies or hypotheses that have directed or redirected scholars working and writing in this field?
  • Gaps: what has not been covered in the sources? Are there any gaps worthwhile addressing?

The following stage will let you structure and shape the literature review properly. This way, you will also be able to demonstrate the ability of your research to close the gap in knowledge.

step3 Step 3: Plan the structure

There are four main types of literature review paper structure. An overall strategy for classifying and presenting information should be developed before you get down to work. If you think that the article will be quite long, you can allow yourself to use several strategies simultaneously. For instance, the general structure of your written work may be thematic, but every theme can be discussed in chronological order.

Theoretical

A theoretical framework is usually based on the section of the literature review. Thus, in this section, you can discuss different concepts, models, or theories.

You can use separate ideas in this section as bricks to build your own research framework. Here, you may also want to discuss the relevance of certain theoretical approaches, designs, or doctrines.

Thematic

If you managed to find some themes/subjects that are constantly repeated while conducting a literature review, you can break your paper into several sub-sections addressing various aspects of the issue under analysis.

Chronological 

To make your life easier, you can follow the development of the chosen theme or issue over some time. In case you choose this option, don't fall into the trap of simply presenting and summarizing the articles in a certain order. You should scrutinize the turning points or essential debates that have formed the direction of the chosen scientific field. 

Methodological

If the chosen articles come from various fields of study, then you are recommended to compare and contrast the research results as well as conclusions resulting from various approaches or strategies. 

 
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step4 Step 4: Create your literature review paper

If you have already written some essays and research papers, you know that a traditional academic paper consists of three main parts: introductory, main and final. While working on this assignment you should follow the same structure. 

  • Introductory section

Here the student should shape the focus and research goal of the literature review.

  1. A review as a part of a greater work

In case your literature review will be just a section in a greater academic work, you should restate the key issue/research questions, as well as shortly summarize the overall scholarly context. 

  1. A stand-alone project

If this is going to be a separate piece of writing, provide a background on the chosen problem and its significance, highlight the scope of the chosen articles that will be reviewed, and present your aim and objectives. What novel views will you be capable of shaping using the chosen sources?

  • Body

Depending on the needed or set length of your paper, it is allowed to divide the body into several subsections or sub-chapters. You can provide a subheading for every theme, methodology, or time period.

While working on your future literature review, use these tips:

  1. Provide a summary and synthesis: present a clear overview of the key ideas of every article and try to integrate them into an understandable and coherent text;
  2. Provide analysis and interpretation: you should not only paraphrase ideas from the articles but also present your own explanations where it is appropriate. Discuss the importance of the results for the problem/topic being discussed;
  3. Provide a critical evaluation: indicate the weaknesses as well as strengths of the publications under analysis;
  4. Make sure your paragraphs are well-structured and well-thought-out: utilize transitional words and phrases, as well as topic and concluding sentences. Ideas should flow smoothly.
  • Concluding section

Here, one should sum up the most significant findings drawn from the literature. The author should also stress their importance. 

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