How to Write a Literature Review

    January 6, 2023

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In this article, we will discuss a literature review, where, when, and why to write a literature review, the steps to writing a literature review, the parts of a literature review, and frequently asked questions about literature reviews.

What is a literature Review? 

A literature review analyzes scholarly sources such as books, journal articles, and videos on a topic or research question. The analysis focuses on what different sources say about the topic and requires evaluation to gain more insights and relate the acquired information with the subject or research question.

How many types of literature reviews are there?

There are two main types of literature reviews:

  1. A standalone literature review
  2. Literature reviews as part of a research paper dissertation or scholarly article

Where, when, and why to write a literature review? 

There are situations with different expectations where you might write a literature review. Quite a several disciplines have field-specific expectations for what a literature review is and what it does.

In humanities, the argumentation and interpretation of a source are captured under the review, while in scientific research, the review report has both study designs and results. Therefore, the literature review can be part of a research paper or a scholarly article falling immediately after the introduction and before the research methods section.

It can also be informed of standalone pieces, like a class assignment. As an assignment, it helps students formalize themselves with a topic, also find gaps in existing research, and be in a position to propose new projects and discover new research areas.

Seven Steps to Writing a Literature Review

To write a good literature review for your paper, strictly follow the following steps

1.      Narrow your topic and select papers accordingly

Before you begin your review, you need a clearly defined topic. To write the literature review section for your paper, you will have to search for literature related to your research problem.

You’ve to think about your interests and other researchers from relevant fields. You can refer to your lecture notes, talk to your instructor, and recent issues from periodicals.

To find relevant articles, refer to the following databases

  • The institution’s library catalog
  • Google Scholar
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering, and computer science)
  • Econlit (economics)

2.      Search for literature

Your source selection criteria must be defined, i.e., published between a specific date range, the geographical region, and the methods used.

You can refer to references of recent articles, which can connect you to other relevant, valuable papers

3.      Read the selected articles thoroughly and evaluate them

You need to evaluate your findings while putting the following into consideration:

Some of the questions authors or researchers should ask themselves are.

  • What is the author’s objective? What concept or theory are they putting across?
  • What are the main ideas?
  • What methodologies were used by the author to arrive at the results and conclusions?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the results and findings?

4.      Organize the selected papers by looking for patterns and developing subtopics

If the literature review you’re working on is extensive, you must create room for all your findings into categories. You have to move them around to ensure

  • They fit better under different headings
  • They can be in a position to establish new headings
  • Develop titles reflecting significant themes and patterns

5.      Develop a thesis or purpose statement

Literary reviews may or not have the usual thesis statement, but you still need to inform your readers what to expect. Writing a simple message is enough to let your readers know your main organizing principle.

 The thesis helps you lay out and organize your ideas, giving you a roadmap to decide the research type you can do. Have several thesis statements so you can come up with the best research

6.      Write the paper

You need to strictly follow the structure developed before and structure the sections using subtopics.

With the notes you made while studying the available resources on your topic, you can finally sit down to begin writing your literature review. Ensure to strictly follow the specific structure that your supervisor has given you, accumulate your findings together in a structured manner, and create an excellent literature review.

7.      Review your work

To be effective in your review, make sure that:

  • When you read through the available topic sentences, you can tell that your paper has a certain logic from the beginning to the end, and you can locate the main points of your literature review.
  • Through the paper outline, you’re in a position to either add or eliminate certain parts of your text and restructure
  •  Read through your text and be able to identify where you need punctuation marks to signal pauses or divisions within sentences, where you have made grammatical errors, or where your sentences are unclear.
  • Check to ensure that you have covered all critical, up-to-date, and relevant texts.
  • All the citations and references are correct, and you are referencing in the appropriate style for your discipline. If you are still deciding which type to use, seek clarification from your instructor.
  • Check to check for plagiarism, just in case.
  • Your text is written most concisely.
  • There should be no grammatical or spelling errors.
  • Your sentences have logic and a smooth flow.

What are the Parts of a Literature Review?

A literature review has three main parts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
  3. Conclusion

The type of literature review determines the length of each of these parts; if the literature review is a standalone piece of writing, the introduction and conclusion will be extended. However, if the literature review is a part of a larger paper like a dissertation or research paper, the introduction and conclusion paragraphs will be precise and just a few sentences.


The introductory paragraph of a literature review explains what you are working on. The type of literature review determines its length. Either way, it outlines the topic or research question whose sources you are analyzing.

Your introduction should:

  • Explain what your working topic and this is
  • Please describe how you came up with the sources and analyzed them.
  • Forecast the aim of your research and the significant works to be covered in your literature review.
  • Give the significant reasons why you have chosen the specific studies.
  • Clarify the composition and structure of your review. 


The body is composed of paragraphs. Each paragraph focuses on specific sources and the main points that can be drawn from in it related to the given topic.

What to keep in mind while writing the literature review body:

  • It should be well-structured in paragraphs; use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons, and contrasts, if any.
  • Should summarize and synthesize the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • You should analyze and interpret, not just paraphrase other researchers; instead, your interpretations where possible.
  • You should critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your sources.


The conclusion paragraph summarizes the key findings taken from the different scholarly articles and literature sources.

A reasonable conclusion should:

  • Sum up the highlighted research findings 
  • Assess the present status of the literature reviewed
  • Distinguish critical flaws or loopholes in existing information
  • Plot areas for future investigation
  • Connect your literature review to existing information 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the three parts of the literature review?

The three parts include:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
  3. Conclusion

What are the five rules for writing a literature review?

  1. Define a Topic and Audience.
  2. Search and Research the Literature.
  3. Take Notes While Reading.
  4. Choose the Type of Review You Wish to Write.
  5.  Keep the Review Focused, but Make It of Broad Interest.
  6.  Be Critical and Consistent.

What are the seven steps in writing a literature review?

  1. Narrow your topic and select papers accordingly
  2. Search for literature
  3. Read the selected articles thoroughly and evaluate them
  4. Organize the selected papers by looking for patterns and developing subtopics
  5. Develop a thesis or purpose statement
  6. Write the paper
  7. Review your work

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