How to Write a Literature Review: Steps and Outline
So you’re working on your research paper, thesis, or dissertation and you come across an unfamiliar term – “Literature Review.”
It sounds like a challenging concept; however, with the help of this guide, you will be able to understand how to write a literature review as well as its format.
Literature reviews are usually written in the field of humanities, sciences and social sciences. They are written as a part of different lab reports and experiments in science. You might be asked to submit a literature review as an independent piece of paper too. Irrespective of your assignment type, here’s how you should go about writing a literature review.
- 1. What is a Literature Review
- 2. How Does a Literature Review Differ From a Research Paper?
- 3. How to Write a Literature Review?
- 3.1 Understand the Requirements
- 3.2 Go Through Literature Review Examples
- 3.3 Narrow your Focus
- 3.4 Select your Sources
- 3.5 Cite the Sources
- 3.6 Figure Out the Literature Review Structure
- 3.7 Drafting
- 4. Literature Review Example
1. What is a Literature Review
A literature review is a survey of the most relevant scholarly sources (journal articles, books, theses, etc.) that provide an insight into a particular topic. It gives a comprehensive look at the details about the topic, such as what has been said and by whom. Moreover, it gives an overview of the key findings, revelations, developments and different concepts regarding the research question.
A well-written literature review isn’t merely a summary of different sources, instead it
- Examines, analyzes and evaluates the text
- Highlights different patterns and themes
- Explains the current state of the problem at hand.
2. How Does a Literature Review Differ From a Research Paper?
A research paper is a piece of academic writing based on the author’s original research on a particular issue or topic. It focuses on developing a new argument through different steps and elements – literature review is one of them. Literature review serves as a basis of gaining in-depth information about the topic at hand.
When writing a literature review, you need to present new ideas. The aim is to summarize and evaluate the existing work done by others.
2.1 What is the Purpose of Literature Review?
A literature review aims to provide people with a guide about a particular topic – it presents the writer’s viewpoint about the topic and their position. It also comes in handy when people don’t have the time to carry out extensive research, going through the literature review can help understand the latest trends in the field, previous studies, advancements, etc.
It is essential that the researcher understands the existing work that has been done in his field of interest and then establishes his research question.
3. How to Write a Literature Review?
Just as any other piece of writing, some steps and criteria must be followed to write a literature review. There isn’t a set word count that you must meet; the length depends upon the overall word count of the paper. Or you can ask your professor and follow their instructions.
Here are some important steps that can help you start a literature review.
3.1 Understand the Requirements
Before you begin writing your assignment, make sure that you clearly understand the requirements. Take your time reading the prompt and clarify different aspects, such as the number of sources that you need to include.
What type of sources should you incorporate? Are you required to provide a brief summary of the sources or critique and evaluate them? Should the literature review have subheadings, etc?
3.2 Go Through Literature Review Examples
To get an idea of what literature reviews should look like, go through the ones written for the discipline that you are interested in. It will help you get an idea of how to present and organize your research.
3.3 Narrow your Focus
To write a literature review, you are going to get involved in exhaustive research. If you stick with a wider topic, it will be difficult for you to go through different books and articles. With a more focused topic, you can easily gather relevant information.
3.4 Select your Sources
There are thousands of different articles, journals and other sources available on each topic – you can’t expect to go through each one of them. To filter out the sources that are most relevant and useful to your research question, go through their abstract and decide if you want to use it. Ask yourself the following questions when choosing a source:
- What question is being addressed?
- What are the key points, models, methodologies?
- Are there some frameworks used?
- What is the result of the study?
- Strengths and weaknesses.
- Contribution towards the field.
3.5 Cite the Sources
When you select a source, it is a good practice to write them down and cite them as you go - this helps avoid plagiarism. You can use APA, MLA, or any other format according to your requirements.
3.6 Figure Out the Literature Review Structure
When it comes to writing a literature review, you can outline it using various ways such as:
This is the simplest approach of writing a literature review, here you simply organize the sources based on their date of publishing – starting from the oldest to the present day.
The thematic strategy focuses on subtopics or an issue rather than time.
This approach highlights the methods and approaches used by the researcher.
Here the focus is on the different theories and models and other key concepts.
A literature review comprises three sections – introduction, body and conclusion. In the introduction, highlight the purpose and the focal point of your research.
The body incorporates the following points:
- Brief description of the publication
- Highlights its main points
- Talks about the gaps in research
- Assesses and evaluates how it contributed towards the overall topic
Conclude the literature review by discussing their significance.
Simply follow these steps to come up with an interesting literature review for your research paper. If you need help writing the rest of components, check out this detailed blog on research paper outline.
4. Literature Review Example
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