Learn How To Write A Literature Review In Simple Steps
A literature review requires a lot of research work. Most students contemplate it as the hardest and complicated part while writing a research paper. Besides, you may also have to write it as a stand-alone assignment.
Drafting a strong literature review is considered the foundation of any research. It helps to evaluate existing research and tells your teacher how your research is relevant to the respective field. Moreover, it also discusses new insights that your research will contribute to the field of study.
Thus, a writer needs to be well prepared to utilize multiple scholarly sources to find the required research material. An organizational plan must also be developed to combine both the summary and synthesis of the previous literature.
Keep on reading this complete guide to learning how to write a literature review paper in simple steps.
What is a Literature Review?
A literature review is the research and evaluation of the available literature in your chosen topic area. It includes a survey of scholarly sources to provide an overview of the current research and available data and knowledge.
These sources include books, journal articles, and newspapers, that relate to your research question.
Moreover, it not only summarizes the sources. But it also analyzes, interprets, and evaluates the relevant theories, methods, points of view, and gaps in the existing literature.
However, this does not mean that a literature review is based on previous searches only. The writer discusses the research question and its various aspects and discusses the relevant study to support this claim.
What is the Importance of a Good Literature Review?
Some of the key reasons to add a literature review into your research paper, thesis, and dissertation include:
- It shows that the writer is familiar with the topic and the relevant literature.
- It helps to develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research.
- It positions a writer in relation to other researchers and scholars.
- It enables you to identify a research gap and contribute to filling that void by contributing to the field.
- It resolves any conflicts between the previous studies.
The length of a literature review usually depends on the length of the research project. For example, if you are writing a research paper of 10 pages. You will have to include 5 to 6 sources in your literature review.
However, consulting with the professor about proper requirements beforehand is a better way to avoid any last-minute issues.
Types of Literature Review
Here are the types of literature review.
How to Write a Literature Review?
To write a good literature review for a research paper, follow the given steps.
1. Search Relevant Literature
The first important step before starting a review section is to have a clearly defined topic.
Writing a literature review for a research paper requires you to search for literature. It should be relevant to your research problem and questions. Similarly, use the keywords to search for different sources.
To find the relevant journals and articles, look for the following useful academic databases.
However, for writing a review as a stand-alone assignment, develop a research question that gives direction to your search.
Such a question must be answered without gathering original data. Instead, you should answer it by reviewing the existing material.
Furthermore, create a list of keywords related to the topic and research question. Find useful articles and check for the reference list to come up with more authentic sources.
You probably would not be able to cover everything on the chosen topic. Thus, begin by reading the abstract to identify whether the article is relevant or not.
Also, take enough time to evaluate the sources. Make a list of citations and ensure there are no repetitive authors, articles, or publications in the literature review.
2. Analyze and Select Sources
Obviously, it is impossible to read each and every single thing written about the research topic. Instead, you have to analyze the sources that are most relevant to your research questions.
Answer the below questions while analyzing each source.
- What is the question or problem that the writer has been discussing?
- How are the key concepts are defined?
- What theories, approaches, and methods are addressed?
- Does the research study follow an established or innovative approach?
- What are the key findings of the research work?
- How is the literature related to other publications?
- Does the study pose any challenges to the existing literature?
- What are the possible contributions to the field knowledge?
- Discuss the key arguments.
- Elaborate on the strengths and weaknesses of the research work.
Make sure you are using credible and authentic sources. Also, read the important publications and articles to justify your argument.
Moreover, the scope of the literature review largely depends on the topic and discipline. For example, science students only evaluate recent literary work to write their reviews. Nevertheless, the humanities students also have to study and discuss the historical research and perspective about the topic.
Begin the writing process along with searching and reading the relevant sources. Note down important information to use in the text of your literature review.
It is better to cite your sources at this stage to avoid the risk of plagiarism. Moreover, it can also help in developing an annotated bibliography.
3. Identify Connections
Start organizing the argument and structure of a literature review. For this, you have to identify the connection between the sources that are used while writing an abstract.
Based on your evaluation, you can look for the following things:
- Trends or Patterns: What theories and methods can become more or less popular over time?
- Themes: What concepts repeatedly occur?
- Debate and Conflicts: What conflicts do the sources have?
- Gaps: What is missing in the literature and what elements further need to be addressed?
- Influential Literature: Are there any influential research work available that can change the direction of the field?
These elements will help you identify your contribution to the existing knowledge.
4. Decide the Structure
There are various approaches that can be used to organize the literature review. Depending upon the length, it can follow a chronological, thematic, methodological, or theoretical framework.
The approaches to organizing a review are discussed below in detail.
It is the simplest approach to structure your literature review. However, do not just summarize and list the sources. Instead, analyze the critical debates, research, and patterns that have shaped the direction of the field. Also, discuss your interpretation of the developments.
This type of approach helps to organize the review into subsections. Each section will discuss a different aspect of the chosen topic.
It helps to compare the outcomes of gathering sources from different research methods. It may include the analysis of:
- Results emerged from a qualitative vs quantitative approach.
- Discussion of the topic through an empirical and theoretical approach.
- Division of the literature into historical, and cultural sources.
A literature review is often used to discuss various theories and key concepts. By using this approach, you can argue the relevance of a particular theoretical method. Similarly, you can also combine different theories to make a new framework for your research.
5. Write Your Literature Review
Like any other academic paper, a literature review format must have three sections: introduction, body section, and a conclusion. What to include in each section depends on the aims and objectives of your literature review.
5.1 Literature Review Introduction
It is the first paragraph that clearly defines the purpose and focus of the review.
If your literature review is part of your thesis or dissertation, restate the research question. Similarly, briefly summarize the whole context by highlighting literature gaps.
If you are writing a standalone literature review, provide background information on the topic. Also, discuss the scope of the literature and your research objectives. However, don’t forget to mention the results that you will draw from the literature.
5.2 Literature Review Body
Divide the body into subsections for each theme or a methodological approach. While writing the body of a literature review, keep in mind the following things.
- Provide an overview of the key points of each source and combine them coherently.
- Do not just paraphrase other’s research, make your own interpretations where possible.
- Discuss the significance of your findings in relation to your research.
- State the strengths and weaknesses of the sources.
- Make use of the transitions and topic sentences to write well-structured body paragraphs.
5.3 Literature Review Conclusion
Summarize your key findings and emphasize their significance in the conclusion section.
While writing a conclusion for a dissertation or thesis, demonstrate the research gaps and your contributions. Also, discuss how you have developed the research framework by using the theories and methods.
However, a conclusion of a stand-alone literature review will discuss the overall implications and suggestions for future research.
6. Edit And Proofread
Once you are done with the writing process, don’t forget to edit and proofread your paper. It will help you ensure that the paper does not miss anything important and is free from grammatical, and spelling mistakes.
Have a look at the below-given document to learn writing a literature review.
How to Write a Literature Review for a Research Paper (PDF)
Sample Literature Review
The above guide will definitely help you understand what a literature review is and how to write one. Here are some literature review examples and samples for you to learn the detailed structure.
Literature Review Example (PDF)
Literature Review Sample (PDF)
Literature Review For A Qualitative Research Paper (PDF)
Literature Review For A Scientific Research Paper (PDF)
APA Literature Review For A Research Paper (PDF)
Common Mistakes to Avoid
The following are some common mistakes that should be avoided while writing a perfect literature review.
- Students do not take sufficient time to define and identify the most relevant sources.
- Sources of your literature review are not related to the research problem.
- Excessive reliance on secondary sources rather than relevant primary data.
- Accepting other research findings as valid rather than critically examining the research design and analysis.
- Not describing the search procedures to identify the review of the literature.
- Only considering statistical results as valid rather than integrating the chi-squared or meta-analytic methods.
- Not considering the research findings and interpretations found in the literature.
There is a considerable amount of effort that goes into the literature review writing process. It is a complicated academic assignment that you get at high school, college, or university.
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Frequently asked questions
How many sources should a literature review have?
To write a paper, 10 sources are needed in the literature review. To have 100 pages of text (in the body), you need at least 100 sources for your research.
How do you start an introduction to a literature review?
The literature review in the introduction should introduce, establish the significance of the study, provide an overview of relevant literature to show context for research, and identify knowledge gaps. It will also illustrate how it can advance our understanding of a topic using studies that have been conducted before.