Jared P.
Jared P.

How to Write a Literature Review of a Research Paper

9 min read

Published on: Feb 7, 2020

Last updated on: Jan 20, 2023

How to Write a Literature Review

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Writing a literature review is not as easy as it sounds. You need to know how to choose the right sources, structure your paper in the correct format, and read through many different research papers.

In the review, a writer has to gather all the available sources related to your research paper topic. With the help of a review, you show how your work relates to existing research. Also, demonstrate which research gap you will fill with your research.

Moreover, the literature review is a general explanation of the research topic, main ideas, and theory. It also shows how your research fits within a larger field of study.

Continue reading this blog and get to know more about how to write a good literature review.

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a written overview of survey books, scholarly articles, and other sources on a specific topic. It allows you to identify the relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research.

The main purpose of the review is to:

  • Provide an overview of sources that have been investigated in researching a specific topic.
  • Discuss gaps in the previous research.
  • Identify unresolved problems that your research can address.
  • Gain an understanding of the existing research and present it in written form.
  • Ensure that you are not repeating what others have already done.

Moreover, the literature review is a vital part of the research work. Whether you write a research paper, thesis, or dissertation, a literature review is necessary. Also, keep in mind that the literature review is different from an annotated bibliography.

The basic components of the literature review that you should provide in your paper are:

  • A description of the publication.
  • Specification of the methodological approach.
  • Overview of the subject under consideration.
  • Explanation of gaps that you are planning to fill with your research.

Therefore, a literature review summarizes and synthesizes the sources, but it is an organizational pattern in social sciences. Besides, it combines both summary and synthesis within particular conceptual categories.

Types of Literature Review

Before writing the literature review, it is important to understand that it has some types. Each type has its purpose and requirements. Therefore, it is necessary that you understand them first and then use them in your research paper.

Below given are the main types of literature review:

  • Systematic Review

    This type of review aims to evaluate and summarize existing research work critically. Classify the literature work, discuss the objective and findings.

  • Argumentative Review

    An argumentative review is a type of review that examines and analyzes literature selectively to support the argument. Its main purpose is to develop a review that establishes the contrarian viewpoint.

  • Historical Review

    In this type, the researcher focuses on exploring the research throughout a period. Also, show familiarity with the recent development and identify the directions for future research.

  • Integrative Review

    It is a common type of review in social sciences. An integrative type critically reviews the literature on a specific topic in an integrated way. It meets the standards of primary research in terms of clarity and replication.

  • Methodological Review

    The methodological review provides a framework for analyzing literature at different levels. It helps to highlight the ethical issues that you should be aware of and consider for your paper.

  • Theoretical Review

    This type of review examines the theories that are already existing and the relationships between them. It is used to establish current theories, and it is idea-based literature. The sources of the theoretical review prepare the conceptual framework.

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How to Write a Literature Review?

Writing a literature review is the main part of the research paper. Its main aim is to prevent the duplication of efforts and resolve conflicts. However, good literature requires some planning and preparation.

We gathered some steps that every author should follow to create well-written literature.

1. Understand the Requirements

When you write the research paper for your academic assignment, understand your professor’s requirements. You should know what your professor is looking for, and it is the first step to getting good grades.

2. Narrow your Topic

Consider your area of study and get as narrow as possible. Brainstorm and think about what interests you and your audience. Talk to your professor and read other related work on a topic to get an idea of what your topic expects.

3. Search for Literature

Writing a literature review requires that you define your source selection criteria. It should be relevant to your research problem. Find relevant articles and research papers for your work. Use strong keywords and search for different sources.

However, it does not mean that you just gather sources for your research work. But, you should consider what central themes and ideas connect your sources. Therefore, take your time, focus on your idea and collect reliable data for your research project.

4. Analyze and Evaluate the Sources

In this step, analyze and evaluate the sources that relate to your essay topic. However, reading every source is difficult, so you should determine the below factors when analyzing the sources.

  • Results of the study.
  • Methodologies and conflicting theories.
  • The key concepts and arguments.
  • The key findings of the research work.
  • The strengths and weaknesses of the research work.
  • The possible contributions of the specific topic.

Therefore, keep these elements in mind and select the best sources for your research work.

5. Identify Connections between Sources

Now, you have to determine the relationship between the sources. However, there are some elements you need to consider when identifying the relationship between the sources.

  • Identify the important trends in the research.
  • Determine the most influential theories.
  • Find out the theme of the literature.
  • Find the gaps in the research.
  • The conflicts of the sources.

6. Develop the Thesis Statement

Some students think that a thesis statement is not necessary for a literature review. They have a thesis statement, but it is quite different.

The thesis statement contains the main supporting points. It presents a viewpoint about the topic rather than arguing for a position or opinion. It is about the major trends and developments you see in the research conducted on your topic.

7. Literature Review Outline

The literature review outline is structured in the same way as other essays. It should contain an introduction, body, and conclusion.

The major sections of a literature review are discussed below in detail.

Literature Review Introduction

An introduction section gives a quick overview of the topic to the readers. Introduce the topic, its importance, relevance, and what problems you want to solve are described in this section. Moreover, present the methodology that you use and the results that you are expected to achieve.

However, if you employ the thesis statement, place it at the end of the introduction paragraph.

Literature Review Body

It is the main part of the literature review. There are several sources to write about, and they have a lot in common between them. Give a brief overview of the main points of each source. Also, discuss the significance of findings and don’t paraphrase another researcher’s work.

Choose the best organization method for the literature review body according to your requirements and topic.

  • Chronological: It is the best method when you are dealing with changing trends over time. The chronological method is the simplest structure for a literature review.
  • Publication: This method works well if each publication has a different viewpoint.
  • Trend: In this method, arrange sources according to the trends if you notice any particular pattern.
  • Thematically: The thematic method depends on the thesis statement and the sources that you have chosen. If your choosing source has multiple themes, you can arrange them into subsections on the different methods.

Literature Review Conclusion

The last section summarizes your entire paper and restates what you have already mentioned in the introduction. Discuss the results that you draw from your studies.

Also, try to make your conclusion suggestive and strong. Describe the research gaps, approaches, and findings in brief form.

8. Proofread your Work

When you finish writing the literature review, take a break and then start the proofreading phase. In this step, correct all the spelling and grammar mistakes. Also, check that all paragraphs are consistent and eliminate useless jargon.

Take a look at this document and get an idea of the correct template of the literature review.

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Approaches to Write a Literature Review

Following are the four major approaches used while writing a literature review. Let us discuss each one by one in detail:

  • Chronological

    Chronological is when you put the story in order. You can do that by tracing the topic back to its beginning and following it until now. But if you do this, be careful not to only list sources and summarize them for your reader.

    Try to show how different parts of history shaped where we are today. Give your opinion on why certain things happened the way they did.

  • Thematic

    If you have found some topics that relate to one another, organize your literature review. You can put them into different sections.

    For example, if you review literature about migrant health, the topics might be things like health care policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, and legal status.

  • Methodological

    If you want to find out more, compare what has been researched by different methods. Ask if it is qualitative or quantitative. Compare the results and conclusions of research done in various fields. For example,

    • Get information from qualitative research and quantitative research.
    • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical or theoretical scholarship.
    • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources
  • Theoretical

    A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories or models or definitions of key concepts.

    For example, you might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Literature Review Template 

Literature Review Examples

Examples always give you an idea of the writing style, format, and work content. Here, we have compiled some great literature review examples for your ease.

Tips for Writing the Literature Review

The following are the tips you should follow to write a great literature review of a research paper.

  • In the introduction section, explain your topic and thesis statement.
  • Reveal the major research gaps within a topic.
  • Create a proper literature review outline.
  • Use proper citation format for citing sources and avoid plagiarism.
  • Describe research procedures.
  • Search relevant literature for your paper.
  • Create a list of keywords related to your research question.
  • Never simply list the sources in the paper but go into detail about each of them.
  • Revise your work before submission.

Writing a great literature review requires excellent writing and research skills. Therefore, if you are busy with other academic assignments and don’t have to do in-depth research, consult FreeEssayWriter.net.

Our essay writer can help you write any literature review or academic assignments at affordable rates.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long is a literature review?

A written literature review document should be between 2000-3000 words. But the size of a written literature review depends on your academic level also.

What are the contents of a literature review?

A literature review is a report on what other people have done about the research. It tells about their work and what they found. It talks about how those people did their work and what you should do for your own research.

Jared P.


Jared P. (Law, Education)

Jared P. is a renowned author and writing service provider with over fifteen years of experience in the publishing industry. He has a Ph.D. degree in English Literature and has spent his entire career helping students achieve their academic goals by providing expert writing assistance.

Jared P. is a renowned author and writing service provider with over fifteen years of experience in the publishing industry. He has a Ph.D. degree in English Literature and has spent his entire career helping students achieve their academic goals by providing expert writing assistance.

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