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How To Write A Literature Review – 5 Steps

August 20, 2021

A literature review is a document in which the author describes the essence of the sources, which relate to a specific topic. The review most often demonstrates the source’s key points: theories, statistics, facts, methods, problems, research.

To write a literary review, you need to search for scientific articles, books, and magazines united by one topic. When you analyze sources, you will evaluate their content and inform readers about the value of the information. Before you start the process of creating this document, you must create a literature review outline. Since you are new to this area, we have drawn up an outline in advance:

  • Search for the most relevant sources..
  • Assessment of relevant sources.
  • Defining problems, debates, topics.
  • Drawing up a logical structure.
  • Writing a literature review.

A literature review cannot simply summarize sources or indicate their relationship. Instead, the literature review includes analysis, synthesis, and objective assessment. Thanks to this approach, you will learn how to present the acquired knowledge in the chosen science. However, before we go over each outline point, let’s find out why you need literature review writing skills.

Why Do You Need Literature Review Writing Skills?

Any student ever needs to “write my essay“, term papers, and research papers. A literature review is an integral part of academic papers. In addition, this document will help you to match existing research with your knowledge and results. Also, a literature review gives you the opportunity to:

  • Demonstrate a level of familiarity with a topic or science.
  • Develop methods for conducting your research.
  • Compare yourself with other scientists, researchers, theorists.
  • Demonstrate how your research contributes to problem-solving or is the subject of discussion.

Note that literature review in academia can be a separate type of assignment. If you are writing a stand-alone project, the tasks change slightly. You have to study many sources, opinions of authoritative people and draw conclusions based on them. Regardless of the purpose for which you write this document, the creation process remains unchanged.

The skill of writing a literature review will be an invaluable experience when applying for graduate school or building a scientific career. So be an educated student and take this assignment seriously.

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Step-by-Step Guide For Dummies to Writing a Literature Review

Since you are already familiar with the concept of this project, goals, and requirements, you can begin the writing process. We’ve outlined five basic steps. Let’s consider them in more detail.

Search For The Most Relevant Sources

Without a well-defined topic, you cannot find relevant sources. Therefore, study the discipline and topic in advance. For example, suppose you create a literature review for a dissertation. In that case, there will be no problems with the topic – your task is to find sources that correspond to the questions and problems posed.

Suppose you create a literature review as a separate type of assignment. In that case, you need to choose a topic that will unite sources and develop a question that will determine the range of literature searches. Dissertation questions require your research, statistics, opinions. The question you pose for reviewing the literature as a separate type of task should contain answers based on the information provided in the finished publications. An example of a good question for both types of document: “How do social networks affect the behavior, image, and character of the younger generation?” There are a few more points at this stage that you should pay attention to.

Write a Keyword List

Write a list of keywords that are associated with your research topic. In addition, consider synonyms for these words – you may be able to find more exciting information. Do not limit the list of keywords found on the topic previously. Perhaps in the process of searching, you will come across equally essential terms that you should include in the literature review.

Examples of keywords and phrases:

  • Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Tumblr, LinkedIn.
  • Character, behavior, style: psychological and physical health of the teenager, the teenager’s external style, personality traits.
  • Younger generation: youth, young people, the young, more youthful generation, youth, young tribe, growing tribe.

As you can see, there are many synonyms for keywords. If you find it challenging to come up with phrases to search for ideas, Google will tell you synonyms for words. It is enough to enter a keyword in the search engine and indicate “find synonyms.” There is another way to get help – buy a research paper. In this case, professional writers will fill your text with original words, and you can spend your free time on more important things.

Select Databases To Search Sources

Most students search for literature by keywords on Google, but other platforms provide more relevant and reliable information. For example, the library directory of your educational institution:

  • Inspec is designed for computer science, physics, and engineering.
  • EconLit is designed for economics and business.
  • Medline – all medical topics.
  • Project Muse is dedicated to humanities science, political science, and sociology science.
  • EBSCO is designed for various sciences.
  • JSTOR – designed for various sciences.
  • Google Scholar – designed for various sciences.

You can also use boolean operators to narrow your search. In this case, you can configure the following functions:

  • Search for sources that contain more than one keyword – for example, the younger generation.
  • Search for sources that contain synonyms for previously specified keywords. For example: finding synonyms for teenagers.
  • Search for sources that contain specific terms. For example, a banana is not a fruit.

When analyzing sources, pay attention to annotations. It is these sections of the article that will help determine how the topic meets your needs. Write out quotes from them that reinforce the importance of your topic. In addition, if you notice that the author of the article has referred to other books or scientific papers, you can also use these sources to write a literature review.

Assessment Of Relevant Sources

Sometimes you have to study many books, magazines, scientific articles, but the time is limited, and it is impossible to read everything. Therefore, your task is to select the most modern and popular sources that emphasize your questions’ relevance. To understand which of the publications is suitable for the review, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What problems, questions, tasks do the author raise in the article?
  • What is the purpose of this article?
  • What theories, methods, models did the author describe? Is his approach to writing innovative or standard?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the article?
  • Is there a relationship between this article and other similar publications? For example, does the author refute, confirm or discuss the topic?
  • Does the post-match your question? What are the arguments of the article in favor of the thesis?
  • What are the pros and cons of this research?

When selecting sources, consider the following aspects: reliability and up-to-dateness. You can not refer to sources, the author of which is not known in academic circles. Furthermore, you cannot refer to more than ten years old articles – most likely, they contain outdated information. However, there are exceptions.

Also, on Google Scholar, you can check how many times people have quoted a source. If you find that many writers and students have referred to your chosen article, it is clearly worth the attention and place in your review.

The volume of a literature review depends on your discipline, topic, and questions. For example, for the natural sciences, it is essential to select the most recent sources – accordingly, there are few of them, and the review will be short. On the other hand, in historical topics, you can analyze older publications – you cannot change the past. Accordingly, any sources will be relevant, and the review will turn out to be extensive. Consider the following tips when performing this step.

Take Notes In The Source And Quote Them In Review

It will be nice to be busy with the writing process in parallel as you analyze the selected sources. Then, in a text editor, place quotes that you can later add to the review.

However, it is essential to correctly formulate quotes and not overdo them with their number so that readers do not accuse you of plagiarism. The most common type of literature review is an annotated bibliography. Its meaning is to collect all the sources in one list and below, one paragraph at a time, describe the article’s content, goals, and ideas. This approach will help you remember which sources you have included and which have not. You also save time because you will have a complete list of sources before your eyes, and you will no longer have to search again.

To format the quote correctly, you need to use the following styles: APA, MLA, Chicago, Harvard. The format of the literature review also varies by discipline and topic. For example, the APA is for psychology papers. MLA is suitable for humanitarian disciplines. Also, do not forget to use plagiarism checker tools so as not to harm your academic reputation. If you do not have time to deal with citation styles and delve into plagiarism rules, you can use dissertation assistance and successfully defend your project.

Defining Problems, Debates, Topics

To properly arrange sources and determine the structures of the literature review, you need to understand what unites all of these sources. Use the following tips to help you find the connection between the analyzed literature:

  • Patterns and trends. You can find trends and patterns in research methods, results, and theory. For example, you analyzed the source of 2019 and 2021 – as a result, you noticed that specific research methods are gaining momentum every year.
  • Topics – what problems, questions are repeated from one source to another?
  • Discussion – are there any points that distinguish sources from each other?
  • Gaps – is there information in the sources that is not enough for a full-fledged conclusion?

By answering these questions, you can create good structures that will consistently tell readers about research, issues, and problems. In addition, you will demonstrate that you can develop your thoughts correctly.

What should students do who are unable to express their thoughts in a logical and structured manner? First, do not despair. You may have talents in a different direction. Secondly, buy term papers online and forget about sleepless nights because experts understand all the requirements for academic papers, have many years of experience, and a large store of knowledge. Thus, you are guaranteed success.

An example of trends and gaps:

When analyzing the sources by the appearance of the younger generation, who are influenced by social networks, you can distinguish the following trends and problems:

  • Most of the research has focused on the physical appearance of girls.
  • People are increasingly showing interest in the external trends of social media.
  • There is currently a lack of research to support the strong influence of Instagram and Snapchat on the appearance of teens. This is a gap that you might discuss in your research.

Based on the examples, we see that the trend is a large amount of research on girls’ appearance, and people are showing extraordinary interest in fashion in social networks. The final example is a gap that you might discuss in your research.

Drawing Up A Logical Structure

There are several approaches to the formation of the structure of the literature review. Therefore, before writing a review, you should learn the concept of each format. Remember that the larger your review, the more you can use different types of structures simultaneously. For example, the general format of the overview may be thematic, but the overview sections are presented in chronological order. Let’s take a look at the four structures of the literature review.


The chronological format consists of describing events based on the period of development. Sometimes students make a mistake and list the sources in order. Chronology is a sequential transfer of information based on the year of publication. Using this format, you need to find patterns that repeat from year to year. Also, find the key points that differentiate these sources.


If you notice that there are articles with a similar title, but their difference is only one word, use the thematic format. You can create several sections in which you describe the sources based on their subject matter – there can be 3-4 such sections if the overview is extensive. As an example, consider the topic of health inequalities among migrants. This review may include the following sections: the country’s health policy, cultural relations, language difficulties, price list, legal status.


There are topics about which they write in different disciplines and, accordingly, there are different views on problems, research methods. Therefore, you can compare sources from other sciences in a methodological format, united by one topic. For example, about the problems of climate change, write researchers both in ecology and medicine. Therefore, when analyzing, consider the following aspects:

  • Compare the results that scientists obtained in qualitative and quantitative research.
  • Compare the methods that scientists have chosen to study the problem.
  • Divide the sources into several categories. In our case – this is ecology and medicine.


The theoretical format is suitable for a review that contains discussions only of theory, certain terms. If you write about some innovative approaches to treating patients that exist only in theory, then find as many authoritative opinions as possible on this matter — for example, the advantages and disadvantages of a new approach to cancer treatment.

Writing A Literature Review

A literary review is no different from other academic papers in its structure. You must write an introduction, body, and conclusion. Each part can have different content, but the requirements are the same.


In this part, you need to acquaint the reader with the review’s topic, objectives, and goals. For example, if you are creating a project for academic papers, then in the introduction, you can repeat the main research question. You can also highlight the importance of the topic and the gaps in the literature. If you are creating a stand-alone document, describe why you chose this particular topic, indicate the number of sources on this topic, and define the purpose of the review. Also, in the introduction, you can tell the reader what you expect from this review.


To make the body look more structured, divide it into subsections. For example, if your sources relate to different sciences, then come up with subheadings for them. When writing the body, consider the following tips:

  • Writ a quick overview of the sources – otherwise, the writing process will take a long time.
  • Discuss the importance of these sources in both science and society.
  • Indicate the advantages and disadvantages of sources.
  • Use thematic sentences to indicate what the paragraph will be talking about.
  • Use transition words to make your paragraphs coherent.

Note that you are the creator of your review, and if you have a desire, you can add other sections that will surprise or influence the opinions of readers. We have given only basic tips that are win-win.


Finally, you must summarize all sources and indicate their relationship. For example, if you are creating a document for an academic paper, point out that the sources improve your knowledge, fill gaps in the topic, and become the basis for your research – that is, arguments supporting the thesis. On the other hand, if you write a separate paper, you can unite authoritative writers’ thoughts and draw conclusions on their basis – your opinion is not taken into account here.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Literature Reviews

A literary review is a rather confusing task. Therefore, if you still have questions, read the following answers.

What Is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a review of sources that are relevant to a specific topic. The review most often demonstrates the source’s key points: theories, statistics, facts, methods, problems, research. The literature review can be a piece of academic paper or a stand-alone assignment.

What Is the Purpose of the Literature Review?

A literature review gives you the opportunity to:

  • Demonstrate a level of familiarity with a topic or science.
  • Develop methods for conducting your research.
  • Compare yourself with other scientists, researchers, theorists.
  • Demonstrate how your research contributes to problem-solving or is the subject of discussion.

Therefore, take a lot of time to prepare for this assignment because you get many skills and knowledge in return.

Where to Post a Literature Review in a Dissertation?

It is customary to place the literature review at the beginning of the dissertation. Then, in the introduction, body, and conclusion, you will justify your choice of sources and indicate their significance in the dissertation.

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