How to Write a Literature Review for your Research Paper

A literature review is basically a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It gives a general overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the research that has been done.

Just as we stated we showed you how to write an abstract, literature review is another part of a thesis or dissertation that is very difficult to write. In this article, we’ll look at how to write a literature review.

Do take your time to read through to the end.

What are the three components of a literature review?

Literature reviews, like other academic papers, must include at least three fundamental elements:

  • An introduction or background information section
  • The body of the review with a discussion of sources; and,
  • Finally, a conclusion and/or suggestions section to conclude the study.

Tips on how to write a Literature Review

Looking to learn how to write a literature review? Here are some tips to help you:

1. Narrow down your topic and choose papers accordingly

Consider your particular field of study. Consider your own interests as well as the interests of other scholars in your field.

Talk to your professor, brainstorm, and examine class notes as well as current issues of field-related publications.

Carefully establish your source selection criteria (i.e. articles published between a specific date range, focusing on a specific geographic region, or using a specific methodology).

Take out some time to search a library database using keywords. Also, reference lists from recent publications and reviews can lead to further studies that are useful. Also, be careful to Include any studies that contradict your position.

3. Thoroughly read and assess the articles you’ve chosen

The next step is to analyze and summarize the findings and conclusions of your study.

Take note of this:

Some or most researchers appear to make assumptions about methodology, testing processes, individuals, and material studied, names/labs that are commonly cited contradictory hypotheses, results, and procedures.

4. Organize the chosen papers by looking for patterns and creating subtopics

Carefully take time to properly sort your materials. Carefully allow the following to guide you. While sorting your materials, endeavor to use:

  • Findings that are widely accepted/disagreed upon
  • Significant research trends
  • The most powerful theories

If your literature research is lengthy, choose a wide table surface and use post-it notes or filing cards to sort your findings into sections. It is advised that you create headings and subheadings that reflect the primary topics and patterns you discovered.

5. Create a thesis or goal statement

Here’s how to do this: write a one- or two-sentence statement summarizing your conclusion regarding the significant patterns and changes you find in the study you’ve done on your subject.

6. Complete the paper

The next step will be to follow the above-mentioned organizational structure, including the headings and subheadings you created.

Check that each section connects logically to the one before and after it. Sections should be organized on themes or subtopics rather than particular thinkers or scholars.

7. Go through your work

Examine each paragraph’s topic sentences. If you simply read these phrases, would you conclude that your work offered a clear, logically developed position from beginning to end? The essential ideas of your literature review should be indicated in the topic sentences of each paragraph. In that way, your work would be in form.

Create an outline for each portion of the document and determine whether you need to add content, delete extraneous information, or restructure sections.

Make a point of reading your work aloud. That way, you’ll be able to tell where you need punctuation marks to indicate pauses or divisions within sentences, where you’ve made grammatical mistakes, or where your sentences are confusing. There must be no grammatical or spelling mistakes. Sentences should be coherent and flow easily.

Because the objective of a literature review is to indicate that the writer is familiar with the key professional literature on the chosen subject, ensure that you have covered all of the important, up-to-date, and relevant works. In the sciences and several social sciences, it is critical to use recent literature; in the humanities, this is less crucial.

8. Check your citation

Check to ensure that all citations and references are valid and that you are cited in the appropriate style for your profession. If you are unsure about the style to employ, consult your lecturer.

Check to see if you haven’t plagiarized by forgetting to cite a source of information or by utilizing words directly quoted from a source. (If you take three or more words directly from another source, you should usually put them in quote marks and cite the page.)

Your text should be written in a clear and succinct academic style; it should not be descriptive or utilize everyday language.

How to Write a Literature Review: Frequently Asked Questions

How long should it take to write a literature review?

A literature review can take anywhere from 2 to 6 months depending on how many hours a day you work on it.

How long is a good literature review?

In general, the length of a literature review should make up 10-20% of your research paper, thesis, or dissertation and have its own chapter. For a thesis, this means a literature review should be approximately 6,000 to 12,000 words long, with the actual length varying based on your subject.

What makes a bad literature review?

A Poor Literature Review rambles from topic to topic without a clear focus.

A Poor Literature Review simply summarizes research findings without critical evaluation. A Good Literature Review uses quotes, illustrations, graphs, and/or tables to present and justify the critical analysis of the literature.


Literature review as part of your thesis or dissertation is a technical bit that would really require that you carefully pay attention while creating or writing it.

Following this guide will help you write your next literature review without struggling. Carefully follow the tips one step at a time and you’ll be the go-to guy.


  • Akwaowo Akpan

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