Learn How To Write A Literature Review From Scratch (2023)

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The famous Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh once said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” True. Also, this same statement has a lot of value in every aspect of life. Research paper writing is no different. A literature review may not take up the bulk of time and pages in your entire research paper writing process, but you cannot ignore its significance in your academic paper writing or the exhaustion you feel after completing the task. Although, developing a literature review is not child’s play. The comprehensive process starts with searching for reliable resources you need for writing your assignment. Nonetheless, if you are a novice to these steps, then this blog can be quite helpful for you. From here, you can learn the details of how to write a literature review without putting much effort.

What is a literature review?

When you start a research paper, you must be aware of the studies done to date on the subject you are investigating. It helps you to understand the following details:

  1. How valuable is your topic is top the academic field?
  2. How much you can contribute to the subject?
  3. What gaps in existing research can you fulfill?
  4. The available theories and methods on the subject of research.

This study of scholarly resources is termed a literature review. To learn how to write a literature review, you must learn the details of the steps involved in it.

What Are The Steps Involved In Writing A Literature Review?

If you want to know how to write a literature review, you must take the following 5 steps:

(Video) How to Write a Literature Review: 3 Minute Step-by-step Guide | Scribbr 🎓

  1. Find pertinent literature
  2. Examine the sources
  3. Find out the themes, debates, and gaps of study available on the topic of your research
  4. Sketch the format of the literature review
  5. Draft your literature review

However, you must know that writing a literature review is not all about summing up the sources; you must examine, integrate and weigh up the sources to get a clear image of the status of literature available on the subject. To help you get a better understanding of the methods involved in writing a literature review, below we have shared some samples and templates.

Why Should You Write A Literature Review?

Writing a research paper, dissertation or thesis mandates conducting a literature review. It helps you to position your research among the information available on the subject of your study. Moreover, you get a scope to:

  1. Showcase your acquaintance with the topic and the context of your study.
  2. Create a theoretical structure and methodology for your research.
  3. Fit your work among the research studies of other scholars and theorists.
  4. Highlight your contribution to a debate or solve a gap in your study.

Learn How To Write A Literature Review From Scratch (1)

How Long Should A Literature Review Be?

The length of a literature review is an essential concern if you want to learn the nooks and niches of research paper writing. It usually depends on the type of academic paper and the academic level for which you are devising it. For example:

1. For a research proposal

All researchers want to get 100% funding for their study. However, the count of sponsors is limited. Hence, there is a huge competition among researchers to get the highest fund. Therefore, it is a safe bet if you limit the literature review to just 1-2 pagers. Nonetheless, keep in mind that you have reviewed relevant and recent articles for your document.

2. For a thesis or dissertation

The count of pages for a thesis or dissertation depends on the academic institution. However, the rule of thumb is to keep it limited to 15-20% of the total word count. Some university recommends writing about 10 -12 peer-reviewed articles for a 10, 000-word paper. However, the word count also depends on the subject you research. For example, if you are researching a topic based on mathematics, you are most likely to develop a literature review of a much lower cord count than that of a psychology dissertation. After all, you cannot express a mathematical equation using words. Moreover, doing so would be inappropriate.

3. For a scientific journal

You may as well complete your literature review in 3 – 4 pages, if you write it for a scientific journal. Here, you will just have to talk about the most important information published recently. Only then, you can get an appreciation for your report on a specific issue or concern.

Templates of Literature Reviews

Reading a literature review example is always helpful to learn how to write a literature review. However, you must know the template each literature review writing follows to figure out the elements of the sample easily.

Mostly, a literature review will be built with the following components:


  1. It gives a brief description of a topic of research and the scope of the studied literature. Suppose the research is conducted on the topic ‘diary of women in wartimes’. Then, the scope of research should never go beyond published works and manuscripts of a specific location, period, or debate.
  2. It must also state the diaries of deliberate exclusions. For example, while writing on the topic, ‘diary of women in wartimes’, you may state that the review will not analyze ‘the diaries of teenage girls.’
  3. Describe the wide-ranging conclusion of the review, and make a statement on the accessibility of sources in the subject area.

Main Body

  1. This section critically evaluates and sums up the foreground, methodology, and findings using any specific type of literature review. [You will find the categories described in detail below]
  2. Take care of all the irregularity, exclusion, and errors, as it is to recognize the precision, profundity, and relevance.
  3. Use reasonable connections and transition to link sources.


  1. The conclusion recaps the main findings of the review. You may include all the notable similarities between works and analyze if you must include them or not.
  2. It validates a research proposal. Therefore, you must restate and uplift the idea based on the findings of the review.


  1. Apart from the in-text citations, you must as well include complete and accurate citations for every source mentioned in the literature review.

Examples of Literature Reviews

Writing about the previous studies that have been conducted on your subject of research can be quite challenging. However, if you take a look at the examples listed below, you will easily know how to create a literature review.

(Video) LITERATURE REVIEW: Step by step guide for writing an effective literature review

Topic – Living with chronic physical illness

Marriage is the foundation of most families in many societies. Maintaining the marital relationship strong could be impossible while enduring a chronic physical illness. A chronic physical illness could ultimately alter the day-to-day lives and interactions of the entire conjugal relationship. It is essential to talk about the exchange of ideas that takes place around these diseases. It helps to find out how those who have one have been medically cured after they identified diseases based on research previously performed in similar communication methods.

Rendell and Acitelli (2007) observed that in couples that took the help of relationship talk or converse about the character and course of the relationship, chronically ill couples enjoyed more benefits than a couple where someone with no chronic physical illness did. This literature establishes that in a condition where a spouse is chronically ill, it is essential to communicate with each other. It will make the one suffering from the illness feel more deeply about the condition and what people can expect from expects or need from their partners.

This is just an excerpt from the literature review. Click to read the entire content.

Now let us understand the steps of writing a literature review in detail.

How to Look For Appropriate Literature?

If you have a fair idea of how to write a literature review, you might know that a literature review is not the first step of writing an academic paper. It comes after the abstract and introduction. Therefore, you should have the topic of your literature review in hand already. If you just scroll up to the above section of this blog you will notice that we have mentioned the topic of literature review. It is the topic of the research paper as well. Now, based on this topic and your chosen primary research question or thesis statement you must search your literature review. You can do it in 2 simple steps:

Enlist your keywords

Begin your search for appropriate literature by creating a list of keywords based on your research question. Consider every key concepts or variable that you find interesting, and add in any synonyms and connected terms. Moreover, if you come across any new keyword that can help you in your search for appropriate literature, add it to your list.

Here are some examples of popular keywords used in the search for literature review:

  1. Financial scams, Phishing, Bernie Madoff, Charles Ponzi, Ivan Boesky
  2. Body image, figure sizes, peer comparison, self-respect, mental health, depression
  3. Millennial lingo, teenagers, adolescents, young adults

Search for relevant sources

Now, use the keywords to search for various literary sources. Ensure to research for credible sources to include in your literature review. Databases are the hotspots of academic articles and journals. Some of the most popular ones include:

(Video) The Quickest Way To Write A First Class Literature Review | IN JUST 5 EASY STEPS

  1. The library catalog of your university
  2. Google Scholar
  3. JSTOR
  4. EBSCO
  5. Project Muse(to find literature in academic fields like humanities and social sciences)
  6. Medline( for credible life sciences and biomedicine sources)
  7. EconLit(to look for literature on economics)
  8. Inspec(to find physics, engineering, and computer science sources)

How To Evaluate And Select Sources?

Searching with the right keywords effectively on reliable databases will help you come across a variety of literary sources on your topic of research. However, you may never be able to complete reading the entire contents of all these collected sources. Hence, you must evaluate the most suitable sources that are pertinent to your subject of research.

For each publication, find answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the primary question answered in the document?
  2. Which key concepts rule in the paper and how did the author define it?
  3. What are the principle theories, models, and methods discussed in this source?
  4. Does the research employ traditional frameworks or utilize a unique approach?
  5. What did the study conclude?
  6. In what way is the publication related to other literature in the field? How does it contribute to the existing knowledge – does it confirm, add, or challenged the available theories?
  7. What are the strong point and drawbacks of the research?

However, take notes as you select the sources and include them in your literature review. But, never forget to cite them. It will help you to keep track of the sources and make the annotated bibliography quite easy.

Read more: Interesting Debate Topics for you to consider

What Are The Ways To Identify Themes, Debates, And Gaps?

To start arranging the arguments and structure of your literature review make sure that you recognize the links and interactions between the sources you have read. Depending on what you have read and noted, you can hunt for:

  1. Inclination and model (in hypothesis, technique, or outcome):Does a specific method turn out to be more or less accepted over time?
  2. Subject matter:what problem or concept comes back across the literature?
  3. Debate, argument, and disagreement:where do sources differ?
  4. Pivotal publications:Is there any important assumption or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  5. Gaps:what is absent from the literature? Are there limitations that need to be dealt with?

This step will assist you in deciding the configuration of your literature review and highlight the contribution of your research to the obtainable knowledge.

Suppose you are developing a research paper on the topic – social media and body image. Then, while you review the literature on the topic, you can note trends and gaps in the literature as:

  1. Most studies paid attention to the young women.
  2. People are more interested in the visual aspects of social media.
  3. There is still a deficient of vigorous investigation on highly visual applications like Instagram and Snapchat.

How to Outline The Structure Of A Literature Review?

When you want to learn how to write a literature review you must be aware of the different methods to arrange the body of a literature review.Varying with the length of your literature review, you can unite multiple strategies (for instance, your general formation can be thematic, but each subject is mentioned chronologically). Here are the most common methods of literature review:


It is the easiest method to outline the growth of the subject over time. However, if you use this approach, avoid listing and condensing sources in order.

Try to examine the prototype, crisis, and primary argument that have created the direction of the subject. Add in your understanding of how and why specific expansion occurred.

(Video) How To Write A Literature Review In 3 Simple Steps (FREE Template With Examples)


If you have discovered some frequent central subject, you can systematize your literature review into subparts that talk about varied features of the theme.

For instance, if you are reviewing literature about disparities in immigrant health outcomes, primary themes might comprise healthcare policy, language blockade, cultural outlook, legal position, and economic admission.


If you collect your sources from a variety of disciplines or fields that employ a variety ofmultiple research methods, you might want to weigh against the results and conclusions that come out from different methods. For example:

  1. Observe what results have emerged inqualitative and quantitative research
  2. Argue how experiential and theoretical viewpoints have approached the theme
  3. Segregate the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources


A literature review is often the base of ahypothetical framework. You can employ it to talk about various hypotheses, representations, and definitions of important concepts.

You might contest or argue for the significance of a precise theoretical approach, or join various notional concepts to craft a structure for your research.

How to Write a Literature Review?

Similar to any academic document, a literature review has an introduction, body, and conclusion. However, it is just the framework; the contents in it vary with the aim of your literature review.


The introduction should establish the focus and purpose of the literature review. If you are writing a literature review to include in your dissertation paper or thesis, restate your fundamental issue or research question and give add a short summary of the research context.


Based on the size of your literature review, you might wish for separating the body into subsections. You can use asub-headlinefor every theme, period, or practical approach.

When you write, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Sum upand combine: give a general idea of the key points of each source and bring them together into a rational whole
  2. Analyze and interpret:avoid rephrasingadditional studies—include your understanding where possible, and talk about the importance of results concerning the literature as a whole
  3. Critically estimate:talk about the strong point and drawbacks of your sources
  4. Write in well-structured paragraphs:usetransition wordsandtheme sentencesto illustrate relations, similarities and contrasts


Sum up the primary findings you have deduced from the literature in your conclusion and stress their significance. Ensure that you have highlighted how your research has addressed the gaps of the study and added new information to the field. Moreover, you can also describe how you have developed the research paper framework using the present theories and methods. Finally, after writing every step of the literature review, make sure to proofread your content thoroughly before submitting it.

(Video) How To Write A Literature Review From Start To Finish (Full Tutorial)

Wrapping Up

Once you adhere to these detailed guidelines, you will attain the following goals:

  1. Know how to write a literature review in a breeze
  2. Enhance your chance of getting the desired scholarship
  3. Highlighting your depth of knowledge of the subject of your research to the professors

However, if you still feel under-confident about developing this significant section of your research paper flawlessly, then connect with our research paper helpers. The expert academic assistants of our online research paper writing service will direct you to develop an excellent literature review with recent and pertinent information in no time and offer comprehensive guidance on developing your entire research paper. Just let them know that you need assistance by filling out our student assistance form and submitting it.

Our experts will take care of all your requirements and you build your assignment help in record time. Don’t worry; they will not bind you to pay extravagant prices for their exhaustive assistance. It will cost you no more than your next mobile recharge.


How do you write a literature review for beginners? ›

Write a Literature Review
  1. Narrow your topic and select papers accordingly.
  2. Search for literature.
  3. Read the selected articles thoroughly and evaluate them.
  4. Organize the selected papers by looking for patterns and by developing subtopics.
  5. Develop a thesis or purpose statement.
  6. Write the paper.
  7. Review your work.
Nov 8, 2022

What are the 5 C's of literature review? ›

To introduce you to this world of academic writing, in this chapter I suggest that you should focus on five hierarchical characteristics of good writing, or the “5 Cs” of good academic writing, which include Clarity, Cogency, Conventionality, Completeness, and Concision.

How do you write a literature review step by step? ›

Steps in the Literature Review Process
  1. Define the research question (for more) ...
  2. Determine inclusion/exclusion criteria. ...
  3. Choose databases and conduct the search. ...
  4. Review your results. ...
  5. Synthesize the information gathered. ...
  6. Analyze the information gathered. ...
  7. Write the literature review.
Oct 26, 2022

How long should it take to write a literature review? ›

How much time? That depends on the requirements of your department and how quickly you work. "Some [departments] prefer a very broad and comprehensive review, whereas others prefer a review that is more publication-ready," Rudestam says. The average review may take six months to write and require multiple revisions.

What are the 3 parts of literature review? ›

Just like most academic papers, literature reviews also must contain at least three basic elements: an introduction or background information section; the body of the review containing the discussion of sources; and, finally, a conclusion and/or recommendations section to end the paper.

What are the ten simple rules for writing a literature review? ›

  • Rule 1: Define a Topic and Audience.
  • Rule 2: Search and Re-search the Literature.
  • Rule 3: Take Notes While Reading.
  • Rule 4: Choose the Type of Review You Wish to Write.
  • Rule 5: Keep the Review Focused, but Make It of Broad Interest.
  • Rule 6: Be Critical and Consistent.
  • Rule 7: Find a Logical Structure.
Jul 18, 2013

What are four 4 best sources of literature for the literature review? ›

The following sections will explain and provide examples of these various sources.
  • Peer reviewed journal articles (papers) ...
  • Edited academic books. ...
  • Articles in professional journals. ...
  • Statistical data from governmental websites. ...
  • Website material from professional associations.

What are 4 characteristics of a good literature review? ›

Characteristics of an effective literature review

Outlining important research trends. Assessing strengths and weaknesses (of individual studies as well the existing research as a whole). Identifying potential gaps in knowledge. Establishing a need for current and/or future research projects.

What are the 4 parts of literature review? ›

It helps to deconstruct the literature review into a four-part process, including: 1) Developing a Topic; 2) Searching the Literature; 3) Narrowing the Scope; and 4) Synthesizing Prior Research.

What is the outline of a literature review? ›

Literature Review Outline. Describe the overall topic that you have been investigating, why it is important to the field, and why you are interested in the topic. Identify themes and trends in research questions, methodology, and findings. Give a “big picture” of the literature.

What does a literature review look like? ›

It is usually structured chronologically or thematically. An effective literature review must include an overview, a summary, and a critique. The purpose of a literature review is to convey knowledge and ideas established for a specific topic, and to discuss their strengths and weaknesses.

How many sources should be in a literature review? ›

In general, undergraduate students will usually be required to use somewhere between 5 and 20 sources; graduate students typically will need between 20 and 40. However, the number can vary greatly, so always read your requirements and ask your professor.

How many pages is a good literature review? ›

The length of a literature review varies depending on its purpose and audience. In a thesis or dissertation, the review is usually a full chapter (at least 20 pages), but for an assignment it may only be a few pages. There are several ways to organize and structure a literature review.

Why is a literature review hard? ›

Most often, what makes it difficult to do a review of related literature is maintaining an unbiased perspective toward the entire process. Researchers inadvertently end up comparing their own results with the results that they read, leading them to form a personal opinion regarding the literature at hand.

How far back should a literature review go? ›

A good rule of thumb is to use sources published in the past 10 years for research in the arts, humanities, literature, history, etc.

Does a literature review have an introduction? ›

Your literature review, like any other document, should contain an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Your introduction should clearly explain the overall research topic and the depth of the information to be presented; it often also explains the types of sources that will be used.

How should a literature review be structured? ›

A literature review should be structured like any other essay: it should have an introduction, a middle or main body, and a conclusion.

How many topics are in a literature review? ›

As a very rough rule of thumb – you may choose 8-10 significant pieces (books and/or articles) for an 8,000 word dissertation, up to 20 major pieces of work for 12-15,000 words, and so on.

What should be avoided in a literature review? ›

Recap: 7 Literature Review Mistakes
  • Over-reliance on low-quality sources.
  • A lack of landmark/seminal literature.
  • A lack of current literature.
  • Description instead of integration and synthesis.
  • Irrelevant or unfocused content.
  • Poor chapter structure and layout.
  • Plagiarism and poor referencing.

What not to write in a literature review? ›

There are several mistakes that may happen while writing an effective literature review includes no proper lines like dispute statement, absences of appropriate research, indicating the sources incorrectly, the poor formation of paper, plagiarism checking.

What should not be included in a literature review? ›

Not a descriptive list of the material available; • Not a set of an annotated bibliographies; • Not a collection of quotes and paraphrasing from other sources. Why conduct a literature review? How much literature do I need to look at? What are ongoing debates within the topic?

What is the best resource for literature review? ›

Start with research databases

Scopus and Web of Science are good databases to start with for any research topic and literature review. Scopus is a large multidisciplinary database covering published material in the humanities and sciences. It also provides citation analysis of authors and subject areas.

What are 2 relevant primary sources for the literature review? ›

Examples of primary sources:

Theses, dissertations, scholarly journal articles (research based), some government reports, symposia and conference proceedings, original artwork, poems, photographs, speeches, letters, memos, personal narratives, diaries, interviews, autobiographies, and correspondence.

Which is the most reliable source of information for your literature review? ›

Peer-reviewed journal articles are considered the best source of information for literature reviews, though other sources are often used. Peer review is the process by which other scholars evaluate the merits of an article before publication.

What are poor characteristics of literature review? ›

A Bad Literature Review rambles from topic to topic without a clear focus. studies without making distinctions about quality or relevance. biases and limitations.

What are the five elements of good literature review? ›

Background/Introduction – Give an overview of your research topic and what prompted it. Methods - Describe step by step how your performed your evaluation of the materials. Discussion/Body - The body contains the evaluation or synthesis of the materials. Discuss and compare common themes and gaps in the literature.

What are the 6 steps in writing a literature review? ›

Do (and re-do) the following six steps:
  • Define your topic. The first step is defining your task -- choosing a topic and noting the questions you have about the topic. ...
  • Develop a strategy. ...
  • Locate the information. ...
  • Use and Evaluate the information. ...
  • Synthesize. ...
  • Evaluate your work.
Jan 27, 2023

How many words should a literature review be? ›

Literature review (1,200 to 2,000 words) Methodology (1,500 to 2,000 words) Research (800 to 1,000 words)

How to end a literature review? ›

In the conclusion, you should: Summarize major contributions of significant studies and articles to the body of knowledge under review, maintaining the focus established in the introduction.

What is a literature review paragraph? ›

A literature review is a piece of academic writing demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the academic literature on a specific topic placed in context. A literature review also includes a critical evaluation of the material; this is why it is called a literature review rather than a literature report.

How to do a literature review checklist? ›

  2. Introduction to the Review.
  3. Is the method for selection of reviewed materials described? Organization and Writing Qualities of the Review.
  4. Presentation of Studies Being Reviewed.
  5. Evidence of Analysis, Synthesis, Critique Taking Place within the Review.
  6. Conclusion to the Review:

How do you write a review example? ›

Table of contents
  • Provide useful, constructive feedback.
  • Talk about a range of elements, including customer service.
  • Be detailed, specific, and honest.
  • Leave out links and personal information.
  • Keep it civil and friendly.
  • Feel free to update your review if needed.
  • Check you've got the right domain name or company.

Should literature review be single or double spaced? ›

The review should be approximately 10 double-spaced, typed pages (not including title or reference pages.) In the beginning of your research there may seem to be too much information but as you read and think about your topic you will be able to narrow your focus and highlight those articles.

What is the hardest part of writing a literature review? ›

If you're writing a thesis or dissertation, for example, the lit review chapter (usually chapter 2) is often the hardest chapter to write, perhaps rivaled only by the “discussion” chapter.

What is the most difficult part of literature review? ›

Evaluating the credibility of sources is one of the most difficult aspects of a literature review, especially with the ease of finding information on the internet.

Is literature review the hardest part? ›

In a thesis or dissertation the Literature review is perhaps one of the hardest things to write. It is here that you show you fully understand how others think about your topic and that you are able to critically examine what has been written.

What are the 7 steps in writing a literature review? ›

7 easy steps to do a literature review
  • Define your research scope. ...
  • Plan your research approach. ...
  • Search strategically: be efficient but thorough. ...
  • Manage your literature with online tools. ...
  • Critical reading and analysis. ...
  • Benchmark from other literature reviews. ...
  • Assemble the texts and write.
Jun 4, 2020

What does a good literature review start with? ›

Start by writing your thesis statement. This is an important introductory sentence that will tell your reader what the topic is and the overall perspective or argument you will be presenting. Like essays, a literature review must have an introduction, a body and a conclusion.

What are the 4 stages of literature review? ›

Literature search—finding materials relevant to the subject being explored. Data evaluation—determining which literature makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the topic. Analysis and interpretation—discussing the findings and conclusions of pertinent literature.

What is a literature review for dummies? ›

A literature review (or lit review, for short) is an in-depth critical analysis of published scholarly research related to a specific topic. Published scholarly research (the "literature") may include journal articles, books, book chapters, dissertations and thesis, or conference proceedings.

What are the 4 essential elements of a literature review? ›

a description of the publication; a summary of the publication's main points; a discussion of gaps in research; an evaluation of the publication's contribution to the topic.

What are the six 6 characteristics of a good literature review? ›

Characteristics of an effective literature review

Outlining important research trends. Assessing strengths and weaknesses (of individual studies as well the existing research as a whole). Identifying potential gaps in knowledge. Establishing a need for current and/or future research projects.

What are key words in a literature review? ›

Keywords are terms that are used by authors to refer to the key concepts in your research question, and which appear in database records (e.g. title/abstract) or article full-text, but aren't taken from formal controlled vocabulary such as the Medical Subject Headings.

What skills are needed for a literature review? ›

Skills Needed

Reading and analyzing sources on your topic. Evaluating data and publications to determine which literature makes a noteworthy contribution to the scholarship on your topic. Writing a coherent narrative that synthesizes the sources you found, read, and analyzed.

What is literature review in one word? ›

A literature review is the writing process of summarizing, synthesizing and/or critiquing the literature found as a result of a literature search. It may be used as background or context for a primary research project.


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