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As we all know, a research paper is an integral part of any type of degree program. You create a strong thesis statement, introduction, and literature review of all the available sources to compile a research paper. Literature review is a primary component of a research paper. Learning how to write a literature review is very crucial. It is one of those tasks that every student faces at least once while working on a research paper. This guide will help you to understand ways to write it, its structure, components, and examples. If you require additional assistance, feel free to reach out to our experts who are available 24/7 to provide you literature review writing service.

What is a literature review?

Students frequently ask about the literature review definition. It is a sort of academic writing. It involves analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating existing literature on a topic, prompt, or within your field of study. It usually forms a part of a longer document, such as a dissertation or thesis. But you may be given it as a separate assignment.

What is the purpose of writing a literature review?

The primary goal is to compile prior writers' ideas into a synthesis and summary without adding any personal comments or other material. Its purpose is to identify a recurring theme or idea across all of the publications. Moreover, it has a main organizing principle (MOP), just like a research article has a thesis that keeps it on track. This type of scholarly writing aims to identify the MOP and demonstrate its presence in each of your supporting documents.
It is essential that you fulfil the following research objectives, irrespective of your academic level, or chosen topic area:

  1. A survey of the literature relevant to your chosen field of study is required. This assignment aims to make a thorough analysis of your topic and demonstrate your understanding of how particular facts might fit into larger research projects. Discuss the significance of the findings and offer your viewpoint, supported by evidence like facts or quotations.
  2. It is necessary to synthesize all of the available data into a unique summary. You should look for commonalities and offer details that support your thesis statement. You can also include details related to your original topic or field of study. Don't forget to clearly state your goals and explain how a particular publication either improves your cause or falls short of your expectations.
  3. It is an essential component to critically evaluate the data you find. This is the precise moment to discuss any gaps or inconsistencies you find based on your knowledge. It is advised to engage in discourse regarding proposed theories and apply critical thinking to particular viewpoints. You should organize your thoughts, analyze them, and identify the sections that need further research. That's basically the goal of writing a literature review.
  4. One of the most crucial things to remember is to organize everything based on a specific concept.

In addition to writing a literature review, students should also know how to write a research paper effectively, as this will not only enhance their academic skills but also contribute to the overall quality of their literature review. For those seeking additional help, utilizing our research paper writing service can provide invaluable support.

How long is a literature review? 

Your professor may have specified a length for your paper. Make sure to read the provided guidelines properly. If your professor does not specify any word count or length, then it should make up 15–30% of your work. To give you a rough idea of its length, it is approximately 2-3 pages if your research paper consists of 15 pages. If you are composing it as a stand-alone assignment, the guidelines should indicate how long it must be.

Literature Review Formats

Use the format chosen by your teacher. Ask your professor for clarification on a few other elements as well to determine the appropriate format for your project:

  • What type of sources—published materials, journal articles, or websites—should you review, and how many should you review?
  • Which style of citation should you apply for the sources?
  • How long should the review last?
  • Should your review be a personal critique, synthesis, or summary?
  • Should you include background information about your sources or subheadings in your review?

Rules for APA format literature review  

The most crucial part is to keep your review organized as per the theme or the main idea you have chosen. It would be beneficial to talk about how specific publications have influenced your topic. You have to make comparisons, connections, and contrasts between specific theories and your findings. It's also critical to incorporate evolving trends with a smooth transition. You must paraphrase your findings following the APA manual's literature review format, as shown below:
Recent studies have indicated a strong correlation between sleep patterns and cognitive function in humans (Smith, 2020; Johnson & Rodriguez, 2021).

Writing a literature review in APA style should always be done independently of your thesis, research, or dissertation writing as a whole. As per the guidelines, you need to follow the literature entries with a brief summary of your goals and a conclusion.

When we talk about literature, we mean peer-reviewed academic journals and magazines, books and e-books that are relevant to your field, different research reports, conferences, previously published doctoral dissertations, and other sources that have academic value.
The following is an example of an APA format literature review:

  • Every page has double spacing and a 1-inch margin.
  • Font: Times New Roman, point 12.
  • Page numbers and the running head must appear in the upper right corner.
  • It is necessary to include an introduction, body entries, and references.
  • Always put the author's name in parenthesis with the year of publication afterwards, separated by a comma.
  • The References section begins on a new page and is headed "References" in a bold, centered font.
  • The order of the entries needs to be alphabetical. 

Rules for MLA Literature Review Format 

The MLA formatting is almost similar to APA. It means you have to include the introduction. The alphabetically arranged entries in the main body. Also, a succinct conclusion offers an analytical synopsis of your research. Then, a list of references to finish things out.

  • All sides of your paper must have one-inch margins.
  • Unless otherwise specified, the entries in the paper should be double-spaced.
  • There must be page numbers in the upper right corner.
  • The author's information, the work's publication date, your title, whether the journal or book entry belongs to you, publication information, and an identifying link or ISBN must all be included in MLA format.
  • Your selection of entry citations must adhere to the fundamental MLA guidelines.

For instance:
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on work-from-home trends has been revealed in the latest survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Robinson, 2020).

Rules for Chicago Format Literature Review 

When writing a literature review in the social sciences, you should stick to Chicago's "Author-Date" format. The general guidelines for formatting your project entries are to paraphrase unless a direct quote is required. The introduction of your document should include an overview of the relevant background information, followed by the body of the work, the conclusion, and a sorted list of references. The literature review example Chicago style is:
Martinez, Maria. 2020. "The Impact of Social Media on Teenagers: A Psychological Perspective." Los Angeles: Random House.

Literature Review Structure

The structure of the literature review is similar to other types of papers that consist of an introduction, body and conclusion. Let's discuss each components of literature review in detail:

Literature Review Structure

Literature Review Introduction  

The introduction section must cover some literature background information of your research objective and chosen topic. It serves as a definition of your topic, whether it is descriptive or argumentative. 
Your reader(s) should be directed to the MOP (main organizing principle). This implies that the material you present must begin with a wide viewpoint and progressively get more focused until it reaches your main point.
Start the introduction by adding the main points. It is also essential to present your findings and discuss the amount of information discovered (if applicable).

Body of Literature Review 

This is the section where you can arrange things based on a theory, methodology, thematic elements, or chronological order. Every entry you include needs to be summed up using critical thinking as you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of every research publication. Discuss accuracy, depth, and relevance while addressing any possible gaps. Be sure to adhere to a clear structure and make logical connections when writing. Do you know how to organize a literature review? Let us discuss the most popular structure methodologies used in this:

Chronological structure 

If you decide to work with chronological structure, you should organize your entries according to the dates of their publication. It's crucial when discussing accomplishments in your area in particular. As you do research, it should assess how things have evolved over time. However, it should always be relevant to your topic. Some of your entries might touch on both recent and historical findings and ideas.

Thematic literature review structure 

Rather than writing a timeline, consider how your topic can be presented according to the depth of discussion around a particular theme. When researching issues related to racism or police violence, you can discuss different sources that address these issues in different ways. Here, you can read the thematic structure in detail.

Literature review methodology structure 

It can be a challenging approach while writing a literature review. Additionally, it is most commonly used in research papers or dissertation writing. As the name suggests, it discusses presenting particular approaches to a problem or sets of comparable methods. A cause-and-effect approach is another option, in which you talk about how some publications have influenced the topic or books that have come out later.

Theoretical literature review strategy 

This kind of review focuses on a single theory and attempts to modify already published books, journals, conferences, and other materials to conform to the theory of your choice. It might be necessary in this situation for your introduction section to include a thesis statement.

Literature Review Conclusion 

The conclusion is the summary of your findings where you sum up the things. You have to provide commonalities or crucial factors that should be added. In this section, you justify the purpose of your paper and discuss what has been accomplished so far.


Provide the complete and accurate source information that you have used throughout the paper. Follow the above-mentioned formatting rules for your writing style.

How to make a literature review outline?

Most students don't realize how important it is to prepare their outline for literature review ahead of time. However, this is a poor strategy. If you will plan your outline in advance, then it will help you to follow the accurate structure. In addition, it will simplify the writing process and help you make sure nothing is left out.
Before starting writing, make sure which methodology you plan to use. Once you have done with this part, start with the following outline:


  1. Introduce your topic and add background information. Also, describe your goals for the topic, including how it relates to your course and studies. Add the significance of conducting research and the types of data you plan to use.
  2. You have to specify which methodology you are going to use. It will help the readers to understand what they will see in the document.
  3. Include your expected results.
  4. In some cases, a thesis statement or assumption may be required.

Primary Theme 

  • Talk about your Theme or topic using literary references.
  • Sub-themes, in which you focus on specific aspects of your research.
    • Study 1 (Question for research)
    • Study 2 (The applicants)
    • Study 3 (Your Results)

Secondary Theme 

  • A somewhat different methodology for books and other sources offers a different kind of sample data. Things need to be reviewed.
  • Subtopics that focus attention and look for similarities or differences.
    • Study 1 (explains your search strategy and objectives).
    • Study 2 (discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the presentation of all the information).
    • Study 3 (compares what you found).


  • Identify the relation between the concepts that you have discussed.
  • Sum up the key points.
  • Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the various strategies used by the writers and researchers.
  • If essential, describe how your research will contribute to the topic's disclosure.

We hope that this basic outline will assist you in organizing your project.


  • List down all the sources you have referred to.
  • Add additional appendix information if required.

How to write a good literature review?

Whether you're writing for a literature review in research papers or you're writing it as a stand-alone assignment, the approach you should use generally remains the same. 
Now that you are aware of the structure let's define the steps that will help you to write a literature review.

How to write a good literature review

Identify the literature review title or topic

It's the most crucial thing that you have to do as you start your paper. It's the point where you would identify whether you're writing it as a part of a large research project or a stand-alone assignment. 
If you are writing a literature review as part of another project, you must look for literature that is relevant to your main research questions and problems. In turn, if you are writing it as a stand-alone assignment, you will need to select a pertinent subject and main idea around which you will base your project.

Not All of the Sources Fit!

When performing research, you'll find a variety of material to add to your project. Students mostly make mistakes at this stage. They are trying to adjust all the collected sources in their document. We suggest you only pick the relevant ones. You are unlikely to be able to read everything you come across on a given topic and then combine all of your findings into a single literature review. That is why it is critical to prioritize them.

Recall that reputable or peer-reviewed academic sources must be used when writing a literature review. It is safe to use printed or online books. Academic journals published in databases related to your subject, such as Jstor, PubMed, or Google Scholar, must be used. This means that unless you specifically want to investigate that kind of information, using something that has been published on a blog will not be appropriate for a credible literature review. Consider the techniques you will use to present a piece of evidence while you investigate your issue as you select your sources.

To evaluate the worth of the source, your source should be credible, influential, original, innovative, important insights, and relevant. Additionally, remember to take notes on anything you can use for the review later as you read the sources. Don't forget to include your citations as soon as possible. It will be simpler to create your annotated bibliography later if you cite the chosen sources at the beginning.

Conduct thorough research

Once you have done your topic research, it's time to collect information for writing a literature review. If you want to streamline the entire process and locate pertinent publications more quickly, making a list of pertinent keywords associated with your main research question is an excellent way to start. 
When you have a list of keywords, then it would be easy for you to search with these relevant terms. However, only refer to trustworthy sources from online scientific databases as well as university libraries. 
After searching for sources, make sure to define whether it is relevant to your topic or research question. Instead of reading the entire paper, you can save time by reading the literature review abstracts to get a general idea of what the papers are about.

Find connections, themes, and gaps 

The last step is to figure out how the existing studies relate to one another before you outline and write. Finding the connections between the ideas will assist you in structuring the body of existing knowledge, creating a strong overview of the literature, and—if required—outlining how your own research contributes to a particular field.

Create an outline 

Although students mostly overlook this step, making an outline is the most important step in writing every paper. This is the simplest method for making sure you haven't missed anything crucial and for structuring your text's body. Additionally, it will be easier and faster for you to complete the paper if you have a general idea of what you will write about. We've already covered the fundamentals of a literature review structure and provided an example of a strong outline earlier in this guide. At this point in the workflow, you can create your own outline using all the knowledge you've learned from us.

Start writing 

Now, finally, you've reached the writing stage. At this point, all you need to do is to follow the plan you have set before. Keep all instructions in mind provided by your professor.

Give a final look  

The majority of students commit the common mistake of skipping the editing and proofreading steps at the end of the process. To guarantee that your work will be worthy of the highest grade, we suggest allowing adequate time for these procedures. Don't undervalue the significance of editing and proofreading, and give these tasks enough time.

Double check the References page

Take your time and double-check everything; don't skip this section. Here's where an accurate list of references is required. If you have used any in-text citations, start by reviewing them. It's usually advised to use two or more of them for every entry. You must provide some evidence along with a thorough explanation of your findings.  Ensure that every quotation you use (including the parts you paraphrased) is properly formatted and mentioned in your list of references. Make sure nothing is overlooked by double-checking your style guidelines for all the spaces and structure-related concerns!

Literature Review Table Sample

Literature Review Sample Table

Helpful tips for writing a literature review

As we come to the conclusion of our guide, there are a few key points to keep in mind before you begin writing. Let's summarize them into ten key guidelines that will be very important to follow:

  • Find the best possible sources.
  • Set up your topic and target audience first.
  • Spend some time reading and researching the current literature.
  • Remember to take notes while you do your research.
  • Examine related reviews of the literature relating to your topic.
  • Remain focused while elaborating on relevant concepts that you believe are crucial.
  • Don't forget to include structural elements and maintain a critical form in your writing.
  • If required, give background information about each entry.
  • To learn more, read other reviews on the internet.
  • Be unbiased while adding your research.
  • To present the information in a balanced manner, select both recent and past studies.

Above all, keep in mind the risk of plagiarism and make sure your readers can easily locate each source by providing accurate citations and information. You can succeed and produce a fantastic literature review paper that will stand out from the others by adhering to these few guidelines.  

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Last updated: 23 November, 2023