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What is a Literature Review? | Guide, Template, & Examples

Published on 22 February 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 7 June 2022.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research.

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarise sources – it analyses, synthesises, and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

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Table of contents

Why write a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1: search for relevant literature, step 2: evaluate and select sources, step 3: identify themes, debates and gaps, step 4: outline your literature review’s structure, step 5: write your literature review, frequently asked questions about literature reviews, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a dissertation or thesis, you will have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position yourself in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your dissertation addresses a gap or contributes to a debate

You might also have to write a literature review as a stand-alone assignment. In this case, the purpose is to evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of scholarly debates around a topic.

The content will look slightly different in each case, but the process of conducting a literature review follows the same steps. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research objectives and questions .

If you are writing a literature review as a stand-alone assignment, you will have to choose a focus and develop a central question to direct your search. Unlike a dissertation research question, this question has to be answerable without collecting original data. You should be able to answer it based only on a review of existing publications.

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research topic. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list if you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can use boolean operators to help narrow down your search:

Read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

To identify the most important publications on your topic, take note of recurring citations. If the same authors, books or articles keep appearing in your reading, make sure to seek them out.

You probably won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on the topic – you’ll have to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your questions.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models and methods? Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • How does the publication contribute to your understanding of the topic? What are its key insights and arguments?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible, and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can find out how many times an article has been cited on Google Scholar – a high citation count means the article has been influential in the field, and should certainly be included in your literature review.

The scope of your review will depend on your topic and discipline: in the sciences you usually only review recent literature, but in the humanities you might take a long historical perspective (for example, to trace how a concept has changed in meaning over time).

Remember that you can use our template to summarise and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using!

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It’s important to keep track of your sources with references to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography, where you compile full reference information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

You can use our free APA Reference Generator for quick, correct, consistent citations.

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To begin organising your literature review’s argument and structure, you need to understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly-visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat – this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organising the body of a literature review. You should have a rough idea of your strategy before you start writing.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarising sources in order.

Try to analyse patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organise your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus 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, models, and definitions of key concepts.

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

Like any other academic text, your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

If you are writing the literature review as part of your dissertation or thesis, reiterate your central problem or research question and give a brief summary of the scholarly context. You can emphasise the timeliness of the topic (“many recent studies have focused on the problem of x”) or highlight a gap in the literature (“while there has been much research on x, few researchers have taken y into consideration”).

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, make sure to follow these tips:

  • Summarise and synthesise: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole.
  • Analyse and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole.
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources.
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transitions and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts.

In the conclusion, you should summarise the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasise their significance.

If the literature review is part of your dissertation or thesis, reiterate how your research addresses gaps and contributes new knowledge, or discuss how you have drawn on existing theories and methods to build a framework for your research. This can lead directly into your methodology section.

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a dissertation , thesis, research paper , or proposal .

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarise yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your  dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

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Literature review

A general guide on how to conduct and write a literature review.

Please check course or programme information and materials provided by teaching staff , including your project supervisor, for subject-specific guidance.

What is a literature review?

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. It is a process of reviewing the literature, as well as a form of writing.

To illustrate the difference between reporting and reviewing, think about television or film review articles.  These articles include content such as a brief synopsis or the key points of the film or programme plus the critic’s own evaluation.  Similarly the two main objectives of a literature review are firstly the content covering existing research, theories and evidence, and secondly your own critical evaluation and discussion of this content. 

Usually a literature review forms a section or part of a dissertation, research project or long essay.  However, it can also be set and assessed as a standalone piece of work.

What is the purpose of a literature review?

…your task is to build an argument, not a library. Rudestam, K.E. and Newton, R.R. (1992) Surviving your dissertation: A comprehensive guide to content and process. California: Sage, p49.

In a larger piece of written work, such as a dissertation or project, a literature review is usually one of the first tasks carried out after deciding on a topic.  Reading combined with critical analysis can help to refine a topic and frame research questions.  Conducting a literature review establishes your familiarity with and understanding of current research in a particular field before carrying out a new investigation.  After doing a literature review, you should know what research has already been done and be able to identify what is unknown within your topic.

When doing and writing a literature review, it is good practice to:

  • summarise and analyse previous research and theories;
  • identify areas of controversy and contested claims;
  • highlight any gaps that may exist in research to date.

Conducting a literature review

Focusing on different aspects of your literature review can be useful to help plan, develop, refine and write it.  You can use and adapt the prompt questions in our worksheet below at different points in the process of researching and writing your review.  These are suggestions to get you thinking and writing.

Developing and refining your literature review (pdf)

Developing and refining your literature review (Word)

Developing and refining your literature review (Word rtf)

Writing a literature review has a lot in common with other assignment tasks.  There is advice on our other pages about thinking critically, reading strategies and academic writing.  Our literature review top tips suggest some specific things you can do to help you submit a successful review.

Literature review top tips (pdf)

Literature review top tips (Word rtf)

Our reading page includes strategies and advice on using books and articles and a notes record sheet grid you can use.

Reading at university

The Academic writing page suggests ways to organise and structure information from a range of sources and how you can develop your argument as you read and write.

Academic writing

The Critical thinking page has advice on how to be a more critical researcher and a form you can use to help you think and break down the stages of developing your argument.

Critical thinking

As with other forms of academic writing, your literature review needs to demonstrate good academic practice by following the Code of Student Conduct and acknowledging the work of others through citing and referencing your sources.  

Good academic practice

As with any writing task, you will need to review, edit and rewrite sections of your literature review.  The Editing and proofreading page includes tips on how to do this and strategies for standing back and thinking about your structure and checking the flow of your argument.

Editing and proofreading

Guidance on literature searching from the University Library

The Academic Support Librarians have developed LibSmart I and II, Learn courses to help you develop and enhance your digital research skills and capabilities; from getting started with the Library to managing data for your dissertation.

Searching using the library’s DiscoverEd tool: DiscoverEd

Finding resources in your subject: Subject guides

The Academic Support Librarians also provide one-to-one appointments to help you develop your research strategies.

1 to 1 support for literature searching and systematic reviews

Advice to help you optimise use of Google Scholar, Google Books and Google for your research and study: Using Google

Managing and curating your references

A referencing management tool can help you to collect and organise and your source material to produce a bibliography or reference list. 

Referencing and reference management

Information Services provide access to Cite them right online which is a guide to the main referencing systems and tells you how to reference just about any source (EASE log-in may be required).

Cite them right

Published study guides

There are a number of scholarship skills books and guides available which can help with writing a literature review.  Our Resource List of study skills guides includes sections on Referencing, Dissertation and project writing and Literature reviews.

Study skills guides

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Literature reviews

Writing a literature review.

The following guide has been created for you by the  Student Learning Advisory Service . For more detailed guidance and to speak to one of our advisers, please book an  appointment  or join one of our  workshops . Alternatively, have a look at our  SkillBuilder  skills videos.   

Preparing a literature review involves:

  • Searching for reliable, accurate and up-to-date material on a topic or subject
  • Reading and summarising the key points from this literature
  • Synthesising these key ideas, theories and concepts into a summary of what is known
  • Discussing and evaluating these ideas, theories and concepts
  • Identifying particular areas of debate or controversy
  • Preparing the ground for the application of these ideas to new research

Finding and choosing material

Ensure you are clear on what you are looking for. ask yourself:.

  • What is the specific question, topic or focus of my assignment?
  • What kind of material do I need (e.g. theory, policy, empirical data)?
  • What type of literature is available (e.g. journals, books, government documents)?

What kind of literature is particularly authoritative in this academic discipline (e.g. psychology, sociology, pharmacy)?

How much do you need?

This will depend on the length of the dissertation, the nature of the subject, and the level of study (undergraduate, Masters, PhD). 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. Bear in mind that if your dissertation is based mainly around an interaction with existing scholarship you will need a longer literature review than if it is there as a prelude to new empirical research. Use your judgement or ask your supervisor for guidance.

Where to find suitable material

Your literature review should include a balance between substantial academic books, journal articles and other scholarly publications. All these sources should be as up-to-date as possible, with the exception of ‘classic texts’ such as major works written by leading scholars setting out formative ideas and theories central to your subject. There are several ways to locate suitable material:

Module bibliography: for undergraduate dissertations, look first at the bibliography provided with the module documentation. Choose one or two likely looking books or articles and then scan through the bibliographies provided by these authors. Skim read some of this material looking for clues: can you use these leads to identify key theories and authors or track down other appropriate material?

Library catalogue search engine: enter a few key words to capture a range of items, but avoid over-generalisations; if you type in something as broad as ‘social theory’ you are likely to get several thousand results. Be more specific: for example, ‘Heidegger, existentialism’. Ideally, you should narrow the field to obtain just a few dozen results. Skim through these quickly to identity texts which are most likely to contribute to your study.

Library bookshelves: browse the library shelves in the relevant subject area and examine the books that catch your eye. Check the contents and index pages, or skim through the introductions (or abstracts, in the case of journal articles) to see if they contain relevant material, and replace them if not. Don’t be afraid to ask one of the subject librarians for further help. Your supervisor may also be able to point you in the direction of some of the important literature , but remember this is your literature search, not theirs.

Online: for recent journal articles you will almost certainly need to use one of the online search engines. These can be found on the ‘Indexing Services’ button on the Templeman Library website. Kent students based at Medway still need to use the Templeman pages to access online journals, although you can get to these pages through the Drill Hall Library catalogue. Take a look as well at the Subject Guides on both the Templeman and DHL websites.

Check that you have made the right selection by asking:

  • Has my search been wide enough to ensure that I have identified all the relevant material, but narrow enough to exclude irrelevant material?
  • Is there a good enough sample of literature for the level (PhD, Masters, undergraduate) of my dissertation or thesis?
  • Have I considered as many alternative points of view as possible?
  • Will the reader find my literature review relevant and useful?

Assessing the literature

Read the material you have chosen carefully, considering the following:

  • The key point discussed by the author: is this clearly defined
  • What evidence has the author produced to support this central idea?
  • How convincing are the reasons given for the author’s point of view?
  • Could the evidence be interpreted in other ways?
  • What is the author's research method (e.g. qualitative, quantitative, experimental, etc.)?
  • What is the author's theoretical framework (e.g. psychological, developmental, feminist)?
  • What is the relationship assumed by the author between theory and practice?
  • Has the author critically evaluated the other literature in the field?
  • Does the author include literature opposing their point of view?
  • Is the research data based on a reliable method and accurate information?
  • Can you ‘deconstruct’ the argument – identify the gaps or jumps in the logic?
  • What are the strengths and limitations of this study?
  • What does this book or article contribute to the field or topic?
  • What does this book or article contribute to my own topic or thesis?

As you note down the key content of each book or journal article (together with the reference details of each source) record your responses to these questions. You will then be able to summarise each piece of material from two perspectives:     

Content: a brief description of the content of the book or article. Remember, an author will often make just one key point; so, what is the point they are making, and how does it relate to your own research project or assignment?

Critical analysis: an assessment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the evidence used, and the arguments presented. Has anything conveniently been left out or skated over? Is there a counter-argument, and has the author dealt with this adequately? Can the evidence presented be interpreted another way? Does the author demonstrate any obvious bias which could affect their reliability? Overall, based on the above analysis of the author’s work, how do you evaluate its contribution to the scholarly understanding and knowledge surrounding the topic?    

Structuring the literature review

In a PhD thesis, the literature review typically comprises one chapter (perhaps 8-10,000 words), for a Masters dissertation it may be around 2-3,000 words, and for an undergraduate dissertation it may be no more than 2,000 words. In each case the word count can vary depending on a range of factors and it is always best, if in doubt, to ask your supervisor.

The overall structure of the section or chapter should be like any other: it should have a beginning, middle and end. You will need to guide the reader through the literature review, outlining the strategy you have adopted for selecting the books or articles, presenting the topic theme for the review, then using most of the word limit to analyse the chosen books or articles thoroughly before pulling everything together briefly in the conclusion.

Some people prefer a less linear approach. Instead of simply working through a list of 8-20 items on your book review list, you might want to try a thematic approach, grouping key ideas, facts, concepts or approaches together and then bouncing the ideas off each other. This is a slightly more creative (and interesting) way of producing the review, but a little more risky as it is harder to establish coherence and logical sequencing.

Whichever approach you adopt, make sure everything flows smoothly – that one idea or book leads neatly to the next. Take your reader effortlessly through a sequence of thought that is clear, accurate, precise and interesting. 

Writing up your literature review

As with essays generally, only attempt to write up the literature review when you have completed all the reading and note-taking, and carefully planned its content and structure. Find an appropriate way of introducing the review, then guide the reader through the material clearly and directly, bearing in mind the following:

  • Be selective in the number of points you draw out from each piece of literature; remember that one of your objectives is to demonstrate that you can use your judgement to identify what is central and what is secondary.
  • Summarise and synthesise – use your own words to sum up what you think is important or controversial about the book or article.
  • Never claim more than the evidence will support. Too many dissertations and theses are let down by sweeping generalisations. Be tentative and careful in the way you interpret the evidence.
  • Keep your own voice – you are entitled to your own point of view provided it is based on evidence and clear argument.
  • At the same time, aim to project an objective and tentative tone by using the 3rd person, (for example, ‘this tends to suggest’, ‘it could be argued’ and so on).
  • Even with a literature review you should avoid using too many, or overlong, quotes. Summarise material in your own words as much as possible. Save the quotes for ‘punch-lines’ to drive a particular point home.
  • Revise, revise, revise: refine and edit the draft as much as you can. Check for fluency, structure, evidence, criticality and referencing, and don’t forget the basics of good grammar, punctuation and spelling.

Oxford Brookes University

Literature reviews

Reviewing the literature is a process of comparing and contrasting the existing work in the field to show any gaps in the research that your research question may fill. Sometimes literature reviews are set as stand-alone assignments, and sometimes they are part of doing the research for a longer project or dissertation. Where the literature review goes in a final project write-up may vary depending on your subject and type of research, so always check with your department or supervisor.

Scroll down for our recommended strategies and resources. 

Purpose and position of a literature review

Literature reviews can vary depending on the purpose and subject. See the list below for some of the common forms a literature review may take:

  • A stand-alone assignment designed to help develop literature searching, researching, and analysis skills, often as preparation for doing longer projects later on.  
  •  A separate chapter at the start of a dissertation, usually in a report-style dissertation in the Sciences.
  •  A smaller introductory chapter at the start of a dissertation when the whole dissertation is based on reviewing secondary literature. In this type of dissertation, the findings and discussion sections provide a more in-depth review of the literature.
  • A rigorous process within a scientific systematic review, often in Healthcare subjects. A systematic review has rigorous inclusion criteria to identify the results of a range of clinical trials and performs statistical meta-analysis on the collected data. See this video explaining t he steps of a systematic review [video] (Centre for Evidence Synthesis in Health)
  • In Humanities subjects, there might not be a separate literature review chapter. Instead, discussion of the secondary literature is woven throughout each thematic chapter and is used to help interpret primary sources such as literary texts, artworks, or historical sources.

Where to begin?

It can be hard if you don’t have a clear idea of your research question or topic. However, it’s a circular process, as the more you read, the more you can narrow your focus. Start by listing or mind-mapping some related sub-topics and plan to do a short period of exploratory reading. This guide gives a good introductory overview:

Starting your literature review (University of Reading)

A literature review is usually organised into themes relating to your overall topic. Always follow any guidance you’ve been given by your lecturer, but this page gives a useful outline literature review structure:

Structure of a literature review (Royal Literary Fund)

Not book summaries

A literature review isn’t just a set of summaries stitched together. Using sub-headings to group the literature by theme can make it easier to compare and contrast, as opposed to just describe. Don’t get confused with book reviews or annotated bibliographies .

This is quite a long literature review example from a humanities subject, but it has comments to show what the writer is doing well.

Example literature review with comments (University of Massachusetts)

Where’s the gap?

The main purpose of a literature review is to identify areas that haven’t yet been researched fully. These don’t have to be amazingly new areas, but could be a slightly different angle or context on some existing research. Look at this guide on writing gap statements:

Identifying the gap (Write like a Scientist)

Your own voice

If you find you’re just writing ‘Bloggs (2016) states…’, ‘Jin (2017) argues…’ your voice may be missing. You also need to comment on the research and form a judgement about what it shows about your topic. See this guide on how to develop your own voice - particularly useful for postgraduate students:

Developing authority (RMIT University)

Links to the discussion

If your literature review is part of a report-style dissertation (often in science and social science subjects) see this guide on how it is connected to the discussion section:

Connection with discussion chapter (University of Reading)

Further resources

If you’d like to read more about how to undertake a literature review, see this resource and book list from Brookes Library:

Dissertations and independent research book list

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Literature reviews

  • Starting your literature review
  • Introduction

Structuring your reading

When to stop reading, how to organise a literature review, writing your literature review.

  • Developing your literature review
  • Writing systematic reviews

Useful links for literature reviews

  • Study Advice Helping students to achieve study success with guides, video tutorials, seminars and one-to-one advice sessions.

write my literature review uk

  • Doing your literature review (video) Watch this brief video tutorial for more on the topic.
  • Doing your literature review (transcript) Read along while watching the video tutorial.
  • Literature searching guide A guide to finding articles, books and other materials on your subject
  • Doing your literature search video - University of Reading Brief video on literature searching from our Academic Liaison Librarians.
  • Royal Literary Fund: Writing a Literature Review A guide to writing literature reviews from the Royal Literary Fund
  • What it means to be a critical student A brief and very useful video tutorial from the University of Leicester.
  • Reading and notemaking LibGuide Expert guidance on managing your reading and making effective notes.
  • Dissertations and major projects LibGuide Expert guidance on planning, researching and writing dissertations and major projects.

write my literature review uk

If you have thought about the areas you need to research and have conducted some searches for literature, you should be ready to set down some draft topic headings to structure your literature review.

Select one of your headings and choose a few key texts to read first - three is ideal to start with. Remember that you may eventually be writing about the same text under different headings, so bear that in mind when you are reading and making notes.

When you have finished reading your chosen texts, write a draft section summarising and commenting on what you have read, taking special care to show how it is relevant to your research. Then look to see what you need to discuss further, and do more reading to enable you to plug the gaps.

write my literature review uk

Try to set limits on how long you will spend reading. Then plan backwards from your deadline and decide when you need to move on to other parts of your investigation e.g. gathering the data.

You need to show you have read the major and important texts in your topic, and that you have also explored the most up-to-date research. If you have demonstrated both of these, you are on the right lines.

If you keep coming across very similar viewpoints and your reading is no longer providing new information, this is a sign you have reached saturation point and should probably stop.

Be guided by your research questions. When reading, ask yourself, "How does this relate to my investigation?" If you are going off into unrelated areas, stop reading and refocus on your topic.

write my literature review uk

Another thing you can do is to group what you have read into different topics or themes . These can provide useful headings when you come to write up your literature review. Use different coloured highlighters to identify which topic or heading each article fits into.

Be selective - you don't have to include everything you have read in your literature review. Only include research which is relevant and which helps you understand more about your own investigation. What you leave out won't be wasted as it helped you refine your understanding of the wider issues and identify what was relevant to your own investigation.

You don't have to refer to everything in the same depth in your literature review. You are usually expected to prioritise recent research. Some scientific research that was crucial in the past is now out of date. For instance, there may be a few older studies that were important in starting research in the field, but their methods have been surpassed by more accurate methods. You only need to demonstrate your awareness of these older, dated studies in a few sentences, then move on to discussing in greater depth the up-to-date methods and why they are more accurate.

Like an essay, a literature review has an introduction, main body, and conclusion.

Introduction : This explains the broad context of your research area and the main topics you are investigating. It briefly highlights the relevant issues or debates that have characterised your field of research.

It should also include some signposting for the reader, explaining the organisation / sequence of topics covered, and the scope of your survey.

Main body : An analysis of the literature according to a number of themes or topics that overlap with your research. It may have headings.

You can write your literature review one section at a time, but make sure you read through them all to check they link together and tell a coherent "story".

This should show how your research builds on what has been done before. Based on previous research, you provide justifications for what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how you are going to do it.

Conclusion : This should summarise the current state of the research in your field as analysed in the main body. It should identify any gaps or problems with the existing research, and explain how your investigation is going to address these gaps or build on the existing research.

  • The structure of a literature review (Royal Literary Fund) Guidance on structuring a literature review.
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  • Next: Developing your literature review >>
  • Last Updated: Jan 29, 2024 11:27 AM
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  • How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

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Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods?
  • Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus 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, models, and definitions of key concepts.

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

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

  • Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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What is a literature review?

If you have to write an undergraduate dissertation, you may be required to begin by writing a literature review. A literature review is a search and evaluation of the available literature in your given subject or chosen topic area. It documents the state of the art with respect to the subject or topic you are writing about.

A literature review has four main objectives:

  • It surveys the literature in your chosen area of study
  • It synthesises the information in that literature into a summary
  • It critically analyses the information gathered by identifying gaps in current knowledge; by showing limitations of theories and points of view; and by formulating areas for further research and reviewing areas of controversy
  • It presents the literature in an organised way

A literature review shows your readers that you have an in-depth grasp of your subject; and that you understand where your own research fits into and adds to an existing body of agreed knowledge.

Here’s another way of describing those four main tasks. A literature review:

  • demonstrates a familiarity with a body of knowledge and establishes the credibility of your work;
  • summarises prior research and says how your project is linked to it;
  • integrates and summarises what is known about a subject;
  • demonstrates that you have learnt from others and that your research is a starting point for new ideas.

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Postgraduate study skills, conducting a literature review.

You may be expected to gather evidence by making a review of the current literature, perhaps as a distinct section in an assignment or as a chapter of a dissertation. Or it may be part of your preparatory work for a project proposal.

A literature review usually takes the form of a critical discussion that shows insight into the theories being discussed in publications with a clear link to the purpose of your question or research.

The structure of the literature review depends on the aims and purpose of your work. Generally, you should group together your work in key themes, with each one explicitly linked to your research topic.

Beginning a literature review can be a bit overwhelming. The best place to start is with your textbooks and the key academics referred to within them. After you've identified the key relevant authors you can read more from them (books, articles etc.). This will then lead you on further, to other academics and theories.

You can use the  OU's online library  to source material that is available online. It has links to journals, articles, e-books and more.

Here are some key steps in conducting a literature review.

  • Define your topic. Do you have central question you want to answer?
  • Narrow down what you want to research - a narrower topic allows you to focus more deeply, rather than skimming the surface
  • Divide your topic into key themes to make it easier to look up information
  • Use your textbooks to identify key authors or theories that relate to the themes and make them your starting point
  • Do the textbooks suggest any further reading? If so, track it down
  • Use the OU's online library to locate academic opinion and theory
  • Organise your literature: store any paper copies in folders and files, grouped into themes
  • Read the literature you have sourced
  • Fit the literature into the key themes you have identified - if any don't fit, or they don't seem important enough to include, put them to one side

You now need to engage critically with the texts. Think about whether you agree with what's being said. Examine the methodology used: divide the articles into qualitative or quantitative categories, evaluate conclusions made based on the method used and evidence presented.

Once you start to collate your literature review, make sure to reference your sources correctly as you use them. Keep full details of the title of the paper or book chapter, the authors, the page numbers, the journal or book it was published in and year of publication, as it can be hard to track down these details later.

It is important that you keep up with your subject; people will be writing about it all the time, with new theories and literature produced. This means you should look over literature at other points too: certainly mid-way through a research project and again at the end.

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Literature Reviewing

  • Getting Started
  • Searching the Literature
  • Writing the Review

Writing a literature review

Writing an effective literature review is difficult, time consuming and may require many drafts. The first draft should set set the context for your research. Throughout your study you may have to keep up to date with developments in the field and then latterly your final draft will involve you relating your findings to the findings of others and identifying implications for theory, practice and research. As with any piece of writing, structure is crucial.

What will it look like?

Introduction

  • Scope of the review & the research - what you are going to cover.
  • Establish the position (viewpoint) from which you are reviewing the literature.
  • How the review ties in with research topic.

Image representing a mind map.

How you structure this may depend on your particular research field.

Some common approaches are:

  • Theme  - separate strands - discuss individually before bringing them together.
  • Methodology – concentrating on researcher methods, not the content of the material.
  • Sector - political , business, professional practice, , geography, literary.
  • Theoretical development -   identifiable theoretical stages that can be discussed.
  • Chronology - easier, but remember to synthesise and critique, not just list items.
  • Combination of the above, or by another structure you choose.

Throughout the review, tell your own research story and keep your own "voice"  - why you are doing the study, the gap your study is going to fill and answer the “so what”  question - what will it mean for society? The literature review should read like any other academic research paper.

Literature review - Writing Checklist

Lit review Checklist

Selection of literature

  • Clear inclusion / exclusion of your research stated.
  • Focused on recent developments / research for that topic.
  • Logical flow. Follows the intellectual progression & major debates in the field.
  • Good balance between description and comment.

Green checkmark icon.

  • Concentrates on current / most relevant issues.
  • Material presented in a logical order.

Interpretation

  • Is the interpretation /evaluation of your reading obvious?
  • Use the literature to give your own interpretation/ justification of the research.
  • Obvious linking of all the elements.
  • Identified the gap in the research / literature?
  • << Previous: Searching the Literature
  • Last Updated: Jul 28, 2023 12:56 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.napier.ac.uk/litrev

Literature Review

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To be effective, the literature review should provide a thorough, in depth and critical comparison of the literature that is relevant to your own research. A good literature review means being able to research sources, evaluate and analyse them, drawn conclusions and identify gaps in knowledge. Clearly this can be very time-consuming, so why not let Ivory Research help you and ensure your literature review gets the attention it deserves. With our custom literature review writing service, our writers offer specialist assistance with all types of literature review including traditional or narrative literature reviews, systematic literature reviews, meta-analysis and meta-synthesis.

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We have a large team of professional writers, with experts in all academic disciplines, so you can be confident the writer we assign to your literature review will have the experience and academic qualifications for your subject and that their work will be of the highest standard. All Ivory Research literature reviews are scanned for duplicate content and are guaranteed plagiarism free. We guarantee that the literature review we write for you will NEVER be published or resold, so it will remain 100% original and personal to you.

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Your completed paper will be available to download from your customer portal on or before your deadline. Unlike other academic research companies, we allow you a full seven days to check through the literature review we have written and request any changes that may be necessary, at no extra cost, so you know it will be exactly as you want it. If you would like more time to make changes, for a small additional fee you can select an extended amendment period when you place your order.

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Writing the Dissertation - Guides for Success: The Literature Review

  • Writing the Dissertation Homepage
  • Overview and Planning
  • The Literature Review
  • The Methodology
  • The Results and Discussion
  • The Conclusion
  • The Abstract
  • Getting Started
  • Research Gap
  • What to Avoid

Overview of writing the literature review

Conducting a literature review enables you to demonstrate your understanding and knowledge of the existing work within your field of research. Doing so allows you to identify any underdeveloped areas or unexplored issues within a specific debate, dialogue or field of study. This, in turn, helps you to clearly and persuasively demonstrate how your own research will address one or more of these gaps.

Disciplinary differences

Please note: this guide is not specific to any one discipline. The literature review can vary depending on the nature of the research and the expectations of the school or department. Please adapt the following advice to meet the demands of your dissertation and the expectations of your school or department. Consult your supervisor for further guidance; you can also check out  Writing Across Subjects guide .

Guide contents

As part of the Writing the Dissertation series, this guide covers the most common expectations for the literature review chapter, giving you the necessary knowledge, tips and guidance needed to impress your markers!  The sections are organised as follows:

  • Getting Started  - Defines the literature review and presents a table to help you plan.
  • Process -  Explores choosing a topic, searching for sources and evaluating what you find.
  • Structure  - Presents key principles to consider in terms of structure, with examples to illustrate the concepts.
  • Research gap - Clarifies what is meant by 'gap' and gives examples of common types of gaps.
  • What to Avoid  - Covers a few frequent mistakes you'll want to...avoid!
  • FAQs  - Answers to common questions about research gaps, literature availability and more.
  • Checklist  - Includes a summary of key points and a self-evaluation checklist.

Training and tools

  • The Academic Skills team has recorded a Writing the Dissertation workshop series to help you with each section of a standard dissertation, including a video on writing the literature review .
  • Check out the library's online Literature Review: Research Methods training.
  • Our literature reviews summary guide provides links to further information and videos.
  • The dissertation planner tool can help you think through the timeline for planning, research, drafting and editing.
  • iSolutions offers training and a Word template to help you digitally format and structure your dissertation.

write my literature review uk

What is the literature review?

The literature review of a dissertation gives a clear, critical overview of a specific area of research. Our main Writing the Dissertation - Overview and Planning guide explains how you can refine your dissertation topic  and begin your initial research; the next tab of this guide, 'Process', expands on those ideas. In summary, the process of conducting a literature review usually involves the following:

  • Conducting a series of strategic searches to identify the key texts within that topic.
  • Identifying the main argument in each source, the relevant themes and issues presented and how they relate to each other.
  • Critically evaluating your chosen sources and determining their strengths, weaknesses, relevance and value to your research along with their overall contribution to the broader research field.
  • Identifying any gaps or flaws in the literature which your research can address.

Literature review as both process and product

Writers should keep in mind that the phrase 'literature review' refers to two related, but distinct, things:

  • 'Literature review' refers, first, to the  active process  of discovering and assessing relevant literature.
  • 'Literature review' refers, second, to the  written product  that emerges from the above process.

This distinction is vital to note because  every  dissertation requires the writer to engage with and consider existing literature (i.e., to undertake the active  process ). Research doesn't exist in a void, and it's crucial to consider how our work builds from or develops existing foundations of thought or discovery. Thus, even if your discipline doesn't require you to include a chapter titled 'Literature Review' in your submitted dissertation, you should expect to engage with the process of reviewing literature.

Why is it important to be aware of existing literature?

  • You are expected to explain how your research fits in with other research in your field and, perhaps, within the wider academic community.
  • You will be expected to contribute something new, or slightly different, so you need to know what has already been done.
  • Assessing the existing literature on your topic helps you to identify any gaps or flaws within the research field. This, in turn, helps to stimulate new ideas, such as addressing any gaps in knowledge, or reinforcing an existing theory or argument through new and focused research.

Not all literature reviews are the same. For example, in many subject areas, you are expected to include the literature review as its own chapter in your dissertation. However, in other subjects, the dissertation structure doesn't include a dedicated literature review chapter; any literature the writer has reviewed is instead incorporated in other relevant sections such as the introduction, methodology or discussion.

For this reason, there are a number of questions you should discuss with your supervisor before starting your literature review. These questions are also great to discuss with peers in your degree programme. These are outlined in the table below (see the Word document for a copy you can save and edit):

  • Dissertation literature review planning table

Literature review: the process

Conducting a literature review requires you to stay organised and bring a systematic approach to your thinking and reading. Scroll to continue reading, or click a link below to jump immediately to that section:

Choosing a topic

The first step of any research project is to select an interesting topic. From here, the research phase for your literature review helps to narrow down your focus to a particular strand of research and to a specific research question. This process of narrowing and refining your research topic is particularly important because it helps you to maintain your focus and manage your material without becoming overwhelmed by sources and ideas.

Try to choose something that hasn’t been researched to death. This way, you stand a better chance of making a novel contribution to the research field.

Conversely, you should avoid undertaking an area of research where little to no work has been done. There are two reasons for this:

  • Firstly, there may be a good reason for the lack of research on a topic (e.g. is the research useful or worthwhile pursuing?).
  • Secondly, some research projects, particularly practice-based ones involving primary research, can be too ambitious in terms of their scope and the availability of resources. Aim to contribute to a topic, not invent one!

Searching for sources

Researching and writing a literature review is partly about demonstrating your independent research skills. Your supervisor may have some tips relating to your discipline and research topic, but you should be proactive in finding a range of relevant sources. There are various ways of tracking down the literature relevant to your project, as outlined below.

Make use of Library Search

One thing you don’t want to do is simply type your topic into Google and see what comes up. Instead, use Library Search to search the Library’s catalogue of books, media and articles.

Online training for 'Using databases' and 'Finding information' can be found here . You can also use the Library's subject pages to discover databases and resources specific to your academic discipline.

Engage with others working in your area

As well as making use of library resources, it can be helpful to discuss your work with students or academics working in similar areas. Think about attending relevant conferences and/or workshops which can help to stimulate ideas and allows you to keep track of the most current trends in your research field.

Look at the literature your sources reference

Finding relevant literature can, at times, be a long and slightly frustrating experience. However, one good source can often make all the difference. When you find a good source that is both relevant and valuable to your research, look at the material it cites throughout and follow up any sources that are useful. Also check if your source has been cited in any more recent publications.

Cartoon person with magnifying glass follows footstep patterns. Text reads 'Found a great source? Follow the trail!'

Think of the bibliography/references page of a good source as a series of breadcrumbs that you can follow to find even more great material.

Evaluating sources

It is very important to be selective when choosing the final sources to include in your literature review. Below are some of the key questions to ask yourself:

  • If a source is tangentially interesting but hasn’t made any particular contribution to your topic, it probably shouldn’t be included in your literature review. You need to be able to demonstrate how it fits in with the other sources under consideration, and how it has helped shape the current state of the literature.
  • There might be a wealth of material available on your chosen subject, but you need to make sure that the sources you use are appropriate for your assignment. The safest approach to take is to use only academic work from respected publishers. However, on occasions, you might need to deviate from traditional academic literature in order to find the information you need. In many cases, the problem is not so much the sources you use, but how you use them. Where relevant, information from newspapers, websites and even blogs are often acceptable, but you should be careful how you use that information. Do not necessarily take any information as factual. Instead be critical and interpret the material in the context of your research. Consider who the writer is and how this might influence the authority and reliability of the information presented. Consult your supervisor for more specific guidance relating to your research.
  • The mere fact that something has been published does not automatically guarantee its quality, even if it comes from a reputable publisher. You will need to critique the content of the source. Has the author been thorough and consistent in their methodology? Do they present their thesis coherently? Most importantly, have they made a genuine contribution to the topic?

Keeping track of your sources

Once you have selected a source to use in your literature review, it is useful to make notes on all of its key features, including where it comes from, what it says, and what its main strengths and weaknesses are. This way you can easily re-familiarise yourself with a source without having to re-read it. Keeping an annotated bibliography is one way to do this.

Alternately, below is a table you can copy and fill out for each source (see the Word document to save an editable copy for yourself). Software such as EndNote also allows you to keep an electronic record of references and your comments on them.

  • Source evaluation table

Writing your literature review

As we explored in the 'Getting Started' tab, the literature review is both a process you follow and (in most cases) a written chapter you produce. Thus, having engaged the review process, you now need to do the writing itself. Please continue reading, or click a heading below to jump immediately to that section.

Guiding principles

The structure of the final piece will depend on the discipline within which you are working as well as the nature of your particular research project. However, here are a few general pieces of advice for writing a successful literature review:

  • Show the connections between your sources. Remember that your review should be more than merely a list of sources with brief descriptions under each one. You are constructing a narrative. Show clearly how each text has contributed to the current state of the literature, drawing connections between them.
  • Engage critically with your sources. This means not simply describing what they say. You should be evaluating their content: do they make sound arguments? Are there any flaws in the methodology? Are there any relevant themes or issues they have failed to address? You can also compare their relative strengths and weaknesses.
  • Signpost throughout to ensure your reader can follow your narrative.  Keep relating the discussion back to your specific research topic.
  • Make a clear argument. Keep in mind that this is a chance to present your take on a topic. Your literature review showcases your own informed interpretation of a specific area of research. If you have followed the advice given in this guide you will have been careful and selective in choosing your sources. You are in control of how you present them to your reader.

There are several different ways to structure the literature review chapter of your dissertation. Two of the most common strategies are thematic structure and chronological structure (the two of which can also be combined ). However you structure the literature review, this section of the dissertation normally culminates in identifying the research gap.

Thematic structure

Variations of this structure are followed in most literature reviews. In a thematic structure , you organise the literature into groupings by theme (i.e., subtopic or focus). You then arrange the groupings in the most logical order, starting with the broadest (or most general) and moving to the narrowest (or most specific).

The funnel or inverted pyramid

To plan a thematic structure structure, it helps to imagine your themes moving down a funnel or inverted pyramid  from broad to narrow. Consider the example depicted below, which responds to this research question:

What role did the iron rivets play in the sinking of the Titanic?

The topic of maritime disasters is the broadest theme, so it sits at the broad top of the funnel. The writer can establish some context about maritime disasters, generally, before narrowing to the Titanic, specifically. Next, the writer can narrow the discussion of the Titanic to the ship's structural integrity, specifically. Finally, the writer can narrow the discussion of structural integrity to the iron rivets, specifically. And voila: there's the research gap!

Funnel divided into layers. Layer 1: Research on maritime disasters. Layer 2: Research on the Titanic. Layer 3: Research on structural integrity of Titanic. Layer 4: Role of iron rivets in Titanic sinking. Layer 5: My research.

The broad-to-narrow structure is intuitive for readers. Thus, it is crucial to consider how your themes 'nest inside' one another, from the broad to the narrow. Picturing your themes as nesting dolls is another way to envision this literature review structure, as you can see in the image below.

Five nesting dolls labelled left to right: 1.1 Maritime disasters; 1.2 The Titanic; 1.3 Structural integrity; 1.4 Iron rivets; and 1.5 Research gap.

As with the funnel, remember that the first layer (or in this case, doll) is largest because it represents the broadest theme. In terms of word count and depth, the tinier dolls will warrant more attention because they are most closely related to the research gap or question(s).

The multi-funnel variation

The example above demonstrates a research project for which one major heading might suffice, in terms of outlining the literature review. However, the themes you identify for your dissertation might not relate to one another in such a linear fashion. If this is the case, you can adapt the funnel approach to match the number of major subheadings you will need.

In the three slides below, for example, a structure is depicted for a project that investigates this (fictional) dissertation research question: does gender influence the efficacy of teacher-led vs. family-led learning interventions for children with ADHD? Rather than nesting all the subtopics or themes in a direct line, the themes fall into three major headings.

The first major heading explores ADHD from clinical and diagnostic perspectives, narrowing ultimately to gender:

  • 1.1 ADHD intro
  • 1.2 ADHD definitions
  • 1.3 ADHD diagnostic criteria
  • 1.4 ADHD gender differences

The second major heading explores ADHD within the classroom environment, narrowing to intervention types:

  • 2.1 ADHD in educational contexts
  • 2.2 Learning interventions for ADHD
  • 2.2.1 Teacher-led interventions
  • 2.2.2 Family-led interventions

The final major heading articulates the research gap (gender differences in efficacy of teacher-led vs. family-led interventions for ADHD) by connecting the narrowest themes of the prior two sections.

Multi-funnel literature review structure by Academic Skills Service

To create a solid thematic structure in a literature review, the key is thinking carefully and critically about your groupings of literature and how they relate to one another. In some cases, your themes will fit in a single funnel. In other cases, it will make sense to group your broad-to-narrow themes under several major headings, and then arrange those major headings in the most logical order.

Chronological structure

Some literature reviews will follow a  chronological structure . As the name suggests, a review structured chronologically will arrange sources according to their publication dates, from earliest to most recent.

This approach can work well when your priority is to demonstrate how the research field has evolved over time. For example, a chronological arrangement of articles about artificial intelligence (AI) would allow the writer to highlight how breakthroughs in AI have built upon one another in sequential order.

A chronological structure can also suit literature reviews that need to capture how perceptions or understandings have developed across a period of time (including to the present day). For example, if your dissertation involves the public perception of marijuana in the UK, it  could  make sense to arrange that discussion chronologically to demonstrate key turning points and changes of majority thought.

The chronological structure can work well in some situations, such as those described above. That being said, a purely chronological structure should be considered with caution.  Organising sources according to date alone runs the risk of creating a fragmented reading experience. It can be more difficult in a chronological structure to properly synthesize the literature. For these reasons, the chronological approach is often blended into a thematic structure, as you will read more about, below.

Combined structures

The structures of literature reviews can vary drastically, and for any given dissertation there will be many valid ways to arrange the literature.

For example, many literature reviews will  combine  the thematic and chronological approaches in different ways. A writer might match their major headings to themes or subtopics, but then arrange literature chronologically within the major themes identified. Another writer might base their major headings on chronology, but then assign thematic subheadings to each of those major headings.

When considering your options, try to imagine your reader or audience. What 'flow' will allow them to best follow the discussion you are crafting? When you are reading articles, what structural approaches do you appreciate in terms of ease and clarity?

Identifying the gap

The bulk of your literature review will explore relevant points of development and scholarly thought in your research field: in other words, 'Here is what has been done so far, thus here is where the conversation now stands'. In that way, you position your project within a wider academic discussion.

Having established that context, the literature review generally culminates in an articulation of what remains to be done: the  research gap  your project addresses. See the next tab for further explanation and examples.

Demystifying the research gap

The term research gap   is intimidating for many students, who might mistakenly believe that every single element of their research needs to be brand new and fully innovative. This isn't the case!

The gap in many projects will be rather niche or specific. You might be helping to update or re-test knowledge rather than starting from scratch. Perhaps you have repeated a study but changed one variable. Maybe you are considering a much discussed research question, but with a lesser used methodological approach.

To demonstrate the wide variety of gaps a project could address, consider the examples below. The categories used and examples included are by no means comprehensive, but they should be helpful if you are struggling to articulate the gap your literature review has identified.

***P lease note that the content of the example statements has been invented for the sake of demonstration. The example statements should not be taken as expressions of factual information.

Gaps related to population or geography

Many dissertation research questions involve the study of a specific population. Those populations can be defined by nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, political beliefs, religion, health status, or other factors. Other research questions target a specific geography (e.g. a country, territory, city, or similar). Perhaps your broader research question has been pursued by many prior scholars, but few (or no) scholars have studied the question in relation to your focal population or locale: if so, that's a gap.

  • Example 1:  As established above, the correlations between [ socioeconomic status ] and sustainable fashion purchases have been widely researched. However, few studies have investigated the potential relationship between [ sexual identity ] and attitudes toward sustainable fashion. Therefore...
  • Example 2:  Whilst the existing literature has established a clear link between [ political beliefs ] and perceptions of socialized healthcare, the influence of [ religious belief ] is less understood, particularly in regards to [ Religion ABC ].
  • Example 3:  Available evidence confirms that the widespread adoption of Technology XYZ in [ North America ] has improved manufacturing efficiency and reduced costs in the automotive sector. Using predictive AI models, the present research seeks to explore whether deployment of Technology XYZ could benefit the automotive sector of [ Europe ] in similar ways.

Gaps related to theoretical framework

The original contribution might involve examining something through a new lens.  Theoretical framework  refers, most simply, to the theory or theories a writer will use to make sense of and shape (i.e., frame ) their discussion. Perhaps your topic has been analysed in great detail through certain theoretical lenses, but you intend to frame your analysis using a theory that fewer scholars have applied to the topic: if so, that's a gap.

  • Example 1:  Existing discussions of the ongoing revolution in Country XYZ frame the unrest in terms of [ theory A ] and [ theory B ]. The present research will instead analyse the situation using [ theory C ], allowing greater insight into...
  • Example 2:  In the first section of this literature review, I examined the [ postmodern ], [ Marxist ], and [ pragmatist ] analyses that dominate academic discussion of The World According to Garp.  By revisiting this modern classic through the lens of [ queer theory ], I intend to...

Gaps related to methodological approach

The research gap might be defined by differences of methodology (see our Writing the Methodology guide for more). Perhaps your dissertation poses a central question that other scholars have researched, but they have applied different methods to find the answer(s): if so, that's a gap.

  • Example 1:  Previous studies have relied largely upon the [ qualitative analysis of interview transcripts ] to measure the marketing efficacy of body-positive advertising campaigns. It is problematic that little quantitative data underpins present findings in this area. Therefore, I will address this research gap by [ using algorithm XYZ to quantify and analyse social-media interactions ] to determine whether...
  • Example 2: Via [ quantitative and mixed-methods studies ], previous literature has explored how demographic differences influence the probability of a successful match on Dating App XYZ. By instead [ conducting a content analysis of pre-match text interactions ] on Dating App XYZ, I will...

Scarcity as a gap

Absolutes such as never  and always  rarely apply in academia, but here is an exception: in academia, a single study or analysis is  never  enough. Thus, the gap you address needn't be a literal void in the discussion. The gap could instead have to do with  replicability  or  depth/scope.  In these cases, you are adding value and contributing to the academic process by testing emerging knowledge or expanding underdeveloped discussions.

  • Example:  Initial research points to the efficacy of Learning Strategy ABC in helping children with dyslexia build their reading confidence. However, as detailed earlier in this review, only four published studies have tested the intervention, and two of those studies were conducted in a laboratory. To expand our growing understanding of how Learning Strategy ABC functions in classroom environments, I will...

Elapsed time as a gap

Academia values up-to-date knowledge and findings, so another valid type of gap relates to elapsed time. Many factors that can influence or shape research findings are ever evolving: technology, popular culture, and political climates, to name just a few. Due to such changes, it's important for scholars in most fields to continually update findings. Perhaps your dissertation adds value by contributing to this process.

For example, imagine if a scholar today were to rely on a handbook of marketing principles published in 1998. As good as that research might have been in 1998, technology (namely, the internet) has advanced drastically since then. The handbook's discussion of online marketing strategies will be laughably outdated when compared to more recent literature.

  • Example:  A wide array of literature has explored the ways in which perceptions of gender influence professional recruitment practices in the UK. The bulk of said literature, however, was published prior to the #MeToo movement and resultant shifts in discourse around gender, power imbalances and professional advancement. Therefore...

What to avoid

This portion of the guide will cover some common missteps you should try to avoid in writing your literature review. Scroll to continue reading, or click a heading below to jump immediately to that section.

Writing up before you have read up

Trying to write your literature review before you have conducted adequate research is a recipe for panic and frustration. The literature review, more than any other chapter in your dissertation, depends upon your critical understanding of a range of relevant literature. If you have only dipped your toe into the pool of literature (rather than diving in!), you will naturally struggle to develop this section of the writing. Focus on developing your relevant bases of knowledge before you commit too much time to drafting.

Believing you need to read everything

As established above, a literature review does require a significant amount of reading. However, you aren't expected to review  everything ever written  about your topic. Instead, aim to develop a more strategic approach to your research. A strategic approach to research looks different from one project to the next, but here are some questions to help you prioritise:

  • If your field values up-to-date research and discoveries, carefully consider the 'how' and 'what' before investing time reading older sources: how will the source function in your dissertation, and what will it add to your writing?
  • Try to break your research question(s) down into component parts. Then, map out where your literature review will need to provide extensive detail and where it can instead present quicker background. Allocate your research time and effort accordingly. 

Omitting dissenting views or findings

While reviewing the literature, you might discover authors who disagree with your central argument or whose own findings contradict your hypothesis. Don't omit those sources: embrace them! Remember, the literature review aims to explore the academic dialogue around your topic: disagreements or conflicting findings are often part of that dialogue, and including them in your writing will create a sense of rich, critical engagement. In fact, highlighting any disagreements amongst scholars is a great way to emphasise the relevance of, and need for, your own research.

Miscalculating the scope

As shown in the funnel structure (see 'Structure' tab for more), a literature review often starts broadly and then narrows the dialogue as it progresses, ultimately bringing the reader to the dissertation's specific research topic (e.g. the funnel's narrowest point).

Within that structure, it's common for writers to miscalculate the scope required. They might open the literature review far too broadly, dedicating disproportionate space to developing background information or general theory; alternately, they might rush into the narrowest part of the discussion, failing to develop any sense of surrounding context or background, first.

It takes trial and error to determine the appropriate scope for your literature review. To help with this...

  • Imagine your literature review subtopics cascading down a stairwell,  as in the illustration below.
  • Place the broadest concepts on the highest steps, then narrow down to the most specific concepts on the lowest steps: the scope 'zooms in' as you move down the stairwell.
  • Now, consider which step is the most logical starting place for your readers. Do they need to start all the way at the top, or should you 'zoom in'?

Stairwell sloping down with topics written on steps, top to bottom: Feminism; feminist theories; feminist literary theory (FLT); FLT and horror; FLT and Stephen King; FLT and the Stand.

The illustration above shows a stairwell diagram of a dissertation that aims to analyse Stephen King's horror novel  The Stand  through the lens of a specific feminist literary theory.

  • If the literature review began on one of the bottom two steps, this would feel rushed and inadequate. The writer needs to explore and define the relevant theoretical lens before they discuss how it has been applied by other scholars.
  • If the literature review began on the very top step, this would feel comically broad in terms of scope: in this writing context, the reader doesn't require a detailed account of the entire history of feminism!

The third step, therefore, represents a promising starting point: not too narrow, not too broad.

The 'islands' structure

Above all else, a literature review needs to synthesize a range of sources   in a logical fashion. In this context, to  synthesize  means to bring together, connect, weave, and/or relate. A common mistake writers make is failing to conduct such synthesis, and instead discussing each source in isolation. This leads to a disconnected structure, with each source treated like its own little 'island'. The island approach works for very few projects.

Some writers end up with this island structure because they confuse the nature of the  literature review  with the nature of an annotated bibliography . The latter is a tool you can use to analyse and keep track of individual sources, and most annotated bibliographies will indeed be arranged in a source-by-source structure. That's fine for pre-writing and notetaking, but to structure the literature review, you need to think about connections and overlaps between sources rather than considering them as stand-alone works.

If you are struggling to forge connections between your sources, break down the process into tiny steps:

  • e.g. Air pollution from wood-burning stoves in homes.
  • e.g.  Bryant and Dao (2022) found that X% of small particle pollution in the United Kingdom can be attributed to the use of wood-burning stoves.
  • e.g.  A study by Williams (2023) reinforced those findings, indicating that small particle pollution has...
  • e.g.  However, Landers (2023) cautions that factor ABC and factor XYZ may contribute equally to poor air quality, suggesting that further research...

The above exercise is  not  meant to suggest that you can only write one sentence per source: you can write more than that, of course! The exercise is simply designed to help you start synthesizing the literature rather than giving each source the island treatment.

Q: I still don't get it - what's the point of a literature review?

A: Let's boil it down to three key points...

  • The literature review provides a platform for you, as a scholar, to demonstrate your understanding of how your research area has evolved. By engaging with seminal texts or the most up-to-date findings in your field, you can situate your own research within the relevant academic context(s) or conversation(s).
  • The literature review allows you to identify the research gap your project addresses: in other words, what you will add to discussions in your academic field.
  • Finally, the literature review justifies the reason for your research. By exploring existing literature, you can highlight the relevance and purpose of your own research.

Q: What if I don't have a gap?

A:  It's normal to struggle with identifying a research gap. This can be particularly true if you are working in a highly saturated research area, broadly speaking: for example, if you are studying the links between nutrition and diabetes, or if you are studying Shakespeare.

Library catalog keyword search for 'diabetes' and 'nutrition', showing about 101,000 results.

The 'What to Avoid' tab explained that  miscalculating the scope  is a common mistake in literature reviews. If you are struggling to identify your gap, scope might be the culprit, particularly if you are working in a saturated field. Remember that the gap is the narrowest part of the funnel, the smallest nesting doll, the lowest step: this means your contribution in that giant academic conversation will need to be quite 'zoomed in':

This is not a valid gap →  Analysing Shakespeare's sonnets.

This might be a valid gap →  Conducting an ecocritical analysis of the visual motifs of Shakespeare's final five procreation sonnets (e.g. sonnets number thirteen to seventeen).

In the above example, the revised attempt to articulate a gap 'zooms in' by identifying a particular theoretical lens (e.g. ecocriticism), a specific convention to analyse (e.g. use of visual motifs), and a narrower object (e.g. five sonnets rather than all 150+). The field of Shakespeare studies might be crowded, but there is nonetheless room to make an original contribution.

Conversely, it might be difficult to identify the gap if you are working not in a saturated field, but in a brand new or niche research area. How can you situate your work within a relevant academic conversation if it seems like the 'conversation' is just you talking to yourself?

Library catalog keyword search for 'hippogriffs' and 'anatomy' showing only 2 search results.

In these cases, rather than 'zooming in', you might find it helpful to 'zoom out'. If your topic is niche, think creatively about who will be interested in your results. Who would benefit from understanding your findings? Who could potentially apply them or build upon them? Thinking of this in interdisciplinary terms is helpful for some projects.

Tip:  Venn diagrams and mind maps are great ways to explore how  your research connects to, and diverges from, the existing literature.

Q: How many references should I use in my literature review?

A:  This question is risky to answer because the variations between individual projects and disciplines make it impossible to provide a universal answer. The fact is that one dissertation might have 50 more references than another, yet the two projects could be equally rigorous and successful in fulfilling their research aims.

With that warning in mind, let's consider a 'standard' dissertation of around 10K words. In that context, referencing 30 to 40 sources in your literature review tends to work well. Again, this is  not  a universally accurate rule, but a ballpark figure for you to contemplate. If the 30 to 40 estimate seems frighteningly high to you, do remember that many sources will be used sparingly rather than being mulled over at length. Consider this example:

In British GP practices, pharmaceutical treatment is most often prescribed for Health Condition XYZ ( Carlos, 2019; Jones, 2020 ; Li, 2022 ). Lifestyle modifications, such as physical exercise or meditation practices, have only recently...

When writing critically, it's important to validate findings across studies rather than trusting only one source. Therefore, this writer has cited three recent studies that agree about the claim being made. The writer will delve into other sources at more length, but here, it makes sense to cite the literature and move quickly along.

As you search the databases and start following the relevant trails of 'research bread crumbs', you will be surprised how quickly your reference list grows.

Q: What if there isn't enough relevant literature on my topic?

A: Think creatively about the literature you are using and engaging with. A good start is panning out to consider your topic more broadly: you might not identify articles that discuss your  exact  topic, but what can you discover if you shift your focus up one level?

Imagine, for example, that Norah is researching how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to provide dance instruction. She discovers that no one has written about this topic. Rather than panicking, she breaks down her research question into its component parts to consider what research  might  exist.

  • First, dance instruction: literature on how dance has traditionally been taught (i.e., not with AI) is still relevant because it will provide background and context. To appreciate the challenges or opportunities that transition to AI instruction might bring, we need to understand the status quo. Norah might also search for articles that analyse how other technological shifts have affected dance instruction: for example, how YouTube popularized at-home dance study, or how live video services like Zoom enabled real-time interaction between dance pupils and teachers despite physical distance.
  • Next, artificial intelligence used for instruction: Norah can seek out research on, and examples of, the application of AI for instructive purposes. Even if those purposes don't involve dance, such literature can contribute to illustrating the broader context around Norah's project.
  • Could it be relevant to discuss the technologies used to track an actor's real-life movements and convert them into the motions of a video game character? Perhaps there are parallels!
  • Could it be relevant to explore research on applications of AI in creative writing and visual art? Could be relevant since dance is also a creative field!

In summary, don't panic if you can't find research on your  exact  question or topic. Think through the broader context and parallel ideas, and you will soon find what you need.

Q: What if my discipline doesn't require a literature review chapter?

A: This is a great question. Whilst many disciplines dictate that your dissertation should include a chapter called Literature Review , not all subjects follow this convention. Those subjects will still expect you to incorporate a range of external literature, but you will nest the sources under different headings.

For example, some disciplines dictate an introductory chapter that is longer than average, and you essentially nest a miniature literature review inside the introduction, itself. Although the writing is more condensed and falls under a subheading of the introduction, the techniques and principles of writing a literature review (for example, moving from the broad to the narrow) will still prove relevant.

Some disciplines include chapters with names like Background , History , Theoretical Framework , etc. The exact functions of such chapters differ, but they have this in common: reviewing literature. You can't provide a critical background or history without synthesizing external sources. To illustrate your theoretical framework, you need to synthesize a range of literature that defines the theory or theories you intend to use.

Therefore, as stated earlier in this guide, you should be prepared to review and synthesize a range of literature regardless of your discipline. You can tailor the purpose of that synthesis to the structure and demands of writing in your subject area.

Q: Does my literature review need to include every source I plan to use in my discussion chapter?

A: The short answer is 'no' - there are some situations in which it is okay to use a source in your discussion chapter that you didn't integrate into your literature review chapter.

Imagine, for example, that your study produced a surprising result: a finding that you didn't anticipate. To make sense of that result, you might need to conduct additional research. That new research will help you explain the unexpected result in your discussion chapter.

More often, however, your discussion will  draw on, or return to, sources from your literature review. After all, the literature review is where you paint a detailed picture of the conversation surrounding your research topic. Thus, it makes sense for you to relate your own work to that conversation in the discussion.

The literature review provides you an opportunity to engage with a rich range of published work and, perhaps for the first time, critically consider how your own research fits within and responds to your academic community. This can be a very invigorating process!

At the same time, it's likely that you will be juggling more academic sources than you have ever used in a single writing project. Additionally, you will need to think strategically about the focus and scope of your work: figuring out the best structure for your literature review might require several rounds of re-drafting and significant edits.

If you are usually a 'dive in without a plan and just get drafting' kind of writer, be prepared to modify your approach if you start to feel overwhelmed. Mind mapping, organising your ideas on a marker board, or creating a bullet-pointed reverse outline can help if you start to feel lost.

Alternately, if you are usually a 'create a strict, detailed outline and stick to it at all costs' kind of writer, keep in mind that long-form writing often calls for writers to modify their plans for content and structure as their work progresses and evolves. It can help such writers to schedule periodic 'audits' of their outlines, with the aim being to assess what is still working and what else needs to be added, deleted or modified.

Here’s a final checklist for writing your literature review. Remember that not all of these points will be relevant for your literature review, so make sure you cover whatever’s appropriate for your dissertation. The asterisk (*) indicates any content that might not be relevant for your dissertation. You can save your own copy of the checklist to edit using the Word document, below.

  • Literature review self-evaluation checklist

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Literature Review

  • Starting the literature review
  • Sources and strategy
  • Writing the review
  • Examples of dissertations
  • Helpful guides

write my literature review uk

Not just a list  A literature review is more than just a list of sources. 

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Introduction

word cloud

A literature review is usually part of the process of writing a final year project, dissertation or long essay.  It can also be set and assessed as a standalone assignment.  

Students in the health sciences, maybe required to conduct a  systematic review , which is not covered in this guide.

Why write a literature review?

A literature review is important, as it provides an overview and an analytical analysis of what is known about a particular topic.  It establishes and identifies:

  • An understanding and knowledge of a topic.
  • The current research in this area.
  • Gaps in the literature that helps justify your research.
  • The context for your research and illustrates how it relates to the wider research landscape in this area.
  • The key authors writing in this field.

Developing a topic

Before you start, some faculties at USW assign topics to students and some allow students to pick their own area of interest.  If you have not been assigned a topic, you will need to come up with an idea yourself.

Choosing a topic It is worth taking account the following:

It takes time to perform a literature review. Choosing a topic that interests you will help with the research process and make it easier to maintain a long term focus on the subject.

Is your project viable. Part of the purpose of the literature review is to assess if there is enough relevant and current material available. If there is not enough information available on your topic you may need to broaden it out.

  • New topics may have limited resources.  You may want to focus on a new developing aspect of a subject or area of research, but you still need to make sure there is enough information available.

Expressing your topic as a question Once you have chosen this area of interest, you then need to reframe that as a question.

Examples Broad Topic: Film adaptation Additional topic:  William Shakespeare Narrower focus: Film adaptation and William Shakespeare Research Question: How has Shakespearean drama been adapted in film?

Broad Topic: Fashion industry Additional topic:  Streetwear Narrower Topic: Fashion industry and streetwear Research Question: What influence has streetwear had on the fashion industry in the 21 century?

Remember your topic / research question isn't set in stone in the early stages. As you gather the information and review it, you can use what you learn to adapt and refine your topic / research question.

How to approach the literature review

One way to approach a literature review is to start out broad and then become more specific . Think of it as an inverted triangle , or a funnel .

Using the funnel comparison, find: 

  • The background information to your topic. This will identify the broader issues and research related to your topic and help you orient it, in the wider subject context.
  • Narrow down your focus and identify the research that is closer to your area of research.
  • Focus on specific  research that is directly related to your topic.

Funnel approach to literature reviews 

Go broad  start by looking at the broader issues around your project. look at works that give a general overview of your topic and put it into the context of the bigger research landscape ..

This will show an awareness of the breadth of your subject.

Narrow down Then try and focus your research on issues that are more related to your topic.

Focus on the specific look at the most relevant research that relates to your topic and spend more time discussing these key studies that are directly related to your research.  .

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  • Last Updated: Jan 26, 2024 2:07 PM
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Writing A Literature Review – Step-By-Step Guide

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What Is A Literature Review?

A literature review examines published studies done by scholars on a particular topic. It gives an overview of available and published information.

A literature review should be formatted similarly to any essay, with an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion.

Introduction

  • Briefly describe the topic you have chosen.
  • Establish an argument
  • Identify the research gaps
  • Discuss the relevant studies published by scholars
  • Link your selected issue to the larger subject area
  • Sum up the research you have done in favour of your topic
  • Summarise the key points
  • Evaluate the examined data
  • Connect your findings to the collected information

Types Of Literature Review

There are several types of literature reviews, and they can be written in many distinct styles. These may differ in how the initial research is evaluated and the literature review is arranged.

Narrative Literature Review

A narrative literature review criticise and summaries an existing body of literature. A narrative review makes judgments about the issue and exposes gaps or contradictions in the existing literature.

Systematic Literature Review

A more rigorous and well-defined technique is required for a systematic literature review . It is comprehensive and describes the era for which the information was selected. A systematic literature review can be further divided into two categories.

  • Meta-analysis
  • Meta-synthesis

Meta-analysis is the process of analysing the findings of multiple research published on the same issue using recognised statistical procedures.

While meta-synthesis is based on non-statistical processes. The data from many qualitative research studies are combined, analysed, and interpreted using this approach.

Literature Review Vs Systematic Review

The difference between literature review and systematic review is that a literature review provides an overview of existing research on a specific topic. It summarises and synthesises relevant studies. In comparison, a systematic review follows a structured methodology as it gathers, evaluates, and analyses literature . It aims for an unbiased and rigorous assessment of evidence.

Scoping Literature Review

A scoping literature review determines the scope or the span of existing literature in a particular field of research. The key difference between scoping and systematic reviews is that systematic reviews address more specific research questions, while scoping reviews are undertaken to evaluate more broad research topics.

Argumentative Literature Review

To write an argumentative literature review , you will need to study material selectively to support or disprove a previously established argument, presumptions, or research gaps in the literature.

Integrative Literature Review

An integrative literature review examines, evaluates, and synthesises secondary material on the topic in order to provide new dimensions and perspectives on the subject.

Theoretical Literature Reviews

Theoretical literature reviews focus on knowledge accumulated on a specific topic or area of study. Theoretical literature reviews aid in determining what ideas are already available, their connections, the amount to which existing theories have been explored, and developing new ideas.

Rapid Review

Rapid review help with time-sensitive decision-making. Some phases in traditional systematic review processes are eliminated or changed. They are basically carried out to quickly obtain information on a topic to support your argument.

Umbrella Review

Umbrella reviews gather reviews that answer several questions on a common theme. These reviews find, compare, and analyse the results and conclusions of existing literature. Umbrella reviews are developed to give you a better understanding of a vast area of research in a limited time.

Also read: Dissertation writing guidelines , How to write dissertation introduction

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Steps To Complete The Literature Review

No matter what type of Literature review you have to complete for your academic purpose, the process to get over it remains the same. Below are 5 simple steps to successfully complete your literature review:

  • Collect relevant data
  • Evaluate the collected data
  • Work out themes, arguments, and research gaps
  • Prepare an outline
  • Start writing the Literature review.

A professional literature review researches , analyses, and critically evaluates sources in order to present a complete picture of the studies available on the subject.

Step 1. Collect Relevant Data

Before you start collecting data, you need a well-researched and well-defined topic. Collect the data based on your research questions and aims of research if you are writing the literature review for your dissertation. This means that you should have a clear search strategy for literature review . If you still have not decided on the topic, you can review our database for thousands of free dissertation topics in every field of research.

Make a list of keywords and their synonyms relevant to your topic/ research questions to help collect the data quickly. Before you add any of the article/ paper or journal to your sources, read the abstract to make sure they are related to your scope of research and check the bibliography for more related literature.

If you are unfamiliar with where to search for literature , here are some very useful sources:

  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse

Step 2: Evaluate the Collected Data

You will not be able to read through all the articles and publications you have collected for your literature review. Evaluating sources that are more relevant to your topic will save time and the effort it will take to skim through all the articles.

To check which article is more relevant, review the problem the author of the article is addressing, and check the key concepts and their definitions provided by the author. Check if the author has raised a new concern or addressed the already existing research gap. Going through the results and conclusions of the study will also help in determining the article’s relevance to your field of study and its strengths and weaknesses.

Making notes as you read through will help you incorporate these into your writing easily and will help you remember what you have read, which will contribute to time management.

Notice that a literature review follows similar steps as a critically appraised topic when analysing and summarising existing information.

Step 3: Work Out Themes, Arguments, And Research Gaps

Develop a connection between the sources you have gathered by reading and making notes. A clear understanding of it will help you build up your argument, decide on a theme and identify the gaps in the literature that you can fill in your research.

This will also help you structure your literature review in the best manner.

Step 4: Prepare An Outline

Depending on the length of your literature review, you can adopt one or a combination of several different strategies to prepare an outline for your literature review. For example, you can discuss each theme chronically for a thematic literature review.

Step 5: Start Writing the Literature Review

As we discussed in the beginning, your literature review comprises 3 major steps, including the introduction, the main body and the conclusion. What you write in each part depends on the topic of your research.

The introduction part of your literature review should give a clear and concise image of the following part and what you aim to achieve in it. The main body can be divided into subsections depending on the length of your literature review. You can use subheadings for each theme, era and methodological approach that you are about to discuss in it. In the conclusion section, you should summarise your key findings and provide insight into the significance of your research.

Make sure that your conclusion gives a clear message to the reader that your research addresses the gaps in the literature and contributes to the topic significantly, and discuss how you built a framework for your study by drawing on existing ideas and methodologies.

Literature Review Example

The effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy for depression.

Numerous studies have investigated the effectiveness of CBT for depression, and overall, the results have been positive. A meta-analysis by Cuijpers et al. (2013) found that CBT was more effective than other psychotherapy and medication for treating depression. The authors concluded that CBT should be the first-line treatment for depression.

Other studies have also shown promising results for CBT. A randomised controlled trial by Beck et al. (1979) found that CBT was more effective than a placebo for reducing symptoms of depression. Another randomised controlled trial by DeRubeis et al. (2005) found that CBT was equally effective as medication for treating severe depression. However, some studies suggest that CBT may not be effective for everyone.

A study by Elkin et al. (1989) found that CBT was less effective for individuals with more severe depression. Additionally, a review by Hofmann et al. (2012) found that CBT may not be as effective for older adults or individuals with comorbidities.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should be the length of the literature review for phd dissertation.

The literature review is normally one chapter (8-10,000 words) in a PhD thesis, roughly 2-3,000 words in a Masters dissertation, and no more than 2,000 words in an undergraduate dissertation.

Can EssaysUK write the literature review for my PhD dissertation?

We have several PhD qualified experts with over 5 years of experience in the field who can help you with your literature review for any academic level.

How long will it take to deliver my literature review?

With a guarantee of never missing a deadline, we will deliver your literature review on or before the deadline specified by you.

What is a literature review?

A literature review is a critical summary and analysis of existing research and scholarly works on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, identifies gaps, and highlights key findings, helping researchers understand the context and contribute to the existing body of literature in their field.

How to write a literature review?

  • Define the scope and purpose.
  • Conduct a comprehensive literature search.
  • Organize sources thematically.
  • Summarize key findings.
  • Analyze and critique methodologies.
  • Identify gaps and research questions.
  • Synthesize information coherently.

What is a literature review in research?

A literature review in research is a comprehensive examination and synthesis of existing scholarly works and studies relevant to a specific research topic. It serves to establish the context, identify gaps, and inform the development of new research by building on existing knowledge.

What is a preliminary literature review?

A preliminary literature review is an early exploration and evaluation of existing research on a chosen topic. It helps researchers identify key themes, gaps, and potential research questions before conducting an in-depth and comprehensive literature review for a study.

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How To Structure Your Literature Review

3 options to help structure your chapter.

By: Amy Rommelspacher (PhD) | Reviewer: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | November 2020 (Updated May 2023)

Writing the literature review chapter can seem pretty daunting when you’re piecing together your dissertation or thesis. As  we’ve discussed before , a good literature review needs to achieve a few very important objectives – it should:

  • Demonstrate your knowledge of the research topic
  • Identify the gaps in the literature and show how your research links to these
  • Provide the foundation for your conceptual framework (if you have one)
  • Inform your own  methodology and research design

To achieve this, your literature review needs a well-thought-out structure . Get the structure of your literature review chapter wrong and you’ll struggle to achieve these objectives. Don’t worry though – in this post, we’ll look at how to structure your literature review for maximum impact (and marks!).

The function of the lit review

But wait – is this the right time?

Deciding on the structure of your literature review should come towards the end of the literature review process – after you have collected and digested the literature, but before you start writing the chapter. 

In other words, you need to first develop a rich understanding of the literature before you even attempt to map out a structure. There’s no use trying to develop a structure before you’ve fully wrapped your head around the existing research.

Equally importantly, you need to have a structure in place before you start writing , or your literature review will most likely end up a rambling, disjointed mess. 

Importantly, don’t feel that once you’ve defined a structure you can’t iterate on it. It’s perfectly natural to adjust as you engage in the writing process. As we’ve discussed before , writing is a way of developing your thinking, so it’s quite common for your thinking to change – and therefore, for your chapter structure to change – as you write. 

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Like any other chapter in your thesis or dissertation, your literature review needs to have a clear, logical structure. At a minimum, it should have three essential components – an  introduction , a  body   and a  conclusion . 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

1: The Introduction Section

Just like any good introduction, the introduction section of your literature review should introduce the purpose and layout (organisation) of the chapter. In other words, your introduction needs to give the reader a taste of what’s to come, and how you’re going to lay that out. Essentially, you should provide the reader with a high-level roadmap of your chapter to give them a taste of the journey that lies ahead.

Here’s an example of the layout visualised in a literature review introduction:

Example of literature review outline structure

Your introduction should also outline your topic (including any tricky terminology or jargon) and provide an explanation of the scope of your literature review – in other words, what you  will   and  won’t   be covering (the delimitations ). This helps ringfence your review and achieve a clear focus . The clearer and narrower your focus, the deeper you can dive into the topic (which is typically where the magic lies). 

Depending on the nature of your project, you could also present your stance or point of view at this stage. In other words, after grappling with the literature you’ll have an opinion about what the trends and concerns are in the field as well as what’s lacking. The introduction section can then present these ideas so that it is clear to examiners that you’re aware of how your research connects with existing knowledge .

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2: The Body Section

The body of your literature review is the centre of your work. This is where you’ll present, analyse, evaluate and synthesise the existing research. In other words, this is where you’re going to earn (or lose) the most marks. Therefore, it’s important to carefully think about how you will organise your discussion to present it in a clear way. 

The body of your literature review should do just as the description of this chapter suggests. It should “review” the literature – in other words, identify, analyse, and synthesise it. So, when thinking about structuring your literature review, you need to think about which structural approach will provide the best “review” for your specific type of research and objectives (we’ll get to this shortly).

There are (broadly speaking)  three options  for organising your literature review.

The body section of your literature review is the where you'll present, analyse, evaluate and synthesise the existing research.

Option 1: Chronological (according to date)

Organising the literature chronologically is one of the simplest ways to structure your literature review. You start with what was published first and work your way through the literature until you reach the work published most recently. Pretty straightforward.

The benefit of this option is that it makes it easy to discuss the developments and debates in the field as they emerged over time. Organising your literature chronologically also allows you to highlight how specific articles or pieces of work might have changed the course of the field – in other words, which research has had the most impact . Therefore, this approach is very useful when your research is aimed at understanding how the topic has unfolded over time and is often used by scholars in the field of history. That said, this approach can be utilised by anyone that wants to explore change over time .

Adopting the chronological structure allows you to discuss the developments and debates in the field as they emerged over time.

For example , if a student of politics is investigating how the understanding of democracy has evolved over time, they could use the chronological approach to provide a narrative that demonstrates how this understanding has changed through the ages.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you structure your literature review chronologically.

  • What is the earliest literature published relating to this topic?
  • How has the field changed over time? Why?
  • What are the most recent discoveries/theories?

In some ways, chronology plays a part whichever way you decide to structure your literature review, because you will always, to a certain extent, be analysing how the literature has developed. However, with the chronological approach, the emphasis is very firmly on how the discussion has evolved over time , as opposed to how all the literature links together (which we’ll discuss next ).

Option 2: Thematic (grouped by theme)

The thematic approach to structuring a literature review means organising your literature by theme or category – for example, by independent variables (i.e. factors that have an impact on a specific outcome).

As you’ve been collecting and synthesising literature , you’ll likely have started seeing some themes or patterns emerging. You can then use these themes or patterns as a structure for your body discussion. The thematic approach is the most common approach and is useful for structuring literature reviews in most fields.

For example, if you were researching which factors contributed towards people trusting an organisation, you might find themes such as consumers’ perceptions of an organisation’s competence, benevolence and integrity. Structuring your literature review thematically would mean structuring your literature review’s body section to discuss each of these themes, one section at a time.

The thematic structure allows you to organise your literature by theme or category  – e.g. by independent variables.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when structuring your literature review by themes:

  • Are there any patterns that have come to light in the literature?
  • What are the central themes and categories used by the researchers?
  • Do I have enough evidence of these themes?

PS – you can see an example of a thematically structured literature review in our literature review sample walkthrough video here.

Option 3: Methodological

The methodological option is a way of structuring your literature review by the research methodologies used . In other words, organising your discussion based on the angle from which each piece of research was approached – for example, qualitative , quantitative or mixed  methodologies.

Structuring your literature review by methodology can be useful if you are drawing research from a variety of disciplines and are critiquing different methodologies. The point of this approach is to question  how  existing research has been conducted, as opposed to  what  the conclusions and/or findings the research were.

The methodological structure allows you to organise your chapter by the analysis method  used - e.g. qual, quant or mixed.

For example, a sociologist might centre their research around critiquing specific fieldwork practices. Their literature review will then be a summary of the fieldwork methodologies used by different studies.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when structuring your literature review according to methodology:

  • Which methodologies have been utilised in this field?
  • Which methodology is the most popular (and why)?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the various methodologies?
  • How can the existing methodologies inform my own methodology?

3: The Conclusion Section

Once you’ve completed the body section of your literature review using one of the structural approaches we discussed above, you’ll need to “wrap up” your literature review and pull all the pieces together to set the direction for the rest of your dissertation or thesis.

The conclusion is where you’ll present the key findings of your literature review. In this section, you should emphasise the research that is especially important to your research questions and highlight the gaps that exist in the literature. Based on this, you need to make it clear what you will add to the literature – in other words, justify your own research by showing how it will help fill one or more of the gaps you just identified.

Last but not least, if it’s your intention to develop a conceptual framework for your dissertation or thesis, the conclusion section is a good place to present this.

In the conclusion section, you’ll need to present the key findings of your literature review and highlight the gaps that exist in the literature. Based on this, you'll  need to make it clear what your study will add  to the literature.

Example: Thematically Structured Review

In the video below, we unpack a literature review chapter so that you can see an example of a thematically structure review in practice.

Let’s Recap

In this article, we’ve  discussed how to structure your literature review for maximum impact. Here’s a quick recap of what  you need to keep in mind when deciding on your literature review structure:

  • Just like other chapters, your literature review needs a clear introduction , body and conclusion .
  • The introduction section should provide an overview of what you will discuss in your literature review.
  • The body section of your literature review can be organised by chronology , theme or methodology . The right structural approach depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your research.
  • The conclusion section should draw together the key findings of your literature review and link them to your research questions.

If you’re ready to get started, be sure to download our free literature review template to fast-track your chapter outline.

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27 Comments

Marin

Great work. This is exactly what I was looking for and helps a lot together with your previous post on literature review. One last thing is missing: a link to a great literature chapter of an journal article (maybe with comments of the different sections in this review chapter). Do you know any great literature review chapters?

ISHAYA JEREMIAH AYOCK

I agree with you Marin… A great piece

Qaiser

I agree with Marin. This would be quite helpful if you annotate a nicely structured literature from previously published research articles.

Maurice Kagwi

Awesome article for my research.

Ache Roland Ndifor

I thank you immensely for this wonderful guide

Malik Imtiaz Ahmad

It is indeed thought and supportive work for the futurist researcher and students

Franklin Zon

Very educative and good time to get guide. Thank you

Dozie

Great work, very insightful. Thank you.

KAWU ALHASSAN

Thanks for this wonderful presentation. My question is that do I put all the variables into a single conceptual framework or each hypothesis will have it own conceptual framework?

CYRUS ODUAH

Thank you very much, very helpful

Michael Sanya Oluyede

This is very educative and precise . Thank you very much for dropping this kind of write up .

Karla Buchanan

Pheeww, so damn helpful, thank you for this informative piece.

Enang Lazarus

I’m doing a research project topic ; stool analysis for parasitic worm (enteric) worm, how do I structure it, thanks.

Biswadeb Dasgupta

comprehensive explanation. Help us by pasting the URL of some good “literature review” for better understanding.

Vik

great piece. thanks for the awesome explanation. it is really worth sharing. I have a little question, if anyone can help me out, which of the options in the body of literature can be best fit if you are writing an architectural thesis that deals with design?

S Dlamini

I am doing a research on nanofluids how can l structure it?

PATRICK MACKARNESS

Beautifully clear.nThank you!

Lucid! Thankyou!

Abraham

Brilliant work, well understood, many thanks

Nour

I like how this was so clear with simple language 😊😊 thank you so much 😊 for these information 😊

Lindiey

Insightful. I was struggling to come up with a sensible literature review but this has been really helpful. Thank you!

NAGARAJU K

You have given thought-provoking information about the review of the literature.

Vakaloloma

Thank you. It has made my own research better and to impart your work to students I teach

Alphonse NSHIMIYIMANA

I learnt a lot from this teaching. It’s a great piece.

Resa

I am doing research on EFL teacher motivation for his/her job. How Can I structure it? Is there any detailed template, additional to this?

Gerald Gormanous

You are so cool! I do not think I’ve read through something like this before. So nice to find somebody with some genuine thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This site is one thing that is required on the internet, someone with a little originality!

kan

I’m asked to do conceptual, theoretical and empirical literature, and i just don’t know how to structure it

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Literature Reviews

  • Getting started

What is a literature review?

Why conduct a literature review, stages of a literature review, lit reviews: an overview (video), check out these books.

  • Types of reviews
  • 1. Define your research question
  • 2. Plan your search
  • 3. Search the literature
  • 4. Organize your results
  • 5. Synthesize your findings
  • 6. Write the review
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write my literature review uk

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write my literature review uk

Definition: A literature review is a systematic examination and synthesis of existing scholarly research on a specific topic or subject.

Purpose: It serves to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge within a particular field.

Analysis: Involves critically evaluating and summarizing key findings, methodologies, and debates found in academic literature.

Identifying Gaps: Aims to pinpoint areas where there is a lack of research or unresolved questions, highlighting opportunities for further investigation.

Contextualization: Enables researchers to understand how their work fits into the broader academic conversation and contributes to the existing body of knowledge.

write my literature review uk

tl;dr  A literature review critically examines and synthesizes existing scholarly research and publications on a specific topic to provide a comprehensive understanding of the current state of knowledge in the field.

What is a literature review NOT?

❌ An annotated bibliography

❌ Original research

❌ A summary

❌ Something to be conducted at the end of your research

❌ An opinion piece

❌ A chronological compilation of studies

The reason for conducting a literature review is to:

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Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students

While this 9-minute video from NCSU is geared toward graduate students, it is useful for anyone conducting a literature review.

write my literature review uk

Writing the literature review: A practical guide

Available 3rd floor of Perkins

write my literature review uk

Writing literature reviews: A guide for students of the social and behavioral sciences

Available online!

write my literature review uk

So, you have to write a literature review: A guided workbook for engineers

write my literature review uk

Telling a research story: Writing a literature review

write my literature review uk

The literature review: Six steps to success

write my literature review uk

Systematic approaches to a successful literature review

Request from Duke Medical Center Library

write my literature review uk

Doing a systematic review: A student's guide

  • Next: Types of reviews >>
  • Last Updated: Feb 15, 2024 1:45 PM
  • URL: https://guides.library.duke.edu/lit-reviews

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IMAGES

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VIDEO

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  2. Part 2 Writing the Review of Literature

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  6. 10 Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review

COMMENTS

  1. What is a Literature Review?

    There are five key steps to writing a literature review: Search for relevant literature Evaluate sources Identify themes, debates and gaps Outline the structure Write your literature review

  2. Literature review

    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.

  3. Literature Review Help in UK

    Our service is rated 5 based on 455 votes. Order literature review! Do You Need Help Writing a Literature Review? Have you suddenly realised that deadline you shrugged off as miles away has crept up on you unnoticed?

  4. Writing 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.

  5. Literature reviews

    Reviewing the literature is a process of comparing and contrasting the existing work in the field to show any gaps in the research that your research question may fill. Sometimes literature reviews are set as stand-alone assignments, and sometimes they are part of doing the research for a longer project or dissertation.

  6. Starting your literature review

    A literature review is a select analysis of existing research which is relevant to your topic, showing how it relates to your investigation. It explains and justifies how your investigation may help answer some of the questions or gaps in this area of research.

  7. PDF Writing an Effective Literature Review

    23 INTRODUCTION Whatever stage you are at in your academic life, you will have to review the literature and write about it. You will be asked to do this as a student when you write essays, dissertations and theses. Later, whenever you write an academic paper, there will usually be some element of literature review in the introduction.

  8. Undertaking your literature review

    Structuring your reading If you have thought about the areas you need to research and have conducted some searches for literature, you should be ready to set down some draft topic headings to structure your literature review. Select one of your headings and choose a few key texts to read first - three is ideal to start with.

  9. How to Write a Literature Review

    Step 1 - Search for relevant literature Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure Step 5 - Write your literature review Free lecture slides Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions Introduction Quick Run-through Step 1 & 2 Step 3 Step 4 Step 5

  10. What is a literature review?

    A literature review is a search and evaluation of the available literature in your given subject or chosen topic area. It documents the state of the art with respect to the subject or topic you are writing about. A literature review has four main objectives: It surveys the literature in your chosen area of study.

  11. Postgraduate study skills: Conducting a literature review

    The structure of the literature review depends on the aims and purpose of your work. Generally, you should group together your work in key themes, with each one explicitly linked to your research topic. Beginning a literature review can be a bit overwhelming. The best place to start is with your textbooks and the key academics referred to ...

  12. PDF How To Write A Literature Review

    Stage 1 - Thinking Of Ideas. Brainstorm and source key literature in your area(s) — Books, papers, articles and so on written by key authors in the field — Policy and guidance documents. Some initial starting points: — Abstracts. — Course bibliographies in your module handbooks. — List of references in textbooks, articles and so on.

  13. Writing the Review

    Writing a literature review. Writing an effective literature review is difficult, time consuming and may require many drafts. The first draft should set set the context for your research. Throughout your study you may have to keep up to date with developments in the field and then latterly your final draft will involve you relating your ...

  14. Literature Review Writing Services

    100% Plagiarism free Fully referenced Never resold 100% matching the brief Delivered by your deadline Free amendments All writers have a minimum of a UK 2:1 degree

  15. How To Write A Literature Review (+ Free Template)

    Understanding the " why " Finding the relevant literature Cataloguing and synthesising the information Outlining & writing up your literature review Example of a literature review Recap But first, the "why"… Before we unpack how to write the literature review chapter, we've got to look at the why.

  16. Literature Review

    How to write your literature review This engaging guide by bestselling author Bryan Greetham takes students step-by-step through the process of writing a literature review, and equips them with practical strategies to help them navigate each stage.

  17. The Literature Review

    Guide contents. As part of the Writing the Dissertation series, this guide covers the most common expectations for the literature review chapter, giving you the necessary knowledge, tips and guidance needed to impress your markers! The sections are organised as follows: Getting Started - Defines the literature review and presents a table to help you plan.

  18. Starting the literature review

    A literature review is usually part of the process of writing a final year project, dissertation or long essay. It can also be set and assessed as a standalone assignment. Students in the health sciences, maybe required to conduct a systematic review, which is not covered in this guide. Why write a literature review?

  19. Literature reviews

    What are literature reviews?* How to conduct a literature review Writing your literature review* Breaking down the assignment* Organising the review* Six steps to success Introducing work* Transition words/phrases* Grammar and punctuation* Academic writing style* Please Note - External Content External content is marked with an asterisk *.

  20. Writing A Literature Review

    Below are 5 simple steps to successfully complete your literature review: Collect relevant data. Evaluate the collected data. Work out themes, arguments, and research gaps. Prepare an outline. Start writing the Literature review. A professional literature review researches, analyses, and critically evaluates sources in order to present a ...

  21. How To Structure A Literature Review (Free Template)

    Demonstrate your knowledge of the research topic. Identify the gaps in the literature and show how your research links to these. Provide the foundation for your conceptual framework (if you have one) Inform your own methodology and research design. To achieve this, your literature review needs a well-thought-out structure.

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    Literature Review Writing Service for UK Students. Our writers are here to write an outstanding literature review according to your specific requirements. Place an order. 1000+ Writers Available. Starting at £10.49. Customer Reviews 4.8/5. Place your first order with statefirst20 code to get 20% discount!

  23. Writing a literature review

    Introduction A formal literature review is an evidence-based, in-depth analysis of a subject. There are many reasons for writing one and these will influence the length and style of your review, but in essence a literature review is a critical appraisal of the current collective knowledge on a subject.

  24. Getting started

    What is a literature review? Definition: A literature review is a systematic examination and synthesis of existing scholarly research on a specific topic or subject. Purpose: It serves to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge within a particular field. Analysis: Involves critically evaluating and summarizing key findings, methodologies, and debates found in ...