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Literature Review Outline: Structure, Format & Examples

Joe Eckel

Table of contents

A literature review outline is a structured plan of the key elements that should be included in your overview of existing literature. The outline helps to organize the literature review and ensure that all relevant information is covered.

Creating an outline for a literature review is a skill that every student or researcher should possess. If you are new to preparing research outlines, do not know their main parts, or are wondering about ways of organizing information in them, read this article and learn about how to write a literature review outline. The guide also discusses the definition, structure, approaches, and tips relevant to composing a literature review outline. Additionally, you will reinforce your understanding of key concepts through various examples of literature review outlines that are offered. Don’t have time for reading, but the deadline is around the corner? Rely on our literature review services and have no worries.

What Is a Literature Review Outline?

A literature review outline is a sketch highlighting how you will convey information about your findings after evaluating and interpreting studies. In other words, it offers a rough overview of the sources you have analyzed in the paper.  Think of a literature outline as a general skeleton of what your full review should look like including the specifics of each part. Its purpose is to assist you in developing ideas, performing research and presenting your findings logically. Specifically, a literary review outline helps you sum up the arguments that you want to emphasize or what you will talk about in your study.

Elements of Literature Review Outline

Now that you know what a literature review outline means, you need to understand the major parts that must be incorporated. In general, it is organized in a similar way to a standard academic essay outline template with three key elements including an introduction, body, and conclusion. You may include subheadings within each part to divide them up into meaningful segments. An outline of a literature review has:

  • Introduction Hooks the reader and offers an overview of your topic.
  • Body Comprises headings, subheadings, and paragraphs for mapping out your argument.
  • Conclusion Summarizes your key points.

Introduction  To create an effective introduction for a literature review, attract readers with a hook . This can be a quotation, example, or question. Introduce the research topic by briefly mentioning key concepts and describing your perspective. Discuss the literature you will review and provide hints about your fundamental concept. Overall, the introduction should bring interest to your research topic and provide readers with an understanding of what to expect in the text. In addition to outlining the key components of your literature review, it's important to address any debates or concerns related to your topic. This provides context and helps readers understand the significance of your exploration. Be sure to mention the importance of your research in your literature review outline and articulate your problem statement or research question .  Keep in mind that references should be included in the subsequent sections of your review.

Body The body of your review is where you analyze and interpret results to support your argument. This section should be well-organized and provide a clear and thorough analysis of the gathered studies.  Structure the information consistently and synthesize the main points while also evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your sources.  You can use one of the approaches described in the next section to structure your information in body paragraphs . Ensure your work flows systematically and is easier to understand by using transitions words , headings, and subheadings. In your literature review outline, introduce each article you have used for the project and provide a brief description. Briefly explain the relationship between the texts and your dissertation topic , and highlight how the papers are interrelated.

The conclusion is where you present your final evaluation. Begin by identifying the main themes you have discovered and their line of research. Then, mention any strengths and weaknesses you have found in the literature and highlight your work’s significance to existing knowledge. In general, the conclusion of your outline for a literature review should briefly:

  • Identify major agreements and disagreements in the studies reviewed.
  • Provide an in-depth explanation of your findings.
  • Describe any gaps or areas that require further research.
  • Offer recommendations for future study.
  • Provide your overall perspective on the issue.
  • Clarify the importance of the topic within the current academic discourse.

Once you build an outline, your next step is to create a literature review itself. Check out our helpful blog with step-by-step guidance on how to write a literature review . 

Literary Review Outline: Main Approaches

Before composing the outline of a literary review, you should think about the various ways of arranging your points. Generally, there are 4 major options for organizing information when writing a literature review outline. The format you choose depends on your specific inquiry, aims, and other requirements. These approaches include:

  • Theoretical
  • Chronological
  • Methodological.

Putting together your work well simplifies the entire process. Also remember to follow one structure consistently to avoid confusions with your flow. For example, if you decide to organize your work chronologically, make sure that you use this layout across your paper.

Theoretical Approach

A theoretical approach to literature review involves examining existing literature through a specific theoretical framework . Here, you need to view the literature through the lens of a particular theory or theories to gain a deeper understanding of your research question.  Theoretical approach can help identify patterns and inconsistencies not apparent through other methods. It’s especially useful if you are dealing with multiple theories or perspectives.  Divide your discussion into headings or subheadings following a particular order as shown below in the example:

  • Brief description.
  • Brief description, etc.

This is accompanied with brief discussions of each framework and their relevance to your paper. Look at this diagram for better understanding:

literature review outline sample apa

Chronological Approach

Chronological approach (linear approach) is the simplest way of structuring your body section. Start with older studies and work towards more recent ones. This streamlines the analysis of debates about your topic over time as you write your literature review outline. Additionally, the linear organization enables you to identify those texts that have had a profound impact on your field. Arrange your sources in a chronological order to understand how your theme has changed over time. Using this approach, you focus on important turning points rather than all events.  Here is a pictorial illustration of this model.

literature review outline sample apa

Thematic Approach

Thematic approach to an outline for a literature review involves grouping your works by themes. Here, researchers determine specific patterns or subjects to arrange sources thematically.  Use the themes you have identified as headings or subheadings in your body paragraphs.Then, summarize the relevant information under each theme to keep your discussion organized and easy-to-follow. This allows you to place all sources focusing on a similar topic together which makes it easier to ascertain where differences in opinions or perspectives arise. It is a commonly used structure across diverse fields. Consider the following diagram for further explanation.

literature review outline sample apa

Methodological Approach

With the methodological approach, your literature review outline is organized based on specific research methodologies applied in the studies. This model is useful when you need to investigate research questions related to particular methods, such as qualitative or quantitative study .  This approach allows researchers to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of various methods, and identify any gaps or areas where further investigation is needed. You will later use your revelations when designing a research study and writing a methodology .  Have a look at the diagram below to organize your review methodologically:

literature review outline sample apa

Literature Review Outline Template

If creating an outline is still challenging for you at this point, don’t worry because you can use a ready-made literature review outline template. Most institutions usually provide completed models. This makes your work easier because you will just fill in the details for each section.  The format can be APA, MLA, Chicago, or Harvard, which is generally specified in the task instructions. Thus, you should not face any difficulties finding a particular layout that may be applied to literature review when writing a dissertation .  Still, you can use the following outline for literature review template example and include relevant information according to your work.

  • Identify your topic and its importance in the field
  • Describe your reasons for conducting the review
  • Explain how your appraisal is organized
  • Highlight your work’s objective i.e., what you will cover
  • You can use the same studies whenever they are needed to explain a specific subject
  • Repeat the major themes and their underlying topics until you have fully described each one of them
  • Explain what your review contributes to the field
  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses of studies
  • Describe the gaps you have located
  • State the next steps for research to solve the identified issues

How to Write a Literature Review Outline

It is not easy to write an outline for a literature review, particularly if this is your first time. However, don’t be discouraged because like all other formal tasks you have done up to now, preparing an outline successfully necessitates following a correct procedure and organization.  With that in mind, we offer a step-by-step guideline on how to outline a literature review. Follow the process below to create an excellent piece.

  • Select a topic. The initial step entails picking a topic of interest or a theme you are knowledgeable about. Choosing something you know helps in identifying relevant studies, which makes the writing process easier and more exciting. Focus on current and well-researched subjects as this makes finding sources less stressful. Also, be certain that you narrow down your issue to ensure it is specific and can be reviewed meaningfully.
  • Search the body of literature. When you have a theme, the next step is identifying relevant studies related to your topic as you continue preparing your literature review outline. Limit your exploration to reliable databases such as JSTOR , NCBI , EBSCO , or Elsevier among others to find trusted sources. Your school library is also a very good place for searching manuscripts. If you are unsure about this process, ask a librarian or your professor for assistance. Remember to focus on useful and recent manuscripts not older than 5 years unless the instructions state otherwise or your topic requires earlier articles. The number of documents depends on your task guidelines. After selecting documents for your outline, evaluate them to see if they are applicable to your subject.
  • Create a structure. To write a literature review outline effectively, you need to develop a well-organized and proper structure. Use one of the approaches discussed previously to organize your information. However, before starting, ensure that you understand how to begin your outline by using the created sketch to identify the main arguments to be included in it.
  • Identify key concepts and themes. You also need to understand the arguments presented in your sources. Achieving this requires that you read all the texts you found repeatedly to digest and grasp their arguments. Be selective at first by looking at important sections such as abstracts , summaries, discussions , and conclusions to get an idea of point of views. Take notes of the main facts you find as this will assist in incorporating relevant texts into your work. After gaining insights into the major points of a study, you can now engage in deeper reading by covering all sections in detail.
  • Compose an outline for a literature review. At this point, you can fill in your details to the sketch you created earlier by figuring out the arguments that are applicable to various sections. Your work now is simply to follow and maintain the structure you developed and draft your outline. Remember to proofread your plan and eliminate grammatical or other errors. Note that the aforementioned stages are described in a linear fashion. In reality, you may need to reformulate, reorganize, or recheck information and make several adjustments to your lit review outline. Thus, it may be necessary to revise specific parts of your paper regularly before delivering the best piece.

Literature Review Outline Examples

Reading a literature review outline sample to grasp the key ideas about this type of work is also important. Carefully examining these examples helps you gain insights into how well-structured pieces are prepared. Remember to check samples concerning your field of study to avoid confusion when developing your own. Additionally, your institution may have specific requirements for what you should cover. Thus, use the following samples of literature review outlines to augment your knowledge. Literature review outline example 1

literature review outline sample apa

Literature review outline sample 2

literature review outline sample apa

Example of literature review outline 3

literature review outline sample apa

Literature Review Outline Writing Tips

Now that you have a good idea about developing an outline for a literature review, it is important to provide you with additional useful information. Remember that you must cover everything stated in your instructions and clarify things you are not sure of. Here are the essential tips to keep in mind:

  • Structure Develop a cohesive and logical structure as this allows you and others to easily understand which points are covered.
  • Topic Highlight your topic first to demonstrate what your work is about.
  • Format Ensure that you use an appropriate listing format to highlight major sections and their subheadings when writing a literature review outline. You can use different number layouts for the main sections and different listing designs for their subheadings. Regardless of your choice, be consistent throughout the paper.
  • Ideas Each bullet list or paragraph should deal with one idea.
  • Sections Ensure that all sections are linked to each other logically or your paper flows coherently.
  • Citations Include in-text citations of information borrowed from outside studies to support your points.
  • Sources Use only peer-reviewed articles as evidence for your arguments.

Bottom Line on Literature Review Outline

This guide has shared various tips and steps on how to do a literature review outline. Generally, these kinds of scholarly papers offer a clear logical structure of your work’s main sections. They help you to establish an effective blueprint by demonstrating the relevant parts and points to be covered later when creating an actual project. Use the information provided to write an outline for a literature review based on your case and objectives. If you face any challenges while completing your piece, remember to read the examples offered here for further insights or go back to specific sections for clarifications.

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FAQ About Literature Review Outline

1. how long is a literature review outline.

The length of a literature review outline depends on your work’s scope, type, and needed details. Comprehensive works such as thesis and dissertations may necessitate lengthier plans than class assignments. Generally, an outline takes a single page. However, there is no formula for how long this section should be. Use your judgment and consult your instructor regarding what is expected.

2. How to write a good literature review outline?

An outline for a literature review should not just summarize essential information. Rather, it should develop an argument by identifying ideas about your topic and their evolution in the academic discourse of relevant studies. A good outline should also mention any theoretical conflicts and methodological weaknesses found in sources.

3. What is a literature review outline purpose?

A literature review outline offers an overview of readings on a specific topic to help you establish a stand in your study field. Another purpose of this writing is to provide a reader with a view of past research. This shows your audience which direction the scholarly debate about a particular theme is heading in the context of current studies.


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literature review outline sample apa

How to Write a Literature Review

literature review outline sample apa

As every student knows, writing informative essay and research papers is an integral part of the educational program. You create a thesis, support it using valid sources, and formulate systematic ideas surrounding it. However, not all students know that they will also have to face another type of paper known as a Literature Review in college. Let's take a closer look at this with our custom essay writer .

Literature Review Definition

As this is a less common academic writing type, students often ask: "What is a literature review?" According to the definition, a literature review is a body of work that explores various publications within a specific subject area and sometimes within a set timeframe.

This type of writing requires you to read and analyze various sources that relate to the main subject and present each unique comprehension of the publications. Lastly, a literature review should combine a summary with a synthesis of the documents used. A summary is a brief overview of the important information in the publication; a synthesis is a re-organization of the information that gives the writing a new and unique meaning.

Typically, a literature review is a part of a larger paper, such as a thesis or dissertation. However, you may also be given it as a stand-alone assignment.

The Purpose

The main purpose of a literature review is to summarize and synthesize the ideas created by previous authors without implementing personal opinions or other additional information.

However, a literature review objective is not just to list summaries of sources; rather, it is to notice a central trend or principle in all of the publications. Just like a research paper has a thesis that guides it on rails, a literature review has the main organizing principle (MOP). The goal of this type of academic writing is to identify the MOP and show how it exists in all of your supporting documents.

Why is a literature review important? The value of such work is explained by the following goals it pursues:

  • Highlights the significance of the main topic within a specific subject area.
  • Demonstrates and explains the background of research for a particular subject matter.
  • Helps to find out the key themes, principles, concepts, and researchers that exist within a topic.
  • Helps to reveal relationships between existing ideas/studies on a topic.
  • Reveals the main points of controversy and gaps within a topic.
  • Suggests questions to drive primary research based on previous studies.

Here are some example topics for writing literature reviews:

  • Exploring racism in "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," and "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
  • Isolationism in "The Catcher in the Rye," "Frankenstein," and "1984"
  • Understanding Moral Dilemmas in "Crime and Punishment," "The Scarlet Letter," and "The Lifeboat"
  • Corruption of Power in "Macbeth," "All the King's Men," and "Animal Farm"
  • Emotional and Physical survival in "Lord of the Flies," "Hatchet," and "Congo."

How Long Is a Literature Review?

When facing the need to write a literature review, students tend to wonder, "how long should a literature review be?" In some cases, the length of your paper's body may be determined by your instructor. Be sure to read the guidelines carefully to learn what is expected from you.

Keeping your literature review around 15-30% of your entire paper is recommended if you haven't been provided with specific guidelines. To give you a rough idea, that is about 2-3 pages for a 15-page paper. In case you are writing a literature review as a stand-alone assignment, its length should be specified in the instructions provided.

Literature Review Format: APA, MLA, and Chicago

The essay format you use should adhere to the citation style preferred by your instructor. Seek clarification from your instructor for several other components as well to establish a desired literature review format:

  • How many sources should you review, and what kind of sources should they be (published materials, journal articles, or websites)?
  • What format should you use to cite the sources?
  • How long should the review be?
  • Should your review consist of a summary, synthesis, or a personal critique?
  • Should your review include subheadings or background information for your sources?

If you want to format your paper in APA style, then follow these rules:

  • Use 1-inch page margins.
  • Unless provided with other instructions, use double-spacing throughout the whole text.
  • Make sure you choose a readable font. The preferred font for APA papers is Times New Roman set to 12-point size.
  • Include a header at the top of every page (in capital letters). The page header must be a shortened version of your essay title and limited to 50 characters, including spacing and punctuation.
  • Put page numbers in the upper right corner of every page.
  • When shaping your literature review outline in APA, don't forget to include a title page. This page should include the paper's name, the author's name, and the institutional affiliation. Your title must be typed with upper and lowercase letters and centered in the upper part of the page; use no more than 12 words, and avoid using abbreviations and useless words.

For MLA style text, apply the following guidelines:

  • Double your spacing across the entire paper.
  • Set ½-inch indents for each new paragraph.
  • The preferred font for MLA papers is Times New Roman set to 12-point size.
  • Include a header at the top of your paper's first page or on the title page (note that MLA style does not require you to have a title page, but you are allowed to decide to include one). A header in this format should include your full name; the name of your instructor; the name of the class, course, or section number; and the due date of the assignment.
  • Include a running head in the top right corner of each page in your paper. Place it one inch from the page's right margin and half an inch from the top margin. Only include your last name and the page number separated by a space in the running head. Do not put the abbreviation p. before page numbers.

Finally, if you are required to write a literature review in Chicago style, here are the key rules to follow:

  • Set page margins to no less than 1 inch.
  • Use double spacing across the entire text, except when it comes to table titles, figure captions, notes, blockquotes, and entries within the bibliography or References.
  • Do not put spaces between paragraphs.
  • Make sure you choose a clear and easily-readable font. The preferred fonts for Chicago papers are Times New Roman and Courier, set to no less than 10-point size, but preferably to 12-point size.
  • A cover (title) page should include your full name, class information, and the date. Center the cover page and place it one-third below the top of the page.
  • Place page numbers in the upper right corner of each page, including the cover page.

Read also about harvard format - popular style used in papers.

Structure of a Literature Review

How to structure a literature review: Like many other types of academic writing, a literature review follows a typical intro-body-conclusion style with 5 paragraphs overall. Now, let’s look at each component of the basic literature review structure in detail:

  • Introduction

You should direct your reader(s) towards the MOP (main organizing principle). This means that your information must start from a broad perspective and gradually narrow down until it reaches your focal point.

Start by presenting your general concept (Corruption, for example). After the initial presentation, narrow your introduction's focus towards the MOP by mentioning the criteria you used to select the literature sources you have chosen (Macbeth, All the King's Men, and Animal Farm). Finally, the introduction will end with the presentation of your MOP that should directly link it to all three literature sources.

Body Paragraphs

Generally, each body paragraph will focus on a specific source of literature laid out in the essay's introduction. As each source has its own frame of reference for the MOP, it is crucial to structure the review in the most logically consistent way possible. This means the writing should be structured chronologically, thematically or methodologically.


Breaking down your sources based on their publication date is a solid way to keep a correct historical timeline. If applied properly, it can present the development of a certain concept over time and provide examples in the form of literature. However, sometimes there are better alternatives we can use to structure the body.


Instead of taking the "timeline approach," another option can be looking at the link between your MOP and your sources. Sometimes, the main idea will just glare from a piece of literature. Other times, the author may have to seek examples to prove their point. An experienced writer will usually present their sources by order of strength. For example, in "To Kill A Mockingbird," the entire novel was centralized around racism; in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," racism was one of many themes.


As made obvious by the terminology, this type of structuring focuses on the methods used to present the central concept. For example, in "1984", George Orwell uses the law-and-order approach and shows the dangers of a dystopia for a social species.

In "Frankenstein," Mary Shelley exposes the character's physical traits as repulsive and horrifying, forcing him to suffer in an isolated environment. By showcasing the various methods used to portray the MOP, the writer can compare them based on things like severity, ethicality, and overall impact.

After presenting your key findings in the body paragraphs, there are 3 final objectives to complete in the essay's conclusion. First, the author should summarize the findings they have made or found, in other words, and briefly answer the question: "What have you learned?"

After discussing that information, the next step is to present the significance of the information about our current world today. In other words, how can the reader take the information and apply it to today's society? From that point, we finish off with a breadcrumb trail.

As the author, you want to leave the readers' trail of thought within the actual essay topic. This provides them with a means of further investigation—meaning that the reader may consider where the discussion will go next.

Writing an Outline for a Literature Review

Students often underestimate the importance of planning the structure of their papers in advance. However, this is not a wise approach. Having a rough APA literature review outline (or other style outlines) will not only help you follow the right format and structure but will also make the writing process simpler and help ensure that you include all of the important information without missing anything.

How to write a literature review outline: As you already know from the Structure section of this guide, every part of your literature review performs its own important role. Therefore, you should create your outline while keeping the general introduction-body-conclusion structure in mind and ensuring that each section meets its own objectives. However, it is important to remember that a literature review outline is slightly different from outlines of other types of essays because it does not provide new information. Instead, it focuses on existing studies relevant to the main topic. ‍

Here is a literature review outline example on the subject of the Ebola virus to help you get it right:

  • Introduce the general topic. Provide background information on the Ebola virus: genome, pathogenesis, transmission, epidemiology, treatment, etc.
  • Shape the main research question: What is the potential role of arthropods (mechanical or biological vectors) in the distribution of the Ebola virus?
  • Methodology: For example, the information was searched through X databases to find relevant research articles about the Ebola virus and arthropods' role in its spreading. The data was extracted using a standardized form.
  • Expected outcomes
  • Overall trends in the literature on this topic: While the natural reservoir of the virus is still not known with certainty, many researchers believe that arthropods (and fruit bats, in particular) pay a significant role in the distribution of the virus.
  • Subject 1: A brief overview of the particular piece of literature in general terms; an analysis of the key aspects of the study; a review of the research questions, methods, procedures, and outcomes; and an overview of the strong and weak points, gaps, and contradictions.
  • Subject 2: A brief overview of the particular piece of literature in general terms; an analysis of the key aspects of the study; a review of the research questions, methods, procedures, and outcomes; and an overview of the strong and weak points, gaps, and contradictions.
  • Subject 3:  A brief overview of the particular piece of literature in general terms; an analysis of the key aspects of the study; a review of the research questions, methods, procedures, and outcomes; and an overview of the strong and weak points, gaps, and contradictions.
  • Indicate the relationships between the pieces of literature discussed. Emphasize key themes, common patterns, and trends. Talk about the pros and cons of the different approaches taken by the authors/researchers.
  • State which studies seem to be the most influential.
  • Emphasize the major contradictions and points of disagreement. Define the gaps still to be covered (if any).
  • If applicable: define how your own study will contribute to further disclosure of the topic.

Hopefully, this sample outline will help you to structure your own paper. However, if you feel like you need some more advice on how to organize your review, don’t hesitate to search for more literature review outline examples in APA or other styles on the Web, or simply ask our writers to get a dissertation help .


Count on Pro to get it done! We will make your literature or political science essay , we only need your paper requirements to save your precious time and nerves from writing it on your own!

How to Write a Good Literature Review

Whether you are writing a literature review within the framework of a large research project (e.g. thesis, dissertation, or other) or as a stand-alone assignment, the approach you should take to writing generally remains the same.

literature review outline sample apa

Whether you are writing a literature review within the framework of a large research project (e.g., thesis, dissertation, or other) or as a stand-alone assignment, the approach you should take to writing generally remains the same.

Now, as you know about the general rules and have a basic literature review outline template, let's define the steps to take to handle this task right with our service:

Step 1: Identifying the Topic

This is probably the only matter you may approach differently depending on whether your literature review comes within a research paper or a separate assignment altogether. If you are creating a literature review as a part of another work, you need to search for literature related to your main research questions and problems. Respectively, if you are writing it as a stand-alone task, you will have to pick a relevant topic and central question upon which you will collect the literature. Earlier in this guide, we suggested some engaging topics to guide your search.

Step 2: Conducting Research

When you have a clearly defined topic, it is time to start collecting literature for your review. We recommend starting by compiling a list of relevant keywords related to your central question—to make the entire research process much simpler and help you find relevant publications faster.

When you have a list of keywords, use them to search for valid and relevant sources. At this point, be sure to use only trusted sources, such as ones from university libraries, online scientific databases, etc.

Once you have found some sources, be sure to define whether or not they are actually relevant to your topic and research question. To save time, you can read abstracts to get general ideas of what the papers are about instead of the whole thing.

Pro Tip: When you finally find a few valid publications, take a look at their bibliographies to discover other relevant sources as well.

Step 3: Assess and Prioritize Sources

Throughout your research, you will likely find plenty of relevant literature to include in your literature review. At this point, students often make the mistake of trying to fit all the collected sources into their reviews. Instead, we suggest looking at what you've collected once more, evaluating the available sources, and selecting the most relevant ones. You most likely won't be able to read everything you find on a given topic and then be able to synthesize all of the sources into a single literature review. That's why prioritizing them is important.

To evaluate which sources are worth including in your review, keep in mind the following criteria:

  • Credibility;
  • Innovation;
  • Key insights;

Furthermore, as you read the sources, don’t forget to take notes on everything you can incorporate into the review later. And be sure to get your citations in place early on. If you cite the selected sources at the initial stage, you will find it easier to create your annotated bibliography later on.

Step 4: Identify Relationships, Key Ideas, and Gaps

Before you can move on to outlining and writing your literature review, the final step is determining the relationships between the studies that already exist. Identifying the relationships will help you organize the existing knowledge, build a solid literature outline, and (if necessary) indicate your own research contribution to a specific field.

Some of the key points to keep an eye out for are:

  • Main themes;
  • Contradictions and debates;
  • Influential studies or theories;
  • Trends and patterns;

Here are a few examples: Common trends may include a focus on specific groups of people across different studies. Most researchers may have increased interest in certain aspects of the topic regarding key themes. Contradictions may include some disagreement concerning the theories and outcomes of a study. And finally, gaps most often refer to a lack of research on certain aspects of a topic.

Step 5: Make an Outline

Although students tend to neglect this stage, outlining is one of the most important steps in writing every academic paper. This is the easiest way to organize the body of your text and ensure that you haven't missed anything important. Besides, having a rough idea of what you will write about in the paper will help you get it right faster and more easily. Earlier in this guide, we already discussed the basic structure of a literature review and gave you an example of a good outline. At this workflow stage, you can use all of the knowledge you've gained from us to build your own outline.

Step 6: Move on to Writing

Having found and created all of your sources, notes, citations, and a detailed outline, you can finally get to the writing part of the process. At this stage, all you need to do is follow the plan you've created and keep in mind the overall structure and format defined in your professor's instructions.

Step 7: Adding the Final Touches

Most students make a common mistake and skip the final stage of the process, which includes proofreading and editing. We recommend taking enough time for these steps to ensure that your work will be worth the highest score. Do not underestimate the importance of proofreading and editing, and allocate enough time for these steps.

Pro Tip: Before moving on to proofreading and editing, be sure to set your literature review aside for a day or two. This will give you a chance to take your mind off it and then get back to proofreading with a fresh perspective. This tip will ensure that you won't miss out on any gaps or errors that might be present in your text.

These steps will help you create a top-notch literature review with ease! Want to get more advice on how to handle this body of work? Here are the top 3 tips you need to keep in mind when writing a literature review:

1. Good Sources

When working on a literature review, the most important thing any writer should remember is to find the best possible sources for their MOP. This means that you should select and filter through about 5-10 different options while doing initial research.

The stronger a piece of literature showcases the central point, the better the quality of the entire review.

2. Synthesize The Literature

Make sure to structure the review in the most effective way possible, whether it be chronologically, thematically, or methodologically. Understand what exactly you would like to say, and structure the source comparison accordingly.

3. Avoid Generalizations

Remember that each piece of literature will approach the MOP from a different angle. As the author, make sure to present the contrasts in approaches clearly and don't include general statements that offer no value.

Literature Review Examples

You can find two well-written literature reviews by the EssayPro writing team below. They will help you understand what the final product of a literature review should ideally look like.

The first literature review compares monolingual and bilingual language acquisition skills and uses various sources to prove its point:

The second literature review compares the impact of fear and pain on a protagonist’s overall development in various settings:

Both reviews will help you sharpen your skills and provide good guidelines for writing high-quality papers.

Get Help from an Essay Writer

Still aren’t sure whether you can handle literature review writing on your own? No worries because you can pay for essay writing and our service has got you covered! Boost your grades is to place an order in a few quick clicks and we will satisfy your write my paper request.

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Literature Review: Outline, Strategies, and Examples [2023]

Literature Review: Outline, Strategies, and Examples [2023]

Writing a literature review might be easier than you think. You should understand its basic rules, and that’s it! This article is just about that.

Why is the literature review important? What are its types? We will uncover these and other possible questions.

Whether you are an experienced researcher or a student, this article will come in handy. Keep reading!

What Is a Literature Review?

  • Step-by-Step Strategy

Let’s start with the literature review definition.

Literature review outlooks the existing sources on a given topic. Its primary goal is to provide an overall picture of the study object. It clears up the context and showcases the analysis of the paper’s theoretical methodology.

In case you want to see the examples of this type of work, check out our collection of free student essays .

Importance of Literature Review

In most cases, you need to write a literature review as a part of an academic project. Those can be dissertations , theses, or research papers.

Why is it important?

Imagine your final research as a 100% bar. Let’s recall Pareto law: 20% of efforts make 80% of the result. In our case, 20% is preparing a literature review. Writing itself is less important than an in-depth analysis of current literature. Do you want to avoid possible frustration in academic writing? Make a confident start with a literature review.

Sure, it’s impossible to find a topic that hasn’t been discussed or cited. That is why we cannot but use the works of other authors. You don’t have to agree with them. Discuss, criticize, analyze, and debate.

So, the purpose of the literature review is to give the knowledge foundation for the topic and establish its understanding. Abstracting from personal opinions and judgments is a crucial attribute.

Types of Literature Review.

Types of Literature Review

You can reach the purpose we have discussed above in several ways, which means there are several types of literature review.

What sets them apart?

In short, it’s their research methods and structure. Let’s break down each type:

  • Meta-analysis implies the deductive approach. At first, you gather several related research papers. Then, you carry out its statistical analysis. As a result, you answer a formulated question.
  • Meta-synthesis goes along with the inductive approach. It bases qualitative data assessment.
  • Theoretical literature review implies gathering theories. Those theories apply to studied ideas or concepts. Links between theories become more explicit and clear. Why is it useful? It confirms that the theoretical framework is valid. On top of that, it assists in new hypothesis-making.
  • Argumentative literature review starts with a problem statement. Then, you select and study the topic-related literature to confirm or deny the stated question. There is one sufficient problem in this type, by the way. The author may write the text with a grain of bias.
  • Narrative literature review focuses on literature mismatches. It indicates possible gaps and concludes the body of literature. The primary step here is stating a focused research question. Another name for this type — a traditional literature review.
  • Integrative literature review drives scientific novelty. It generates new statements around the existing research. The primary tool for that is secondary data . The thing you need is to review and criticize it. When is the best option to write an integrative literature review? It’s when you lack primary data analysis.

Remember: before writing a literature review, specify its type . Another step you should take is to argue your choice. Make sure it fits the research framework. It will save your time as you won’t need to figure out fitting strategies and methods.

Annotated Bibliography vs. Literature Review

Some would ask: isn’t what you are writing about is just an annotated bibliography ? Sure, both annotated bibliography and literature review list the research topic-related sources. But no more than that. Such contextual attributes as goal, structure, and components differ a lot.

For a more visual illustration of its difference, we made a table:

To sum up: an annotated bibliography is more referral. It does not require reading all the sources in the list. On the contrary, you won’t reach the literature review purpose without examining all the sources cited.

Literature Review: Step-by-Step Strategy.

Literature Review: Step-by-Step Strategy

Now it’s time for a step-by-step guide. We are getting closer to a perfect literature review!

✔️ Step 1. Select the Topic

Selecting a topic requires looking from two perspectives. They are the following:

  • Stand-alone paper . Choose an engaging topic and state a central problem. Then, investigate the trusted literature sources in scholarly databases.
  • Part of a dissertation or thesis . In this case, you should dig around the thesis topic, research objectives, and purpose.

Regardless of the situation, you should not just list several literature items. On the contrary, build a decent logical connection and analysis. Only that way, you’ll answer the research question .

✔️ Step 2. Identify the Review Scope

One more essential thing to do is to define the research boundaries: don’t make them too broad or too narrow.

Push back on the chosen topic and define the number and level of comprehensiveness of your paper. Define the historical period as well. After that, select a pool of credible sources for further synthesis and analysis.

✔️ Step 3. Work with Sources

Investigate each chosen source. Note each important insight you come across. Learn how to cite a literature review to avoid plagiarism.

✔️ Step 4. Write a Literature Review Outline

No matter what the writing purpose is: research, informative, promotional, etc. The power of your future text is in the proper planning. If you start with a well-defined structure, there’s a much higher chance that you’ll reach exceptional results.

✔️ Step 5. Review the Literature

Once you’ve outlined your literature review, you’re ready for a writing part. While writing, try to be selective, thinking critically, and don’t forget to stay to the point. In the end, make a compelling literature review conclusion.

On top of the above five steps, explore some other working tips to make your literature review as informative as possible.

The purpose of literature review.

Literature Review Outline

We’ve already discussed the importance of a literature review outline. Now, it’s time to understand how to create it.

An outline for literature review has a bit different structure comparing with other types of paper works. It includes:

  • Selected topic
  • Research question
  • Related research question trends and prospects
  • Research methods
  • Expected research results
  • Overview of literature core areas
  • Research problem consideration through the prism of this piece of literature
  • Methods, controversial points, gaps
  • Cumulative list of arguments around the research question
  • Links to existing literature and a place of your paper in the existing system of knowledge.

It can be a plus if you clarify the applicability of your literature review in further research.

Once you outline your literature review, you can slightly shorten your writing path. Let’s move on to actual samples of literature review.

Literature Review Examples

How does a well-prepared literature review look like? Check these three StudyCorgi samples to understand. Follow the table:

Take your time and read literature review examples to solidify knowledge and sharpen your skills. You’ll get a more definite picture of the literature review length, methods, and topics.

Do you still have any questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us! Our writing experts are ready to help you with your paper on time.

❓ What Is the Purpose of a Literature Review?

Literature review solves several problems at once. Its purpose is to identify and gather the top insights, gaps, and answers to research questions. Those help to get a general idea of the degree of topic exploration. As a result, it forms a basis for further research. Or vice versa: it reveals a lack of need for additional studies.

❓ How Do You Structure a Literature Review?

Like any other academic paper, a literature review consists of three parts: introduction, main body, and the conclusion. Each of them needs full disclosure and logical interconnection

The introduction contains the topic overview, its problematics, research methods, and other general attributes of academic papers.

The body reveals how each of the selected literature sources answers the formulated questions from the introduction.

The conclusion summarizes the key findings from the body, connects the research to existing studies, and outlines the need for further investigation.

To ensure the success of your analysis, you should equally uphold all of these parts.

❓ What Must a Literature Review Include?

A basic literature review includes the introduction with the research topic definition, its arguments, and problems. Then, it has a synthesis of the picked pieces of literature. It may describe the possible gaps and contradictions in existing research. The practical relevance and contribution to new studies are also welcome.

❓ What Are the 5 C's of Writing a Literature Review?

Don’t forget about these five C’s to make things easier in writing a literature review:

Cite. Make a list of references for research you’ve used and apply proper citation rules. Use Google Scholar for this.

Compare. Make a comparison of such literature attributes as theories, insights, trends, arguments, etc. It’s better to use tables or diagrams to make your content visual.

Contrast. Use listings to categorize particular approaches, themes, and so on.

Critique. Critical thinking is a must in any scientific research. Don’t take individual formulations as truth. Explore controversial points of view.

Connect. Find a place of your research between existing studies. Propose new possible areas to dig further.

❓ How Long Should a Literature Review Be?

In most cases, professors or educational establishment guidelines determine the length of a literature review. Study them and stick to their requirements, so you don’t get it wrong.

If there are no specific rules, make sure it is no more than 30% of the whole research paper.

If your literature review is not a part of the thesis and goes as a stand-alone paper — be concise but explore the research area in-depth.

  • Literature Reviews – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • What is a literature review? – The Royal Literary Fund
  • Literature Review: Purpose of a Literature Review – University of South Carolina
  • The Literature Review: A Few Tips On Conducting It – University of Toronto
  • Steps for Conducting a Lit Review – Florida A&M University Libraries
  • Types of Literature Review – Business Research Methodology
  • How to Conduct a Literature Review: Types of Literature Reviews – University Libraries
  • Annotated bibliography VS. Literature Review – UNT Dallas Learning Commons
  • Literature Review: Conducting & Writing – University of West Florida
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Literature Review Outline Example

25 Feb 2022

Quick Navigation

❔Elements of Literature Review Outline

✅Steps to Write a Literature Review

🔍Ways to Structure a Literature Review

✏️Structure a Literature Review Outline

💡Literature Review Outline: Tips

You've read the literature. You've learned about the field. You know how your research fits into that larger picture. You’re now wondering how to write a literature review outline. Well, it's time to organize all this information clearly and concisely for your readership. The outline for your literature review will be the foundation for writing your paper. It will help you organize your thoughts and research, and it will ensure that you are considering all possible angles of the topic.

An outline is an essential tool for organizing your thoughts before writing anything else, so use this article as guidance to write a great one.

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The Key Elements of the Literature Review Outline

First, let’s define what a literature review outline is. The literature review outline is a crucial component of a research paper. It helps you to develop your ideas, conduct research and discuss the results in an organized way.

The key elements of the outline for the literature review are:

  • Introduction The introduction should include a brief summary of the literature that is being reviewed, including the general topic and your specific focus. You should also provide some background information on the topic to help the reader understand why it is important. You should not include any citations in this section, because you will do that later in the paper.
  • Body The body is where you provide an overview of all the sources or literature, you have used for your paper. You should include an introduction to each source and a brief summary of what was found in each source. In addition to providing summaries, you should also describe how each source relates to your research question or hypothesis and then relate them back to each other if they are similar enough to be compared. Finally, you should explain how each source relates to one another in addition to explaining how they relate to your research question or hypothesis.
  • Conclusion The conclusion should summarize your arguments throughout the paper and then tie all of these things together into one coherent argument that proves or disproves your hypothesis or research question in relation to other sources discussed throughout this paper (and/or).

There are several different approaches you can base your outline, and they include:

  • A descriptive approach describes existing knowledge about a particular topic. This approach is used when there is little or no existing research on a topic. Still, there are some reasonable theories or hypotheses about it based on previous research in related areas. A descriptive approach involves gathering new data or analyzing existing data to describe what we know about a certain phenomenon or problem at a certain point in time.
  • An explanatory approach explains why something happens or exists in a particular way by presenting one or more theoretical explanations (hypotheses). An explanatory hypothesis must be falsifiable. There must be some way to prove whether it's true or false using scientific methods (observations). This type of hypothesis is often tested through experiments or controlled observations that test how two variables interact with each other under controlled conditions.

Writing a literature review is an integral part of a successful research article or dissertation, as it helps to synthesize and connect the existing body of knowledge. To write your lit review relevantly, it is important to ensure that you include new information when constructing your review and connect existing ideas and themes. A useful literature review outline can provide a structure for expressing your views, allowing you to connect and organize your ideas consistently and effectively.

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Steps to Write Your Literature Review

Writing a good outline for a literature review is important for your research paper. It helps you organize your thoughts and ideas and gives you a clear direction for the writing process.

An outline is not a formal document but rather an informal guide to assist you in organizing the information you want to include in your paper. The outline should be written in paragraph form, with each paragraph representing one major idea that will be expanded upon in subsequent paragraphs of the paper.

The main purpose of writing an outline is so that you can organize all of your sources in a way that will help you write a clear, concise essay. You just want to throw together quotes and facts without any order or reason. This will make it hard for the reader to follow along with what you are saying and make it appear that you have no idea what you're talking about. This can result in a low grade for your paper and make it difficult for them to understand what is happening within the text.

The process of writing a literature review is not easy, especially if you have never done one before. This article will give you a step-by-step guide on how to write a good literature review that will impress your teacher.

  • The first step to writing a literature review is to find a good topic. You will need to do a lot of research, so it is best to choose something that you are interested in and that you know a lot about.
  • The second step is to organize your structure. You can use an outline or simply make notes as you go along. This helps keep you on track and ensures that you cover all the points necessary for an effective report.
  • The third step is proofreading. Mistakes can be embarrassing and make your work look sloppy, so don't rush through this step! There are online tools that can help with proofreading as well as people who will do it for free if you pay them by the hour. Check out sites like Upwork or Fiverr for examples of what's available and what prices are charged for certain tasks.
  • The fourth step is to include the bibliographies you used in your report. This gives credit where credit is due and lets other researchers know where they can find more information about your topic if they want it.

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Ways to Structure a Literature Review

Now that you know how basic structuring works, it is time to focus on a common issue.

Many students make mistake with the structuring of their literature. Given how the process is complex, many seek literature review writing help. Therefore, we should note down the two ways of structuring it. Through this, you will grasp the idea of what you should do and what you shouldn't.

Each of them has two distinctive features. Although they are different, you can use both to structure your review. Below you will see a literature review structure example tips for each type.

Thematic Literature Review

That is the method favored by those who love to analyze. Students prefer it as it allows them to structure their reviews easier. This method groups the data by its theoretical meaning. So in a thematic literature review example, you will see the sources by their concept and relevance to the topic.

Using the thematic method allows you to focus on your central concept. Moreover, you can form the review's structure around your points by doing it. That makes it easier to explain them and the connection to the research.

Here it is important to note that choosing the proper sequence is not bound by rules. Yet, even with that freedom, you should try to keep a sequence from the central point to the less important ones. That will allow the reader to navigate and understand your writing easily.

Tip: An example of a thematic literature review can be a logical structure. It does not matter the date when something happened. But the importance of the case.

Chronological Literature Review Structure

Students do not favor this method. It is challenging to keep up, as it is not based on the literature's theme. The chronological method focuses on structuring the sources by date. To be more precise, the date of publishing.

That makes it less attractive to read and less appealing to the reader. However, the chronological method is perfect in some cases. For example, if you write historiographical works. Of course, that is not the limit. Using this method, you should be able to write a chronological literature review example that:

  • Focus on the investigation process;
  • Case development over time;
  • Or when you are writing about specific trends.

As you can see, all of these connect around a span of time.

So if you are not writing on such a topic, it will be wiser to pick the first method. This way, you can rely on your logic. We note that because the chronological approach is strictly data-based. That often can cause issues or illogical remarks.

Author Note: No matter which method you pick. Make sure you keep basic logic in your writing. Note that the literature review points out your knowledge regarding the used literature. Thus, you must always stay true to your sources.

How to Structure a Literature Review Outline

An outline for a literature review is a great tool for organizing your thoughts and ideas. You can use it to plan out your essay or research paper by listing the points you want to cover and how they relate to each other. By using a sample literature review outline, you’ll be able to organize your thoughts effectively, and you’ll have a clear idea of how long each section should be. This article will discuss how to structure a literature review outline. We will also share some tips for writing a good outline.

It is important that you familiarize yourself with the topic before you begin writing your paper or research paper. So, if you're writing about something you're not quite familiar with, make sure you spend enough time learning about it beforehand. This way, once you've finished writing your paper, there won't be any gaps in your research or any information missing from the paper.

We recommend that you start by reading through the assignment instructions carefully so that you know what type of information they are looking for in your paper and what format they want it written in (literature review outline template APA style). Make sure that you follow APA literature review outline instructions as closely as possible so that your teacher doesn't get confused.

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Literature Review Outline: Writing Tips

When writing a literature review outline, it's important to include all of the information your assignment requires. Sometimes, instructors will give you specific guidelines for how long your literature review should be and how many sources it needs to include. If they don't, however, you'll need to decide what works best for your situation.

A literature review outline will be the foundation of your paper. It will tell you what information is important and how to write it in a cohesive and logical way. When writing, it's important only to include facts backed up by evidence. This means that if you are writing about any research topic, there must be at least one piece of published work that backs up each claim or opinion you present.

If there isn't a single source supporting your writing. Don't put it in because it makes your paper seem like speculation or opinion rather than fact-based knowledge about the issue at hand. Another tip for writers is to write clearly and concisely so that readers can understand what they are reading quickly without having any difficulty following along from one point to another throughout the entire essay (or book).

Readers may get bored very quickly if they feel like they have to struggle through something too much before getting into where things go next. Therefore, proper grammar usage should also be kept while doing this type as well so there are no mistakes left behind after editing later down the line during the publishing stage itself.

The following are the most important tips for writing a literature review outline:

  • Use bullet points to create an outline of your review.
  • Make sure that each paragraph covers a single subject or idea.
  • Start with a thesis statement, which should sum up the paper's main idea in one sentence.
  • Write each paragraph in a way that flows from one point to another logically and coherently.
  • Include quotes and paraphrases from sources you have read in order to support your arguments and conclusions.
  • Make sure that you use credible sources as evidence for your claims and arguments in your paper.

When writing a literature review, it's important to create a well-structured outline to ensure that you cover all the important points. PapersOwl is a writing service that provides professional writing assistance and can help you create an effective literature review outline. With their help, you can ensure that your literature review follows a proper structure and that you address all the necessary points, making sure that your research is comprehensive and thorough.

Now that you have learned all the elements of an outline for a literature review, it is time to start writing your own. An outline of a literature review is important for research papers and can be used in many other writing areas. Following these steps will make your outline easy to read and understand so that readers can better understand what research was done before writing their own paper!

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September 11

How to Outline A Literature Review (Plus Examples You Can Use)


In this guide, you'll learn exactly how to outline a literature review.

So if you are currently in the academic year in which you have to write a literature review for a research proposal, a dissertation, or a research paper, this guide is for you.

Key Takeaways

  • You can structure your literature review in Chicago, APA, or MLA format.
  • The outline of a literature review should include an introduction, a body, and a conclusion paragraph.
  • You can structure the body section of the literature review thematically, chronologically, thematically, or theoretically.

Literature Review Writing Help

Identifying a research issue, developing a research question, conducting research, structuring, and writing your literature review can be time consuming.

It gets even more challenging if you have to juggle between urgent assignments and your social life.

Our academic writing team is here to help you. Whether you haven’t started the project or you feel stuck in the introduction, you can  click here to get literature review writing help   and get the task completed fast.

The objective of a literature review is to give an overview of existing knowledge without adding your personal opinions or ideas.

It’s through a literature review that you identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the already existing research.

What is a Literature Review Outline? 

To  write a comprehensive literature review ,  you first have to create an outline, which you’ll use to present your studies in a way that shows what you’ve found by analyzing and summarizing the ideas and concepts of other authors.

An online for a literature review features an introduction, body, and conclusion. Start the review with a hook and then structure the body paragraphs thematically, theoretically, chronologically, or methodologically. The conclusion of your review show the strength and weaknesses gathered from the study.

In the following section, we’ll look at the main elements of a literature review’s outline and give you some tips you can use to make your outline stand out.

How Literature Review Compares With Other Assignments

Before we look at the elements of a comprehensive literature review outline, it might help to learn how literature review compares with other assignments. 

We've included links to our researched guides to help you with these. All you have to do is read them now or bookmark this page for future reading. 

  • Literature Review vs Research Paper
  • Literature Review vs Systematic Paper
  • Annotated Bibliography vs Literature Review

With that out of the way, let's look at the elements that make a good literature review outline. 

The Elements of a Literature Review Outline

understanding literature review outline


Your literature review should start with a strong introduction to grab the attention of a reader form the get go.

A good introduction is the one that starts with a hook and then provide an overview of the question you wish to explore in your research.

Your description of the literature should be relevant to the topic and naturally present your interest in the research.

The body of the literature review should give a clear picture of the already existing knowledge on the research question you’re trying to explore.

Since you’re looking into already existing work, you shouldn’t have a hard time analyzing and interpreting information.

It’s best to have an easy time working on this section than struggling to put words together. So try to use subheadings and transition words to make your work easier.

To make the body section easier to write, consider structuring your work chronologically, methodically, theoretical, or thematically.

Theoretical Structure

Theoretical Structure

Credit: Science Direct

Given that a literature review is the core of a theoretical framework , you’re free to write about different theories and models. 

Even better, you can argue for a certain theoretical approach or give definitions of key concepts if your topic demands.

Chronological Structure


Credit: E-reading Worksheet

With the chronological structure , you write the literature review based on a sequence. In such a case, the focus is on the timeline, starting from the very beginning to the end.

You don’t necessarily have to list all the event in the order of their occurrence, as doing so may make your literature review unnecessarily longer.

Instead, look at themes and turning points and then focus only on those that are more significant.

Thematic Structure

Thematic Structure

In a thematic review structure, you have to find link between your  sources  and the literary text you wish to summarize. You’ll have to organize central issues into subsections and address each.

Keep in mind that your professor will be looking closely into the details you provide in the thematic structure.

So make sure you analyze each central issue in details. Doing so might take time, but the results will be worth it.

Methodological Structure

Methodological Structure

If you choose to write your literature review methodically, your focus will be on analyzing concepts by presenting methods based on their impact.

Also, you may need to focus on quantitative and qualitative nature, ethical nature, sociological, and cultural impact of your literature.

The concluding section of your literature review doesn’t have to be too long.

You’re wrapping up your work, so it’s best to summarize your most valuable points and then show the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the existing knowledge.

Depending on the research question you wish to explore, you may also give an emphasis on the significance of the literature review.

Format for a Literature Review

You can format your literature review in APA, MLA, and Chicago. Your instructor will indicate the citation style they want you to use.

In the case that they don’t suggest a format to use, feel free to use either APA, MLA, or Chicago – or consult them for further assistance.

MLA format research paper

The following is how to structure your literature review in the MLA format:

  • 1-inch page margins
  • You should double-space the whole text
  • Each new paragraph should have a half an inch indent
  • Use Times New Roman with 12-point font size
  • Doesn’t require a title page, but you’re may include one
  • There must be a running head in the top corner of each page

APA research paper format

The following are the rules for structuring your literature review paper in the APA format:

  • Double-space the whole text – unless stated otherwise
  • Page numbers should appear in the upper right corner of every page
  • For fonts, use Times New Roman with 12-point font size
  • There should be a header at the top of every page. It should be not more than 50 characters and in capital
  • Include a title page

Chicago Format

chicago paper format

Credit: Essay Pro

You should observe the following rules if your instructor ask you to use the Chicago style to write your literature review.

  • No spaces between paragraphs
  • Times New Roman or Courier font with font size between 10 and 12 points
  • Double-space for texts, except for references, figure captions, table titles notes, and block quotes
  • Page numbers must appear at the top right corner of every page
  • Include a cover page, which should show your full name, class details, and the date

Frequently Asked Questions

1. what is an outline in literature.

An outline in a literature is the formal structure used to present information to demonstrate a comprehensive and clear analysis of a research issue.

With an outline, you can organize your topic and subtopics in a logical order, from the declaration sentence , through the supporting evidence, all the way to the conclusion.

2. Is It Necessary to Outline the Structure of a Literature Review?

It’s necessary to outline the structure of a literature review so that you can have a logical flow of ideas from the introduction to the conclusion.

Notably, you’ll find the outline extremely useful when drawing your research from a variety of subjects or if you’re analyzing varying methodologies.

3. How Do You Structure a Literature Review Paragraph?

The best way to structure a literature review paragraph is to state the main idea in the beginning.

Following the topic sentence should be evidence relevant to the topic, analysis of the evidence clearly explained within the paragraph, and a conclusion written in your own words.

4. What Makes a Good Literature Review?

For your literature review to be comprehensive or good enough, you have to demonstrate clear synthesis and understanding of the topic under investigation.

Don’t hold back on going the extra mile to present a strong evidence of analytical creativity that connect between the literatures under review.  

You may also like

Why is literature review important (3 benefits explained), 5 literature review dos and don’ts: a guide for all students, how long is a literature review (quick answer), how to write a literature review for a dissertation (2022 guide), literature review vs research paper: what’s the difference, literature review vs systematic paper: a complete comparison, subscribe to our newsletter now.

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8+ Literature Review Outline Examples [ Research, Generic, Individual ]

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literature review template

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new literature review outline

General Literature Review Outline Example Format :

  • Choose your introduction. This is where you will be talking about the topic you chose. What it is about, and why did you choose it?
  • Next, list down all the themes in your literary piece.
  • Lastly, draw your conclusions. This where you give out your opinion on the literature review you made.

Specific Literature Review Outline Example Format :

  • Check your punctuations, your grammar and your paragraphs.
  • Select your topic. What is it about? Why did you choose to talk about it? Your introduction answers two WH questions  Who  and  Why.
  • Analyze the literary piece you wish to talk about. This is still part of your introduction or your first paragraph.
  • Interpreting your choice of literature.
  • Sum up your ideas in the form of a chart, a table or a diagram. This is to make it easier for you to expound on your writing ideas and opinions.
  • Arrange your ideas from general to specific when you begin to write your review. This way it would be less of a problem for you to write everything down, and with less mistakes to make.
  • stated my reason for writing this review?
  • written down all my sources that I have used in my review?
  • explained specifically about my understanding of my chosen topic?
  • pointed out some theories that I believe fits my topic?
  • written an introduction, body and conclusion?
  • fully corrected my punctuations and spellings as well as my grammar?

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Literature Review Outline: Examples, Approaches, & Templates

A literature review is an update on the status of current research related to the issue in question . Its purpose is to provide the reader with a guide to a particular research topic. And for the writer, a well-written literature review is the best way to show their competence in the field.

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As with any other academic paper, the key to a successful literature review is its outline. Below you’ll find great tips for creating a perfect one. See where you can place your thesis statement in the introduction and when it’s time to reference sources. And you can examine an example of a literature review outline (APA format). Just keep reading this article prepared by Custom-writing experts!

  • 🔭 General Information
  • 📑 Main Approaches
  • 🗺️ Mapping the Concepts
  • ✍️ Writing Tips

🔗 References

🔭 literature review outline: general information.

Literature reviews are written mostly in sciences and social sciences, and sometimes in humanities. A literature review aims to discuss published information on the studies in a particular area. The most simple version of a literature review can be a mere summary of the sources. However, it usually features an organizational pattern and implies not only summary but also synthesis.

A literature review aims to provide a reader with a clear and understandable guide to a particular research topic. And for its writer, a solid review is an excellent opportunity to show them as an expert in a chosen field.

As MLA, Chicago, or APA style cover page generators help students with the very first part of any paper, the key to a successful literature review is a good outline . When planning a literature review, remember that no matter whether you’re dealing with a Chicago, MLA, or APA literature review outline, you’ll have to remember several important things.

📑 Literature Review Outline: Approaches to Structuring

A well-formed vision of the writing strategy before you start the main body paragraphs is half of the success. There are four approaches to arranging a literature review. Depending on the intended length of your paper, you can combine some or all of them. For instance, more than often, thematic and methodological strategies comprise a theoretical approach when it comes to details.

Literature Review Can Be Organized Chronologically, Theoretically, Methodologically, and Thematically.

Chronological Approach

Tracing the reviewed works in succession, starting with the earliest available materials, is the easiest way to examine the specific topic. Be careful not to list the works in chronological order with their summaries. The purpose of such a review is to find out the key patterns, central debates, and turning points of the prevailing opinion at specific periods.

Here is a sample to make the approach clear. If the first available source dates 1995, and the most recent one was written in 2017, divide your analysis into decades: 1995 – 2000, 2001 – 2010, and 2010 – present.

The chronological approach can perfectly combine with thematic or methodological ones. In such a case, the timescale is divided not by decades but by periods characterized by a predominant methodology or preferred theme.

Thematic Approach

This method is organized around a particular issue, rather than time progression. If you have found recurring themes in the course of your reading, it is an excellent idea to focus the review on them. As a rule, the thematic approach requires an in-depth study of the available scientific literature. It also looks more substantial and time-consuming than the chronological one.

Here, the sections dwell upon different issues or various aspects of one topic. For example, an overview of psychology literature on nonverbal communication can be divided into the following parts: facial expressions, postures, eye contact, gestures, touch, etc.

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Methodological Approach

Sometimes the results of findings are not as outstanding as the ways of obtaining those results. A review of research methods provides a profound scientific understanding of the subject field, notably the approaches to data collection, study, and systematization. It also provides an insight into how scientists went from isolated data to a concept, and from the concept to practical conclusions.

This form proves to be the most successful in the analysis of multidisciplinary works. You can list all the methods used and conclude on their efficiency. Alternatively, you can compare the qualitative and quantitative, empirical and theoretical, or any other incompatible methodology. The materials for analysis are the results obtained by such or another method.

Theoretical Approach

Very often, a literature review becomes the basis for a theoretical framework of a research paper. In this case, the theoretical approach is the most effective way to structure the report.

Wherever you can single out several theories on a single phenomenon, different models of a system, or diverging definitions of the same concept, the theoretical approach is the best choice. The purpose is to analyze the corpus of theory that has accumulated regarding an idea, opinion, or event. Usually, this form establishes the existing scientific knowledge gaps and finds out the outstanding research questions.

🗺️ Literature Review Outline: Mapping the Concepts

Wish to outline literature review papers correctly? First, try drawing a concept map for your outline! Create a graphic map with all the concepts and ideas you’ll want to include in the literature review outline. When you start writing, make sure that you’ve included everything you have on the map.

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Well, now you’re ready to write the most fantastic outline for a literature review ever! So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and try writing your own outline using the template below – success is just around the corner!

📰 Literature Review Outline: Template

Feel free to use the literature review outline template below! Note that the template is organized thematically.


A. Its features

1. Positive features

a) Feature #1

b) Feature #2

2. Negative features

B. Its significance

1. Positive effects

a) Effect #1

b) Effect #2

2. Negative effects


Check the literature review samples by the University of West Florida to get a clear idea on how to write this type of paper.

And now, it’s time for you to see an example of an outline for literature review writing!

👌 Literature Review Outline: Example

When creating your own review, consider the following literature review example:

Literature Review Outline: Postmodern Literature

  • Introduction: postmodern literature
  • Definition of the phenomenon
  • The development of postmodern literature
  • Research studies on postmodern themes
  • Research studies on postmodern techniques
  • Research studies on postmodern perspectives
  • Conclusion: promising ideas for research on postmodern literature

With this literature review outline example, you’ll surely handle even the most complicated literature review structure!

✍️ Literature Review Outline: Writing Tips

When you start writing a literature review, you should keep the following issues in mind:

  • Use evidence to support your interpretation of available sources.
  • Be selective. Limit your literature review to sources relevant to the topic of your research. You should select only the most important points in each source.
  • Compare and contrast the views of different authors. Organize the material for your reader to show trends in the literature.
  • Use quotes sparingly. Apply them only when you want to emphasize the author’s point and cannot rewrite it in your own words. Always focus on giving your own summary and interpretation of the literature, showing your original thinking and analysis.
  • Paraphrase in your own words to explain authors’ ideas . Give references to other sources when you are writing, but start and end the paragraphs with your own ideas.
  • Summarize and synthesize your literature review sources. Identify the main points in a concise manner for your readers. Evaluate your sources , consider their strengths and weaknesses, compare and contrast the results of the studies, and discuss the strength of the evidence.
  • Look for gaps in the existing research. Think about what aspects of your literature review topic have not yet been explored.
  • Be creative!
  • Draft and redraft. Improve the quality of your literature review by editing and proofreading.

Literature Review Essay Topics

  • Literature review: aspects of nursing in the emergency department. 
  • Review the literature that analyzes the specifics of evidence-based nursing practice . 
  • Write a literature review on the role of hepcidin in the human body.  
  • Analysis of challenges faced by small and medium businesses in South Africa: a literature review.  
  • Explore the literature that examines the interdependence between evidence and practice in healthcare .  
  • Review the studies examining how peritoneal dialysis influences patients’ mortality rate.  
  • Analyze the articles studying the connection between obesity and depression. 
  • Literature review the use of ecology in art .  
  • Discuss the academic literature examining the algorithms of speaking recognition techniques.   
  • Study the articles on the importance of environmental biology for preserving nature.  
  • Write a literature review on the role of digital signatures and cryptography.   
  • Examine whether the recent studies prove the connection between peritoneal dialysis and mortality rate.   
  • Literature analysis on a qualitative study in healthcare. 
  • Explore the scientific literature researching how to adjust and regulate the effect of autism spectrum disorder .  
  • Analyze the articles on the causes of chronic fatigue .  
  • Review the academic literature discussing the effect of the token economy on the behavior of students with autism .   
  • The causes and effects of pressure ulcers .   
  • Literature review on the link between COVID-19 infection and eye diseases . 
  • Literature review on third culture kids . 
  • Study the articles reviewing the efficacy of contemporary pressure ulcer prevention methods. 
  • Discuss the recent scholarly studies examining the correlation between nursing ratios and cases of hospital-acquired infections.   
  • Write the literature review on the benefits and side effects of corticosteroids used for asthma treatment .  
  • Examine the pertinent scholarly articles researching the aspects of irritable bowel syndrome diagnostics.  
  • Analyze the academic literature on chronic pain management.  
  • Provide the synthesis of recent scholarly studies focused on ventilator-associated pneumonia .  
  • Review the literature on cholecystitis symptoms and treatment.  
  • Importance and specifics of evidence-based nursing implementation.  
  • Explore the recent studies on anemia of chronic diseases .  
  • Discuss the academic articles analyzing postoperative readmission rates . 
  • Literature review on the breakthroughs in treating Alzheimer’s disease . 
  • Examine the relevant literature on the benefits of Electronic Health Record systems.  
  • Analyze the role of pressure ulcer protocols in reducing the rates of hospital-acquired pressure ulcer cases.  
  • Write a literature review on the effectiveness of the most popular ways of patient fall prevention .  
  • Review the relevant scholarly articles discussing the role of interprofessional collaboration in healthcare.  
  • Examine the recent academic literature on childhood obesity issues.  
  • Review the literature on the Capstone’s PICOT question .  
  • Literature review of articles on cyber security of young children .  
  • Discuss the latest studies examining the connection between American football and the drop in public health rates.   
  • Explore the relevant scholarly articles studying the challenges of single African American parents . 
  • Can the implementation of special physical exercises improve the balance and stability of elderly patients? 
  • Effects of traumatic brain injury: a literature review . 
  • Analyze the academic literature discussing the course and outcomes of operation Jawbreaker .  
  • Write a literature review on the emergency room wait time and healthcare quality.  
  • Review the academic articles that examine the causes of substance abuse and the efficacy of modern treatment methods.  
  • Examine the recent scholarly studies researching the homelessness issue .  
  • Discuss the academic literature analyzing the concept of biodiversity .  
  • Research the archeological articles studying the ancient Roman roads .  
  • Analyze the literature examining the benefits and drawbacks of flipped classroom approach .  
  • Literature review on prevention of breast cancer . 
  • Review the scholarly articles studying the impact of the ZIP code on human health.  

Writing a good literature review is not an easy task. It requires quite a lot of reading and researching. Check our 45 great tips on how to format and structure the literature review for more advice.

If you still have any problems in writing your literature review outline, ask for professional writing help online.

✏️ Literature Review FAQ

The way such paper should look like is best presented in the form of an outline . A simplified form would include an introduction, 3+ paragraphs (preferably with 2+ subparagraphs in each) as a review body, and a conclusion.

You should write about your interpretation of the literary piece. Include your understanding of the author’s message and the way he puts that idea across (scenes, characters, allusions, etc.). For a research paper, however, include more precise details than personal impressions.

Outlines for a paper should list concise notes about the structure of the text and its content (usually in the format of bullet points). Remember that an outline is not a research proposal or dissertation, so do not write about the goals, objectives, methods, etc.

Do you have a list of ideas you want to describe in the paper already? If so, just make those notes structured in logical consequence and format them as bullet points highlighting the gist of each part.

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please I was asked to write a 3000-word essay Evaluating Approaches to Literature Searching and Literature Review in Educational Research. And I don’t know how write or go about it. Can someone please help me with an outline in writing this. please someone should help

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Hello! Our experts will help you with any task!

HI, how long would you suggest an undergraduate’s final year research paper should be? ( minimum in pages for both quanti and quali researches) and is 15 pages of literature review( double spacing okay?

It would probably be between 10 and 20 pages. But it all comes down to the specific topic and instructions given. Fifteen pages for a literature review sounds good, if it’s an independent type of assignment. However, if it’s part of the undergraduate’s final year research paper mentioned above, then fifteen pages is probably too much. But, again, it all depends on the instructions, topic, etc.

thankyouuuu!!!!!!! best one so far

We are glad to hear your opinion! Thank you, Sadia🙂!

useful blog keep going

Thank you, Soran! Glad you found the blog useful 🙂

Very well explained!

Thank you, Rimpy!

Really appreciate the great information guide on writing. It’s outstanding and brilliant how the outline process is explained herewith. Thanks.

Thank you for your kind words, Dominic! Glad the article was useful for you.

Thank you so much. This was so helpful, especially with your examples of an outline.

I’m glad the article was helpful for you, Jane!

I am working on a literary review on a couple of articles having to do with college football players getting paid. I have started my intro with info about the college athletic industry and how it is controversial, but how do I introduce/transition into the articles and the actually literary review?

Try to go with the facts, and stick with them. It would work kind of well, Janeth.

Thanks for stopping by. Try to write about features, positive and negative ones.

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9+ Literature Review Outline Templates, Samples

Your dissertation is not complete without a literature review. You would have to study a lot of texts to develop a solid understanding on the theme or angle of your research and the literature review states how these books helped you in shaping your theory. You must start with a literature review outline and a dissertation outline template will be helpful here .

literature review outline templates samples

  • Outline Templates in PDF
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APA Literature Review Outline Template

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Literature Review Outline Template Word

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Literature Review Sample

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Simple Literature Review

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Critical Literature Review Template

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Abstract and Literature Review

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Assesment Literature Review

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