how to write a literature review

A literature review is one of the essential steps in the research process. A literature review tells your readers what others have researched on your topic and helps to demonstrate why your topic is both original and essential to the field of research. However, a literature review isn’t as simple as merely listing the material you’ve found and expecting the reader to connect the dots. A well-written literature review is an art form in and of itself. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at ten steps for writing a literature review in order to see the right way to develop a literature review to show your readers why your project is new, meaningful, and worth their time to read and understand. 

So, where should you start when it comes to a literature review? Consider these ten essential steps and expert tips for writing an excellent literature review:

Read the Assignment

The first and most crucial step in writing a literature review is to read the assignment and make sure that you understand all of its parts. This might seem like an obvious step, but you would be surprised how many people skip over this most essential step. To know what literature you will need to review, you need to understand precisely what you are being asked to do in your paper. Even if you are creating a literature review for a journal article, you still need to be sure that you have defined the parameters of what you are doing to make sure that you have defined the scope of your literature review properly. 

Narrow Your Topic

In order to choose the suitable literature to review, you need a specific topic, not just a general idea. Based on your preliminary research, you should be able to produce a narrow, tailored thesis statement that you can then use to guide your literature review. The more specific your topic, the easier it will be to search only for the most relevant literature to your issue. In many cases, a general topic will simply be too broad to effectively research. For example, the literature on World War II is overwhelmingly vast, but the literature on the role of women in the French resistance is much more manageable.

Define Your Audience

A literature review will be different depending on the audience you are trying to reach. An academic essay is written for a scholarly audience. It will need a deeper, more critical, and more intellectual approach to evaluating sources than a review written for a popular audience. An academic literature review will focus on scholarly sources, while a popular one may look at a broader class of sources. 

Begin the Literature Research Process

There is no getting around the most challenging part of the literature review process, which is researching the literature. You will need to visit your school’s library, either in person or virtually, to research material about your topic. Craft a list of search terms to use to identify likely sources. When you have found sources that look relevant, use their bibliographies to help identify additional sources. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of the help your school’s librarians can offer. They are familiar with research tools and databases and can often direct you to sources you may not have found on your own.

Keep Both New and Old Sources in Mind

It’s essential for a literature review to be current, so you’ll want to explore what’s been said recently, but don’t neglect key older sources. You want to show your readers that you have a good understanding of essential touchstones in the field.

Consider Literature Review Writing Help

Developing your literature review can be a challenge, and professional help from an expert writer can often make the difference between a decent paper and one that has an exceptional literature review. 

It may benefit you to get support from a literature review writing service to obtain a complete, professional literature review formatted in APA style as a guideline to show you the right way to review any and all research sources included in it. It also does the hard work of identifying the best quality literature for you to move through the writing process faster.

Read the Literature You Selected

When you have researched your sources, you will need to read and evaluate each of them in order to conduct the literature review. That means that you will have to be able to summarize each source and evaluate the quality of each source, the assumptions each author made, and the value of their data and conclusions. Pay special attention to methodologies so you can explain how they are similar to or different from your own.

Organize the Research Sources Logically

To present your literature to your audience, you will need to be able to organize it in a way they will understand. For example, you may want to take a chronological approach to show changes over time for very similar literature. However, organizing thematically may be more appropriate for literature covering a more comprehensive range of topics.

Look for Gaps in the Literature

As you evaluate the literature, try to look for gaps in your sources, areas where no one has yet researched an aspect of your topic. It can be difficult in a saturated field to find many areas that have not yet been covered, but when you do, it will be much easier to explain why your topic and approach are essential and original. 

Writing the Literature Review

The final step is to finally write the paper from scratch! As you write your literature review for your essay, research paper or dissertation, you will want to be sure that you are making connections between the sources you are reviewing and your main idea and/or conclusions. The reader should understand the purpose of the review and how the sources connect to the point you are making.