When writing academic research or even a thesis, a literature review is an overview of scholarly sources you have turned to in your research. The literature review is only vital when academic writing such as thesis, dissertation and research papers. Citing the pages is enough for a shorter report, such as an essay.

When are you supposed to write a literature review?

The literature review is always part of writing academic research. Writing a literature review is to give your readers the sources you have used in your research. This will help you to communicate various things such as;

  • Research methodology: literature review helps you describe the kind of research you are doing, how you gathered your data, the basis for selecting your sources and how you will interpret the data collected.
  • The theoretical framework you formulated: basically, this gives your research a plan, indicating where you began, which theories and models you selected to discuss intensely and where these theories and models have taken you.
  • Where your research lies in broad view: you describe how your results are attached to other parts of a study on your topic .this shows the relationship with other parts of research, the gap this research has filled, the contribution of any current debates, and where this study conform with other fields.

Writing down a literature review is not a small task, but neither writing your dissertation, thesis or even a broad research paper is.

In some cases, your academic supervisors ask you to write the literature review and give them before you begin your study. This offers the supervisor a chance to know what your research is and how you will do that research and even give you a response and recommendation to make your academic paper more powerful. This means giving you more resources and directing the scope of your research.

A literature review is different from an abstract. Both are vital parts of a research paper, but abstract your work while the literature review summarizes the conducted research to complete your report.

The goal of an abstract is to attract readers and aid cataloguers and researchers to check whether your research is an essential source for their research and whether it fits an academic journal. In contrast, the goal of the literature review is to give the background of your research and strengthen the validity of your research paper.

How do you write a literature review?


The structure of a literature review is the same as that of an essay.

You will have to start with an introduction to reveal the research questions and describe how you will address them, .followed by a body paragraph that will describe your paper in detail. Then a conclusion paragraph echoes your research question while summing up the finding of your research paper.

The length of a literature review depends on the purpose of the research. An essay will require only a few paragraphs or pages, but for dissertation and thesis, it will belong to several pages.


The literature review is written in the same style as any other writing in academic. Thus there are no concise language, contractions or even formal tone.

To differentiate between your finding and other research of other people, past tense should be used when discussing research prior conducted on your paper. In contrast, the present tense should explain your finding and point of view.

Step by step when writing a literature review

Outline your research area

If you have not specified your research area, concentrate on a particular and answerable objective, and find sources before doing that. When you have already outlined the particular thesis for your research, write down the keywords connected to your paper.

Search suitable literature

By using the keywords enlisted, search for suitable sources from your university’s library or even from JSTOR, EBSCO and Google scholar.

When finding essential sources, go through their abstracts and check their scope in your research area. By quick reviewing each research paper, you can write down all the sources that give data and content that align with your research.

Pinpoint patterns, gaps and themes in your identified sources.

As you go through the sources that you have chosen, you can ask yourself some questions such as

  • How well do authors agree with one another?
  • Where is their disagreement?
  • How does every researcher hold up the position in each paper?

Check the research methods that researchers have used in their papers. If other documents from different authors involved experiments and studies, check whether the results were duplicated or where there was a difference.

Note down your central perception on each paper and find out the contribution of each source to the subject area. Investigate how each source contradicts and confronts or agrees with one another.

Generate the outline of your literature review

It is essential to put down the outline of your literature review. After going through your sources and analyzing their connections, patterns and themes, it is crucial to organize and strategize your paper by writing down the outline.

There are some ways you can arrange your outline. You can chronologically arrange them. This is where you discuss the oldest sources first, then come to the newest ones. You can also outline your sources according to the themes. This is where you group resources that share the same theme and discuss them. Also, you can organize your outline depending on the research methods applied by researchers.

The subject area on your literature review is the critical determinant of how you will organize your literature review—arranging your literature review according to the themes or chronologically best suits to research on humanities since it will help you see the evolution of subjects. When it comes to sciences, organizing sources depending on research methods can help you understand why current sources are in agreement with each other.

Ready to write your literature review

Upon completing writing your outline, you can begin writing your literature review. In most cases, literature reviews are written in the third person. For example, you can state an article by saying, “this article discusses…” or “in his research, the author discusses…” but there are exceptional areas where the first person is used when writing a literature review, such as when talking about your article. For example, when referencing the work that you had written before or collected data, you can use words such as “I agree” or “I argue”.

Remember to follow one writing style, APA or MLA or any other style, when writing your paper. Make sure to deeply evaluate, interpret and respond to the sources you are using; don’t just describe them. Remember, you don’t have to agree with every source you come across. You can disagree with the finding of the sources and turn to be a strong point in your research paper.

Remember to put down all your annotated bibliography for all of your sources. If you forget to cite all sources, it can lead to plagiarism which can cause your work to be discredited, or even your university expel you?

Read other peoples literature reviews.

Reading literature reviews written by other people, especially for your research area, can give you an insight into how literature review is written and help you write better.

Academic writing is different from other kinds of paper, and it can be time-consuming .that why is there for you to help you in any way. Contact for any questions, and they will be available to help you in any way they can.