How to Write the Literature Review Chapter of a Dissertation or Thesis


(Updated on May 6, 2020)

When completing a dissertation or thesis, you'll need to conduct a phenomenal amount of data collection.  This research may include using online and offline sources in order to gather information, though you may also be called upon to conduct research or experiments on your own in order to obtain original data in support of your thesis or reference project.

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Depending upon the requirements of your dissertation or thesis, you might also be called upon to writer a literature review chapter.  It is important to note that a literature review isn't the same as a book review.  Whereas a book review is completed to provide the reader with information about the story of the book as well as a brief opinion on the work, a literature review delves far deeper into the book being reviewed.

With a literature review, your goal is to dissect the piece and to determine its relevancy and its impact on the field.  As such, you'll only provide a brief summary of what the book was about while the majority of your literature review chapter will focus more on the impact the work has on the field of study and whether or not it made a meaningful contribution to the field.

How to Write the Literature Review Chapter of a Dissertation or ThesisIn order to write the literature review chapter component of your dissertation or thesis, you'll need to complete for basic stages.  The first stage is the problem formulation stage.  During this stage, you'll determine which topic of field you'll be examining.  The next stage is the literature search.  At this time, you'll look for materials that are relevant to the topic you're exploring.  The next stage is data evaluation, at which time you work to determine what literature makes the biggest contribution to the topic.  Finally, you'll analyze and interpret your findings as well as the conclusions you can draw from the literature you're reviewing.

There are a number of key elements that should be included in the actual review of the literature.  For example, you should provide an overview of the subject as well as the theory or issue you're writing about.  This area should already be thoroughly covered in your dissertation and should connect smoothly to the literature review component.

You will also need to divide the works you're reviewing into different categories.  For example, you might divide the works according to which ones are in support of a certain position as opposed to those who are against it.  After categorizing the works, you'll still need to provide an explanation of how the works are similar and how they differ.  Finally, you'll need to draw conclusions regarding which are most convincing, which present the best information, and which ones make the most significant impact on the understanding of the topic being researched.  Making this determination will rely heavily upon considering the author's credentials, the objectivity of the author, the author's persuasiveness, and the value of the author's arguments.

Dissertation Literature Review

A dissertation literature review usually follows the introduction chapter.  The introduction outlines the research problem the report will address, describes the purpose of the study, and lists the writer's hypotheses regarding the outcomes of those problems.  The literature review comes next to suggest the validity of the topic by pointing to its relevance to other scholars.  Therefore, a dissertation literature review serves, in a way, to prove the credibility of both the report and the writer by demonstrating the writer's awareness of relevant research in the field.

Many students find dissertation literature reviews daunting because of their length and depth.  However, this need not be the case.  The most difficult aspect of the literature review is the research going into it; the writing element is fairly straightforward.

Dissertation literature reviews aren't places for commentary, but reporting.  The student should simply present a summary of each study according to the guidelines presented above.

Writing a Literature Review

A scholarly literature review references a variety of different books, papers, and other sources that are related to a specific issue in order to produce a critical evaluation of each piece.  As such, the primary purpose of a literature review is to provide an overview of the significant pieces of literature that have been published on a particular topic.

When learning how to write a literature review, you'll need to go through four primary stages:

  1. Problem formulation
  2. Literature search
  3. Data evaluation
  4. Analysis and interpretation

With the problem formulation stage, you must determine the general field to examine, and then you must choose a focused topic within that general field.  Next, you'll conduct a literature search in order to find those materials that are relevant to the topic that you're researching.

After gathering the various pieces of literature that are relevant to the topic, you'll then need to decide upon which pieces make the most significant contribution to being able to understand the topic.  After making this determination, you'll then discuss these various pieces of literature and explain their relevance to the subject.

In order to complete a literature review, you'll need to first provide the reader with an overview of the subject, theory, or issue about which you'll be writing.  In addition, you'll need to provide the reader with a brief overview of the objectives that you'll be discussing in the review.

Next, you'll need to divide the various literary works into different categories.  You will need to develop the categories on your own, in accordance with how they're related to the broader subject matter.  In many cases, however, the best way to divide the works is into the following categories:

  • those that support a certain position;
  • those that don't support a certain position;
  • those that offer alternative viewpoints on the same, general topic.

Once you have established the categories, the body of your document will include at least one paragraph for each of your categories.  Within these paragraphs, you'll explain how each literary piece is both similar to and different from the others.

For the conclusion of your literature review, you should discuss which pieces you feel are the best to offer in the subject area.  In order to select the best pieces, you should consider which ones make the most convincing argument, which make the greatest contribution on the subject, and which demonstrate the greatest understanding of the subject.  Other areas to consider include the author's credentials, the strength of the data used to support the author's point-of-view, and the objectivity of the author.

Remember, when engaged in literature review writing, your goal is to place each of the works within the context of its contribution to the subject.  You also have to describe the relationship of each piece to the topic, as well as discuss the overall impact that each piece has on the field of study about which it was completed.

Literature Review Writing Help

A literature review is a comprehensive survey of scholarly research on a particular topic.  Literature reviews are commonly included in journal articles, research studies, and doctoral dissertations.  It is likely that students in the graduate or advanced undergraduate phases of their studies will have to do a literature review at some point, especially if their fields are in the sciences or social sciences.  Many students are intimidated by such an assignment because they don't have experience with this type of writing, and assume that they don't know how to write literature reviews.  However, writing a literature review simply requires the student to compile information in a straightforward and organized fashion.  This process begins with research and learning how to write literature review notes.

The research for a literature review should be comprehensive.  This means that it should cover all major studies relevant to the topic of the review.  It is unlikely that all sources on one topic will be found in one university library.  Therefore, it may require the student to look beyond his/her own university to sources housed elsewhere.  Throughout the entire research process, the student should keep extremely detailed notes of each study he/she examines.  This includes noting the type of study that was carried out, what or who the study subjects were, the method of the study, the study's means of data analysis, the study's findings, and the researcher's suggestions for further areas of study in the topic.  It is imperative that a student take thorough notes; otherwise, the learner will likely forget the details of the study necessary for inclusion in the literature review.

A literature review is a survey of research; it doesn't provide commentary on the research it presents.  Unlike research papers, wherein students are required to analyze and engage the secondary sources they incorporate, a literature review is strictly a report.  Sometimes students unfamiliar with how to write literature reviews assume they need to insert their critical assessments of the studies; this isn't the case.  The literature review simply requires the student to provide detailed summaries of various research studies and report on them in an objective fashion.  This in itself isn't difficult if the student has recorded detailed notes of his/her research and has prepared for the writing process by turning these notes into an outline.

Because literature reviews have such a volume of information, some students may be daunted by how to write literature review outlines.  This process will simply require time and a word processor so that students can freely move information around in different orders.  Often, the first concern students have regarding how to write literature review outlines is where to begin.  It is always best to begin with the most general information first—the studies and sources that define the topic at hand and its significance—then progress to more detailed studies.  The outline should be organized by the subcategories of the topic.  Within each subcategory, there should be a list of the relevant studies on that topic.  Research studies that are similar or suggest similar implications should be grouped together.

Once the outline is complete, the student is ready to write the literature review—a process that should be fairly straightforward now that the research is complete and the organization has been determined.  Students who have further concerns about how to write literature reviews should consult their instructors or read examples of literature reviews to see how others have completed them in the past.

Writing a Review of Literature

In many long, scholarly documents such as dissertations, theses, and journal articles, it's common to include a section that presents an overview of existing research on the given topic.  This section presents a survey (review) of research (literature); thus, it's known as a "review of literature" or "literature review."  Reviews of literature are intended to provide a reader with background information about previous scholarly investigations on a specific topic.  This is done both to inform and to point out areas in the literature that need further development.  Often, exploring just such an area will be the object of the writer's own research.

A review of literature is essentially a series of summaries that explain the objectives, processes, and findings of a variety of research studies related to the writer's own topic.  These summaries are organized in such a way that studies that focus on similar subjects or have similar findings are grouped together.  Thus, reviews of literature are organized by study focuses and findings.

The research necessary to assemble a comprehensive review of literature on a single topic takes significant time and effort.  Reviews of literature aren't simply papers that report selectively on important studies.  Reviews of literature are intended to address all studies that are relevant to the writer's particular topic, which requires the writer to find and read all of these studies.  Though this may seem daunting, topics requiring literature reviews are so specific and specialized that the most difficult process isn't reading all the research, but finding it.

A review of literature must be completed in very straightforward language.  This is because a review of literature is intended to be an unbiased summary rather than a discussion.  The writer should actually avoid including any commentary or analysis in the review.

Because reviews of literature are reports on secondary research, they will be rich in quotations, paraphrases, and citations.  Any time a research study is mentioned, it must be given proper credit with a citation.  The type of citation will depend on the style sheet the writer is using, but it will always include a mention of the author's name and, if it's a quotation, the inclusion of the page number on which the quote can be found.

What Is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a comprehensive survey of scholarly research on a specific topic.  Literature reviews are commonly included in doctoral dissertations and academic journal articles.  The point of a literature review is to present all of the relevant research on a single topic in order to demonstrate how the researcher's own research—which is presented elsewhere—builds on and contributes to existing knowledge to add new insight.  In order for literature reviews to be both comprehensive and understandable, the student must devote significant effort to both researching and writing.  There are many guidelines for literature review researching and writing, and students who are unfamiliar with these guidelines may benefit from perusing published literature reviews or academic models.

A literature review is a survey of research; it doesn't provide commentary on the research it presents.  It is not, therefore, a reference project.  In research papers, students analyze and engage the secondary sources they incorporate.  In a literature review, a student should only report on those sources.  For literature reviews to do this effectively requires the student to assume an objective tone and merely summarize research studies rather than comment on them.

The biggest challenge for literature review writers is often organization.  The format for literature reviews will vary slightly depending on the type of document or study the student is writing.  However, most literature reviews will be divided into several sections that will be clearly defined through informative headings.  Often, these headings separate the discussed research studies into categories in order to progress in an organized and orderly fashion.  To best execute this organization, it may be helpful for literature review writers to create an outline before writing the document itself.  This process is best completed with a word processor so that students can easily move information into varying orders.  This outline should begin with the most general information first—the studies and sources that define the topic at hand and its significance—then progress to more detailed research studies.

Example of a Literature Review

An example of a literature review consists of many sections.  A literature review is an academic writing that surveys different reference sources and presents information for the reader to analyze.  By effectively evaluating selected documents pertaining to a particular research topic, learners can synthesize important information.  Examples of literature reviews help writers to understand how to write effectual reviews that provide backgrounds for proposed studies.

There are many purposes for literature reviews.  First of all, a good review of literature will offer theoretical background.  Then, it can also present a methodology or research methods.  Moreover, it may provide rationale or relevance of a study currently being analyzed.  Writers can utilize an example of literature review in order to distinguish what has been done from what research must be conducted.  Instructors often assign students the writing of literature reviews in order to meet the requirements of a large academic writing such as a thesis or reference project.

To begin writing a literature review, students must first search for literature.  Then, they must sort and prioritize the retrieved literature after analytically reading the material.  It is imperative that students also evaluate the literature in terms of its relevancy to their research topic.  By making comparisons across studies, learners can better organize the content of the literature review for clarity.  Examples of literature reviews are helpful to both teachers and students who must evaluate academic materials for substance.

Therefore, an example of a literature review shows the sections of academic writing with regards to an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.  In the introduction, the writing gives an overview of the scale and structure for the review.  Since a literature review isn't a novel critique, the introduction helps to define the wide scope of the research document.  Next, the body of the review is quite extensive; it covers in great detail the analysis and synthesis of key information from retrieved sources.  Throughout the body, the writer gives reasons for similarities and differences between investigated studies.  Good topic sentences at the beginning of paragraphs along with concluding sentences at the end of sections help the reader to comprehend the main issues of the literature review.

Finally, the last section shown in examples of literature reviews is the conclusion.  During this final writing step, the student is able to formulate summaries that maintain the focus presented by the introduction.  Also, the conclusion is where the writer evaluates the current status of the sources in general terms as he/she points out any gaps in the literature.  By drawing relevant conclusions, the writer facilitates the reader's understanding of key relationships between the research topic and a larger area of professional expertise.

Literature Review How-To Guide

A literature review how-to is usually a step-by-step guide that helps students learn how to create a literature review (or a component/section/chapter of it).  There are a wide variety of literature review how-to papers at available to help students learn how to perform research for a literature review, outline a literature review, draft a literature review, and even edit a literature review.  Every literature review how-to has one thing in common: it's designed to help students get the best possible grade from their literature reviews.

Students need to consider the sources of their literature review how-to in order to decide how credible the how-to is.  Literature review how-to papers shouldn't only help students understand how to write an effective literature review, but they should also provide examples that make sense to the students.  After all, a literature review how-to that's difficult for students to understand isn't very effective in the long run.

When a student looks for literature review how-to papers, he/she should read several different ones in order to make sure that the information is consistent.  Writing a literature review is fairly standard.  However, not all literature reviews will have the same information or the same level of accuracy of information.  By comparing literature review how-to papers, learners will be able to determine which reviews contain the most similar information, which also might mean that the information is the most accurate.

Students also need to consider the assignment requirements before they select which literature review how-to they follow.  For example, some literature review how-to documents might help learners write their final document in MLA or APA format.  Some literature review how-to papers will suggest that students should add certain elements that may not be required, such as an analysis of the author's personal struggles and their application to the literary work.

A literature review how-to paper is different from a literature review writing or editing service.  A how-to document is an instructional guideline that helps students to create their own materials.  Many how-to documents contain a step-by-step guide that students can follow.  However, literature review editing and writing services are customized for students needs and requirements.  Usually, with a writing or editing service, the learner will work closely with a writer or editor to create a document that he/she can reference.  Literature review how-to papers offer students more independence.

Literature Review Format

Every academic document should have its own style and format.  The same goes for literature reviews.  Even though literature reviews are largely subjective academic works, there's still a literature review format that students should follow.  Students may, however, vary the style of content that they wish to include in the literature review.

Many students will have to write literature reviews.  Even if a student is majoring in something other than English, he/she will most likely have to write literature reviews for his/her high school-level English courses.  Therefore, all students will need to be familiar with the standard literature review format at some point during their academic careers.

Furthermore, literature review formats not only help learners to structure their literature reviews in a meaningful manner, but they also can help students structure their thoughts and persuasive arguments in an effective manner.  Students learn how to provide background information and evidence in order to support their points when they develop their literature review formats.  Therefore, literature review formats can be applied to just about any topic that a student needs to write about in order to make his/her argument more effective.

The first thing that students should know about a literature review format is that the document should be completed with a purpose.  With each paragraph of the literature review, the student should come closer and closer to defining and explaining that purpose.  Therefore, in order to format a literature review correctly, students need to first read and understand the piece of literature about which they're writing.

The first part of a literature review format is the introduction.  This is where the student should provide information about the background of the literary work and give insight into the purpose of the literary review.  Next, the student should complete a thesis statement, which briefly explains what he/she will say in his/her literature review.  Every subsequent paragraph in the literature review format should support that thesis statement with new information.  Finally, the learner will have a conclusion that the end of the literature review format.

There are many different types of academic document formats that students should know if they're going to write effective projects.  When a student has to complete a literature review, he/she needs to be sure that he/she is following the proper format and not following the format for another type of academic work, such as an essay or story review.

Purpose of a Literature Review

The section of a report or scholarly journal article that presents a detailed summary of existing research on a specific topic is formally known as the "literature review."  Literature reviews are surveys (reviews) of research (literature) on a particular subject.  There are two primary purposes for such surveys: (1) to provide the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the scholarly work that has been done regarding a particular topic; and (2) to identify areas within that body of research that have yet to be fully explored.

Literature reviews are unlike most other types of investigation-based writing in that they aren't discussions of ideas in which the writer inserts his/her own opinion and analysis of the presented concepts.  In fact, the literature review writer must avoid inserting his/her opinions or analyses, as the document is intended to be a neutral overview of existing research on the given topic.

In addition to being neutral, the literature review must be direct.  In keeping with the report-style writing mentioned above, a literature review should be completed in straightforward and concise language and strive for impeccable clarity.

The literature review must also be thorough.  It must be thorough in the sense that it must encompass all of the relevant research existing on a single topic, and it must be thorough in the sense that every study discussed must be completely explained.  This means that the process, outcomes, and implications of each study included must be addressed.

The literature review must be well-organized.  Each study presented in the review should have its own paragraph or set of paragraphs.  The review should progress in a general-to-specific order, such that the beginning pages deal with concepts that contextualize and explain the review topic and the later pages address more nuanced aspects of the topic.

The literature review must be properly cited.  Literature reviews are comprised entirely of secondary research.  Therefore, there will be dozens and possibly hundreds of citations throughout the text.  Each of these must be properly documented both in the text and in a list of works cited at the end of the document.  The citation style used for this documentation will vary depending on the discipline in which the literature review is being composed.

Finally, literature reviews must be carefully proofread.  Both the writer and an outside reader should examine the document several times to check for grammar, spelling, and style errors.

Literature Review Basics

What is a literature review?
Many students, when assigned to do a literature review, will ask themselves, each other, and their professors this question.  This is because the literature review is a genre that's only required once students have reached an advanced level in a particular subject.  Therefore, it's likely that most college students don't have a background in literature review writing.  So, what are literature reviews?  They are comprehensive overviews of research on a single and specific subject.  Literature reviews are essentially long summaries of data collection.  They aren't research papers, because the student isn't expected to comment on the research.

What is a literature review's objective?
The primary purpose of a literature review is to provide a summary of all of the major works existing on a single, specific subject.  This is done for two reasons: (1) so that the researcher is aware of all of those works and their implications so that he/she can perform research in that area that's not replicating the existing research but building on it, and (2) so that readers of the literature review can understand the background information and knowledge existing on the subject.

What is a literature review's context?
Literature reviews are commonly included in dissertations and in scholarly journal articles.  In this context, the literature review provides a background of existing research before the dissertation writer presents his/her own research in the area.  This proves that the researcher's study is grounded in existing research.

Who is the audience for a literature review?
Typically, the audience for a literature review is an academic audience that has some familiarity with the subject or at least the discipline in which the literature review is completed.

What are literature reviews' conventions?
Literature reviews are completed in third-person, academic prose.  They don't provide commentary on the studies, but merely report on them.  Literature reviews close by commenting on further research that needs to be done on the particular subject.

What are literature reviews' citation rules?
The citation style of a literature review will depend on the discipline in which the review is being written.  Most literature reviews in the social sciences will use APA style.  Literature reviews in the humanities will use MLA.

What Is Literature Review Writing?

Most students who are in college are aware that, if they continue through graduate school, they will need to complete a thesis or dissertation.  Students are also generally aware that theses and dissertations are comprised of chapters that typically include an introduction, literature review, methodology, results, and conclusion.  What students are often stymied by is the question, "What, exactly, is literature review writing?"

To answer the question, it's important to understand the purpose of a literature review.  Essentially, a literature review is a summary of existing, published information on a topic.  The information should be from credible academic sources.  Once a student has selected his/her thesis or dissertation topic, that student then reviews the existing literature on the topic and writes a literature review based on what he/she has uncovered.

Another question students often ask is what is literature review analysis?  Many individuals believe that the literature review is the most important part of a thesis or reference project.  For this reason, a literature review is often heavily analyzed by both students and instructors.  A literature review analysis essentially critically reviews the literature review chapter of the thesis or dissertation for relevance and content.  The information contained in a literature review must be relevant to the topic and thoroughly reviewed to ensure that its content reflects the student's goals.

Students also often want to know what is literature review criticism.  Literature review criticism can, and should, occur from a variety of different sources.  The first critique of a literature review should come from the student himself/herself.  As mentioned above, literature reviews should be reviewed for content and relevance to the topic.  The content of the literature review should be credible and it should be relevant to the topic.  Students must critically review their own work to ensure that their literature review meets this basic criteria.

Students should also invite several other people to critique their literature review.  The fact is that a literature review is a critical component of a thesis or dissertation and the weight of its content warrants significant attention to the information contained within that particular chapter.  Literature reviews should be critiqued by other students, student editors, advisors, friends, and any other individuals that the writer can enlist.

Write Literature Reviews Correctly

Many college and graduate students will be required to complete a good literature review document at some point in their studies.  A literature review is a comprehensive survey of existing research on a single, narrowly-defined topic.  To write literature reviews effectively will often require the writer to learn how to write literature review notes and outlines and to familiarize himself/herself with the conventions of literature review writing in order to adapt those conventions to the needs of his/her particular topic.

Literature reviews are surveys of research; therefore, the process of completing a literature review begins in an academic library.  The research required to complete a good literature review is very different from the research required for a research or term paper because rather than unearthing several sources that will contribute to the writer's paper idea, a literature review must address all sources that are relevant to the researcher's topic.  This will necessitate investigation into many sources, and will therefore require the researcher to write literature review notes on each source he/she encounters.  These notes should indicate the source, author, publication date, and main topic of the research.  They should record a detailed description of the source's primary arguments and findings, and should also note why the study should be included in the literature review—the way in which the study is relevant to the researcher's topic of investigation.

Once students have completed their research, they must organize the research into a coherent structure.  To this end, learners should complete a good literature review outline.  In the outline, the student should determine the primary categories of research that will be discussed in the review, and then decide which research studies belong in each category.  In addition, the student should decide on the best order for structuring the entire review.  Therefore, it's best that the literature review outline be composed on a word processor so that the student can easily move the primary sections into varying orders.

To write literature reviews in a sophisticated academic way requires the writer to be an objective reporter rather than an involved commentator.  This means students should write literature reviews in a clear and impartial manner that presents each study's research objectives and findings without inserting the student's opinions on these objectives and findings.  The review should conclude with a paragraph that comments on what the body of research presented suggests about the researcher's topic in general and what areas of research are left to be explored to further that research topic.

How to Write Literature Reviews for College

It is likely that sometime in the course of a student's graduate study, and sometimes even in his/her undergraduate study, he/she will be required to undertake an extensive research project and present the results of that research in what is known as a "literature review."  A literature review is an overview of scholarly research on a single topic.  It may be one part of a larger text, such as a dissertation or journal article, or it may be a single text in itself.  Because a literature review is a document with which many learners are unfamiliar, they are often unsure of how to write a literature review and become intimidated.  This need not be the case, as a literature review is a document that can be easily composed once the student has learned how to approach its organization.

The first step to learning how to write a literature review is to have a clear idea of what it is.  Many students who are confused about how to write a literature review assume that it is the equivalent of a college research paper.  This isn't the case.  A research paper presents scholarly studies to make a point or argument.  A literature review, on the other hand, objectively presents an exhaustive survey of relevant research on a particular topic in order to 1) establish the scope and depth of scholarly opinion on that topic; 2) place the study within the context of its academic precedents; 3) determine if further research is necessary.

The most difficult decision to make when considering how to write literature reviews is how best to organize the material.  The best way to ensure a good literature review is to compose a thorough outline before writing.  Literature reviews should be organized by the subcategories of the topic they address.  Therefore, the best way to approach a literature review is to make a list of all the studies that need to be included and then divide that list into topic subcategories.  For instance, if the literature review were on compositional styles in the late Baroque period, the research that the writer would present would likely include several different papers about varying types of late Baroque composition.  The list should be broken down into subcategories of papers that address roughly the same style.  For example, there would be subcategories for chamber music compositions, vocal works, orchestral works, concerti, keyboard music, etc.  The literature review should be organized in such a way that all of the works in one subcategory are discussed before moving on to a different subcategory.  Furthermore, it should be organized so that studies that build on each other are placed next to each other in the text.  This will improve the document's natural progression and "flow" (i.e., make the writing more readable, understandable, sensible, and easier to follow).

Similarly, if one were composing a literature review on the mating behavior of eels, the literature review would group studies with similar findings together in such a way that the mating behavior of freshwater eels is discussed in one section and the mating behavior of saltwater eels is discussed in another.  Within those subdivisions, each study should be discussed in its own paragraph or set of paragraphs.

Once the writer has determined the overall organization of the literature review, the next step is to follow the outline by presenting a summary of each study.  Each study in a literature review should have its own paragraph or set of paragraphs that clearly outlines:

  1. the authors of the research;
  2. the year the research was published;
  3. what the study sought to determine;
  4. the way in which the study was executed;
  5. the study's results or findings.

All of this information should be discussed in an academic and objective fashion.

The literature review should conclude by describing the general ideas presented by the body of literature discussed in the study and pointing to any conclusions the research as a whole makes about the topic at hand.  It should then suggest areas of research in the particular topic that have yet to be investigated.

If students have further questions about how to write literature reviews, it may be helpful to read literature reviews completed by both students and professionals.  These can be found in academic journals and databases, and may also be available from a student's professor.  Examining existing literature review models will assist any student wishing to know how to write literature reviews that are accomplished and effective.

Writing a Literature Review Paper

Writing a literature review may be one of the most time-intensive writing assignments a student undertakes in the course of his/her studies.  It requires extensive research and detailed organization.  It's also different from writing other types of academic texts because it requires the writer to be an objective reporter of information rather than an engaged participant in the conversation about that information.  In other words, a literature review isn't a text that seeks to advance the writer's ideas or opinions on a particular topic; it's presented with the sole purpose of offering an overview of relevant research on a topic.

Writing a literature review will be the same regardless of its final form: it requires the organized, logical, and comprehensive presentation of all of the scholarly material related to a specific topic.  The point of writing literature reviews is to compile important research on a topic in order to be aware of previous investigation into that topic so that the researcher can attempt to contribute something new to that body of research .

When completing literature reviews, it's best to plan the organization of the data before beginning the writing process.  This will help the literature review be understandable, and will also help the writer approach the literature review in the most efficient way.  Therefore, it may be helpful to create a rough outline of the order in which the material will be presented before beginning.  Keep in mind that it's always advisable to present general information first and then work into more complex studies.

What Goes in a Literature Review?

If a student needs to complete a literature review, he/she needs to understand the basic format and type of information that should be included.  Literature reviews are common academic documents in which a student must read a piece of literature, such as a novel or a poem, and complete a written review.  Literature reviews not only provide information about the literary work(s), but also analysis from the student's point-of-view.

When completing literature reviews, students need to first read a piece of literature and understand it.  Often, a professor will tell students which angle or topic that he/she would like them to use.  For example, a literature review could discuss themes or ideas, character development, or the style of the literary work(s).

Many literature reviews not only discuss themes related to a particular literary work, but they also include an analysis of the author and his/her influences.  Therefore, in many cases, when completing a literature review, students also need to research information about the author.  Often, understanding an author's influences can also help a student understand more about a particular literary work.

Writing literature review papers also requires that students use their critical thinking to understand a literary work.  The literature review should include background information about the literary work, a review of the literary work, and a conclusion in which the student expresses his/her analysis of the literary work.

Literature reviews begin with an introduction, which describes the literary work, gives background into the information and ideas that will be included, and any particular information that the student thinks is relevant.  The body should include information that supports the student's point-of-view.  The conclusion should revisit and validate his/her previous opinions and/or assertions.

Writing literature reviews is different than writing book reports.  A book report provides an overview of a book and is based on information about the book.  Such assignments are factual and don't generally include opinions or analyses of the book.  However, a literature review will include both informational *and* analytical components.  Therefore, when writing literature review papers, students need to use critical thinking skills as well as specific information about the literary work.

Literature Review Samples

A literature review is a comprehensive survey of relevant research on a single topic.  Literature reviews are commonly included in investigation-based dissertations and scholarly journal articles.  Because they are long and involved documents, it can be very helpful for writers who are new to the writing of literature reviews to spend some time browsing literature review samples.  A literature review sample is simply an existing literature review or literature review model that can be studied in order to become familiar with the conventions of literature review structure and style.  Literature review samples aren't necessarily published literature reviews that were completed to be part of a report or journal article.  Some are specifically designed by academic resources to be models for students in the literature review writing process.  Students can gain tremendous knowledge from examining literature review samples that are intended to serve as academic models *and* those that are published with only informational intentions.

Sometimes, style manuals or reference books about writing will contain a full or partial literature review sample to provide students with a standard model.  Literature review samples that are presented by academic resources will often include in-text and marginal notes that point out important elements.  For instance, these notes will often highlight the various headings of the literature review and what is included in them; the style of writing, which should be objective and succinct; the manner in which the writer cites secondary sources, which will depend on the particular style sheet the writer is using; the way the review is structured; the way the review concludes; and other notable features.  Students should pay close attention to these notes and fashion their own literature reviews accordingly.

A literature review that's part of a finished dissertation or journal article—particularly a published dissertation or journal article—can also serve as an excellent literature review sample.  Though literature reviews of this nature will not point out certain features in the same way that an academic model will, they demonstrate how the model can be adapted to fit the needs of particular research texts.  Not all literature reviews will be the same because they vary based on research topic and writing style.  Therefore, it may be very helpful for a learner to browse through several different published literature reviews in order to determine how the form can be adjusted.

Literature Review Examples

Literature review examples are samples that are intended to be used as model texts.  They are often distributed by universities, professors, academic organizations, and style manuals.  Literature review examples are always intended to be reference materials; even if the student comes across one that happens to be on his/her intended topic, he/she should never use the sources discussed without vetting each source to assess its appropriateness for inclusion in his/her own review.

Literature review examples are intended to inform students of the conventions of literature review writing.  One of these conventions is the style of writing that's particular to literature reviews.  It is unlikely that students have had experience with this style unless they have completed literature reviews in the past.  This style is different from most academic writing styles in that it must be report-like.  Most investigation-based writing is written in a standard academic style wherein the writer discusses various ideas and then comments on those ideas.  In a literature review, the writer isn't supposed to comment on the research being discussed, but merely outline how the research was executed and what the research discovered.  Furthermore, students have likely been taught to vary their sentence structure throughout a text so as to maintain reader attention and engagement; this isn't the case for literature review writing.  Each study should be reported on in roughly the same fashion and in roughly the same structure.  Reading a literature review example can help a student become comfortable with this style.

Literature review examples are also valuable as structural models.  The structure of a text is its organization.  Because literature reviews feature a vast amount of information, students sometimes struggle with how to order and arrange this information.  Viewing multiple literature review examples is the best way to become comfortable with literature review structure.  Many students will notice that the majority of the examples they view will be arranged in a general-to-specific fashion.  This means that the beginning of the review will focus on issues about the topic in general; as the review progresses, it will explore studies with more nuanced angles or points.

One of the most important uses of a literature review example is as a citation guide.  Because literature reviews are focused entirely on external research, they will be primarily comprised of paraphrases and quotations.  This means that every single paraphrase and quotation must be properly cited in the text and correctly documented in the works cited or reference page following the review.  It also means that the learner will have to determine how to integrate paraphrases and quotes into the text in such a way that allows for a smooth read.  These skills are best learned through a combination of practice and observation.  The student will gain the practice through writing the review.  Observation, if done in advance, can make the learning process much easier.

Sample Literature Reviews

University students often reference sample literature reviews in order to learn more about how to write literature reviews.  Indeed, students in English courses will have to write many literature reviews over their course of their academic study.  Literature reviews not only give students an opportunity to read a particular literary work, but they also encourage the student to think critically about that work and the elements and tools that the author used.

By looking over sample literature reviews, students can learn more about what kind of content belongs in literature reviews and what kind of format and flow these reviews often have.  Also, sample literature reviews can help learners to become familiar with the writing style of literature reviews, which is both informative and opinionated.

In order for students to find the right sample literature review for their project, they need to first understand the topic that they need about which to write.  The topic will directly relate to the literary work that they need to cover in the literature review.  Often, students benefit by accessing sample literature reviews that are specifically completed on a student's topic.  That way, learners can see how other students have worked with the same information.

Some students use sample literature reviews as the basis for their own literature reviews.  In such a case, the student may use the sample literature review as a first draft of his/her own work.  The student may edit the review significantly or only slightly.  However, students need to be sure that they aren't violating an honor code by using sample literature reviews as the basis for their own work.

Other students use a sample literature review for their research.  They might take the literature review into account when trying to think more about themes and other literary devices that an author used.  In such a case, the student should be sure that the information in the sample literature review is accurate and complete.

Some students confuse literature reviews with other types of documents that are generally used in English courses, such as a story critiques.  Reviewing sample literature reviews can help students to learn the difference between book reports and literary reviews.  However, in general, a book report is a factual recount of tools and facts that are conveyed in a piece of literature.  A literature review is a forum for students to discuss how successful the author used these tools to convey ideas and facts and is usually from the student's point-of-view.

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