How to write a literature review introduction (+ examples)

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The introduction to a literature review serves as your reader’s guide through your academic work and thought process. Explore the significance of literature review introductions in review papers, academic papers, essays, theses, and dissertations. We delve into the purpose and necessity of these introductions, explore the essential components of literature review introductions, and provide step-by-step guidance on how to craft your own, along with examples.

Why you need an introduction for a literature review

When you need an introduction for a literature review, what to include in a literature review introduction, examples of literature review introductions, steps to write your own literature review introduction.

A literature review is a comprehensive examination of the international academic literature concerning a particular topic. It involves summarizing published works, theories, and concepts while also highlighting gaps and offering critical reflections.

In academic writing , the introduction for a literature review is an indispensable component. Effective academic writing requires proper paragraph structuring to guide your reader through your argumentation. This includes providing an introduction to your literature review.

It is imperative to remember that you should never start sharing your findings abruptly. Even if there isn’t a dedicated introduction section .

Instead, you should always offer some form of introduction to orient the reader and clarify what they can expect.

There are three main scenarios in which you need an introduction for a literature review:

  • Academic literature review papers: When your literature review constitutes the entirety of an academic review paper, a more substantial introduction is necessary. This introduction should resemble the standard introduction found in regular academic papers.
  • Literature review section in an academic paper or essay: While this section tends to be brief, it’s important to precede the detailed literature review with a few introductory sentences. This helps orient the reader before delving into the literature itself.
  • Literature review chapter or section in your thesis/dissertation: Every thesis and dissertation includes a literature review component, which also requires a concise introduction to set the stage for the subsequent review.

You may also like: How to write a fantastic thesis introduction (+15 examples)

It is crucial to customize the content and depth of your literature review introduction according to the specific format of your academic work.

In practical terms, this implies, for instance, that the introduction in an academic literature review paper, especially one derived from a systematic literature review , is quite comprehensive. Particularly compared to the rather brief one or two introductory sentences that are often found at the beginning of a literature review section in a standard academic paper. The introduction to the literature review chapter in a thesis or dissertation again adheres to different standards.

Here’s a structured breakdown based on length and the necessary information:

Academic literature review paper

The introduction of an academic literature review paper, which does not rely on empirical data, often necessitates a more extensive introduction than the brief literature review introductions typically found in empirical papers. It should encompass:

  • The research problem: Clearly articulate the problem or question that your literature review aims to address.
  • The research gap: Highlight the existing gaps, limitations, or unresolved aspects within the current body of literature related to the research problem.
  • The research relevance: Explain why the chosen research problem and its subsequent investigation through a literature review are significant and relevant in your academic field.
  • The literature review method: If applicable, describe the methodology employed in your literature review, especially if it is a systematic review or follows a specific research framework.
  • The main findings or insights of the literature review: Summarize the key discoveries, insights, or trends that have emerged from your comprehensive review of the literature.
  • The main argument of the literature review: Conclude the introduction by outlining the primary argument or statement that your literature review will substantiate, linking it to the research problem and relevance you’ve established.
  • Preview of the literature review’s structure: Offer a glimpse into the organization of the literature review paper, acting as a guide for the reader. This overview outlines the subsequent sections of the paper and provides an understanding of what to anticipate.

By addressing these elements, your introduction will provide a clear and structured overview of what readers can expect in your literature review paper.

Regular literature review section in an academic article or essay

Most academic articles or essays incorporate regular literature review sections, often placed after the introduction. These sections serve to establish a scholarly basis for the research or discussion within the paper.

In a standard 8000-word journal article, the literature review section typically spans between 750 and 1250 words. The first few sentences or the first paragraph within this section often serve as an introduction. It should encompass:

  • An introduction to the topic: When delving into the academic literature on a specific topic, it’s important to provide a smooth transition that aids the reader in comprehending why certain aspects will be discussed within your literature review.
  • The core argument: While literature review sections primarily synthesize the work of other scholars, they should consistently connect to your central argument. This central argument serves as the crux of your message or the key takeaway you want your readers to retain. By positioning it at the outset of the literature review section and systematically substantiating it with evidence, you not only enhance reader comprehension but also elevate overall readability. This primary argument can typically be distilled into 1-2 succinct sentences.

In some cases, you might include:

  • Methodology: Details about the methodology used, but only if your literature review employed a specialized method. If your approach involved a broader overview without a systematic methodology, you can omit this section, thereby conserving word count.

By addressing these elements, your introduction will effectively integrate your literature review into the broader context of your academic paper or essay. This will, in turn, assist your reader in seamlessly following your overarching line of argumentation.

Introduction to a literature review chapter in thesis or dissertation

The literature review typically constitutes a distinct chapter within a thesis or dissertation. Often, it is Chapter 2 of a thesis or dissertation.

Some students choose to incorporate a brief introductory section at the beginning of each chapter, including the literature review chapter. Alternatively, others opt to seamlessly integrate the introduction into the initial sentences of the literature review itself. Both approaches are acceptable, provided that you incorporate the following elements:

  • Purpose of the literature review and its relevance to the thesis/dissertation research: Explain the broader objectives of the literature review within the context of your research and how it contributes to your thesis or dissertation. Essentially, you’re telling the reader why this literature review is important and how it fits into the larger scope of your academic work.
  • Primary argument: Succinctly communicate what you aim to prove, explain, or explore through the review of existing literature. This statement helps guide the reader’s understanding of the review’s purpose and what to expect from it.
  • Preview of the literature review’s content: Provide a brief overview of the topics or themes that your literature review will cover. It’s like a roadmap for the reader, outlining the main areas of focus within the review. This preview can help the reader anticipate the structure and organization of your literature review.
  • Methodology: If your literature review involved a specific research method, such as a systematic review or meta-analysis, you should briefly describe that methodology. However, this is not always necessary, especially if your literature review is more of a narrative synthesis without a distinct research method.

By addressing these elements, your introduction will empower your literature review to play a pivotal role in your thesis or dissertation research. It will accomplish this by integrating your research into the broader academic literature and providing a solid theoretical foundation for your work.

Comprehending the art of crafting your own literature review introduction becomes significantly more accessible when you have concrete examples to examine. Here, you will find several examples that meet, or in most cases, adhere to the criteria described earlier.

Example 1: An effective introduction for an academic literature review paper

To begin, let’s delve into the introduction of an academic literature review paper. We will examine the paper “How does culture influence innovation? A systematic literature review”, which was published in 2018 in the journal Management Decision.

how to write introduction to literature review example

The entire introduction spans 611 words and is divided into five paragraphs. In this introduction, the authors accomplish the following:

  • In the first paragraph, the authors introduce the broader topic of the literature review, which focuses on innovation and its significance in the context of economic competition. They underscore the importance of this topic, highlighting its relevance for both researchers and policymakers.
  • In the second paragraph, the authors narrow down their focus to emphasize the specific role of culture in relation to innovation.
  • In the third paragraph, the authors identify research gaps, noting that existing studies are often fragmented and disconnected. They then emphasize the value of conducting a systematic literature review to enhance our understanding of the topic.
  • In the fourth paragraph, the authors introduce their specific objectives and explain how their insights can benefit other researchers and business practitioners.
  • In the fifth and final paragraph, the authors provide an overview of the paper’s organization and structure.

In summary, this introduction stands as a solid example. While the authors deviate from previewing their key findings (which is a common practice at least in the social sciences), they do effectively cover all the other previously mentioned points.

Example 2: An effective introduction to a literature review section in an academic paper

The second example represents a typical academic paper, encompassing not only a literature review section but also empirical data, a case study, and other elements. We will closely examine the introduction to the literature review section in the paper “The environmentalism of the subalterns: a case study of environmental activism in Eastern Kurdistan/Rojhelat”, which was published in 2021 in the journal Local Environment.

how to write introduction to literature review example

The paper begins with a general introduction and then proceeds to the literature review, designated by the authors as their conceptual framework. Of particular interest is the first paragraph of this conceptual framework, comprising 142 words across five sentences:

“ A peripheral and marginalised nationality within a multinational though-Persian dominated Iranian society, the Kurdish people of Iranian Kurdistan (a region referred by the Kurds as Rojhelat/Eastern Kurdi-stan) have since the early twentieth century been subject to multifaceted and systematic discriminatory and exclusionary state policy in Iran. This condition has left a population of 12–15 million Kurds in Iran suffering from structural inequalities, disenfranchisement and deprivation. Mismanagement of Kurdistan’s natural resources and the degradation of its natural environmental are among examples of this disenfranchisement. As asserted by Julian Agyeman (2005), structural inequalities that sustain the domination of political and economic elites often simultaneously result in environmental degradation, injustice and discrimination against subaltern communities. This study argues that the environmental struggle in Eastern Kurdistan can be asserted as a (sub)element of the Kurdish liberation movement in Iran. Conceptually this research is inspired by and has been conducted through the lens of ‘subalternity’ ” ( Hassaniyan, 2021, p. 931 ).

In this first paragraph, the author is doing the following:

  • The author contextualises the research
  • The author links the research focus to the international literature on structural inequalities
  • The author clearly presents the argument of the research
  • The author clarifies how the research is inspired by and uses the concept of ‘subalternity’.

Thus, the author successfully introduces the literature review, from which point onward it dives into the main concept (‘subalternity’) of the research, and reviews the literature on socio-economic justice and environmental degradation.

While introductions to a literature review section aren’t always required to offer the same level of study context detail as demonstrated here, this introduction serves as a commendable model for orienting the reader within the literature review. It effectively underscores the literature review’s significance within the context of the study being conducted.

Examples 3-5: Effective introductions to literature review chapters

The introduction to a literature review chapter can vary in length, depending largely on the overall length of the literature review chapter itself. For example, a master’s thesis typically features a more concise literature review, thus necessitating a shorter introduction. In contrast, a Ph.D. thesis, with its more extensive literature review, often includes a more detailed introduction.

Numerous universities offer online repositories where you can access theses and dissertations from previous years, serving as valuable sources of reference. Many of these repositories, however, may require you to log in through your university account. Nevertheless, a few open-access repositories are accessible to anyone, such as the one by the University of Manchester . It’s important to note though that copyright restrictions apply to these resources, just as they would with published papers.

Master’s thesis literature review introduction

The first example is “Benchmarking Asymmetrical Heating Models of Spider Pulsar Companions” by P. Sun, a master’s thesis completed at the University of Manchester on January 9, 2024. The author, P. Sun, introduces the literature review chapter very briefly but effectively:

how to write introduction to literature review example

PhD thesis literature review chapter introduction

The second example is Deep Learning on Semi-Structured Data and its Applications to Video-Game AI, Woof, W. (Author). 31 Dec 2020, a PhD thesis completed at the University of Manchester . In Chapter 2, the author offers a comprehensive introduction to the topic in four paragraphs, with the final paragraph serving as an overview of the chapter’s structure:

how to write introduction to literature review example

PhD thesis literature review introduction

The last example is the doctoral thesis Metacognitive strategies and beliefs: Child correlates and early experiences Chan, K. Y. M. (Author). 31 Dec 2020 . The author clearly conducted a systematic literature review, commencing the review section with a discussion of the methodology and approach employed in locating and analyzing the selected records.

how to write introduction to literature review example

Having absorbed all of this information, let’s recap the essential steps and offer a succinct guide on how to proceed with creating your literature review introduction:

  • Contextualize your review : Begin by clearly identifying the academic context in which your literature review resides and determining the necessary information to include.
  • Outline your structure : Develop a structured outline for your literature review, highlighting the essential information you plan to incorporate in your introduction.
  • Literature review process : Conduct a rigorous literature review, reviewing and analyzing relevant sources.
  • Summarize and abstract : After completing the review, synthesize the findings and abstract key insights, trends, and knowledge gaps from the literature.
  • Craft the introduction : Write your literature review introduction with meticulous attention to the seamless integration of your review into the larger context of your work. Ensure that your introduction effectively elucidates your rationale for the chosen review topics and the underlying reasons guiding your selection.

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

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

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

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

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

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

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

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Table of contents

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

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

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

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

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

Literature review guide

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

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

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

Download Word doc Download Google doc

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

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

Make a list of keywords

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

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

Search for relevant sources

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

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

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

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

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

For each publication, ask yourself:

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

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

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

Take notes and cite your sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chronological

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

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

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

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

Methodological

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

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources

Theoretical

A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

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

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

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

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

As you write, you can follow these tips:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Statistics

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

Research bias

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research ( scholarship ) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably.

Where, when, and why would I write a lit review?

There are a number of different situations where you might write a literature review, each with slightly different expectations; different disciplines, too, have field-specific expectations for what a literature review is and does. For instance, in the humanities, authors might include more overt argumentation and interpretation of source material in their literature reviews, whereas in the sciences, authors are more likely to report study designs and results in their literature reviews; these differences reflect these disciplines’ purposes and conventions in scholarship. You should always look at examples from your own discipline and talk to professors or mentors in your field to be sure you understand your discipline’s conventions, for literature reviews as well as for any other genre.

A literature review can be a part of a research paper or scholarly article, usually falling after the introduction and before the research methods sections. In these cases, the lit review just needs to cover scholarship that is important to the issue you are writing about; sometimes it will also cover key sources that informed your research methodology.

Lit reviews can also be standalone pieces, either as assignments in a class or as publications. In a class, a lit review may be assigned to help students familiarize themselves with a topic and with scholarship in their field, get an idea of the other researchers working on the topic they’re interested in, find gaps in existing research in order to propose new projects, and/or develop a theoretical framework and methodology for later research. As a publication, a lit review usually is meant to help make other scholars’ lives easier by collecting and summarizing, synthesizing, and analyzing existing research on a topic. This can be especially helpful for students or scholars getting into a new research area, or for directing an entire community of scholars toward questions that have not yet been answered.

What are the parts of a lit review?

Most lit reviews use a basic introduction-body-conclusion structure; if your lit review is part of a larger paper, the introduction and conclusion pieces may be just a few sentences while you focus most of your attention on the body. If your lit review is a standalone piece, the introduction and conclusion take up more space and give you a place to discuss your goals, research methods, and conclusions separately from where you discuss the literature itself.

Introduction:

  • An introductory paragraph that explains what your working topic and thesis is
  • A forecast of key topics or texts that will appear in the review
  • Potentially, a description of how you found sources and how you analyzed them for inclusion and discussion in the review (more often found in published, standalone literature reviews than in lit review sections in an article or research paper)
  • Summarize and synthesize: Give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: Don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically Evaluate: Mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: Use transition words and topic sentence to draw connections, comparisons, and contrasts.

Conclusion:

  • Summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance
  • Connect it back to your primary research question

How should I organize my lit review?

Lit reviews can take many different organizational patterns depending on what you are trying to accomplish with the review. Here are some examples:

  • Chronological : The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time, which helps familiarize the audience with the topic (for instance if you are introducing something that is not commonly known in your field). If you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze the patterns, turning points, and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred (as mentioned previously, this may not be appropriate in your discipline — check with a teacher or mentor if you’re unsure).
  • Thematic : If you have found some recurring central themes that you will continue working with throughout your piece, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic. For example, if you are reviewing literature about women and religion, key themes can include the role of women in churches and the religious attitude towards women.
  • Qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the research by sociological, historical, or cultural sources
  • Theoretical : In many humanities articles, the literature review is the foundation for the theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. You can argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach or combine various theorical concepts to create a framework for your research.

What are some strategies or tips I can use while writing my lit review?

Any lit review is only as good as the research it discusses; make sure your sources are well-chosen and your research is thorough. Don’t be afraid to do more research if you discover a new thread as you’re writing. More info on the research process is available in our "Conducting Research" resources .

As you’re doing your research, create an annotated bibliography ( see our page on the this type of document ). Much of the information used in an annotated bibliography can be used also in a literature review, so you’ll be not only partially drafting your lit review as you research, but also developing your sense of the larger conversation going on among scholars, professionals, and any other stakeholders in your topic.

Usually you will need to synthesize research rather than just summarizing it. This means drawing connections between sources to create a picture of the scholarly conversation on a topic over time. Many student writers struggle to synthesize because they feel they don’t have anything to add to the scholars they are citing; here are some strategies to help you:

  • It often helps to remember that the point of these kinds of syntheses is to show your readers how you understand your research, to help them read the rest of your paper.
  • Writing teachers often say synthesis is like hosting a dinner party: imagine all your sources are together in a room, discussing your topic. What are they saying to each other?
  • Look at the in-text citations in each paragraph. Are you citing just one source for each paragraph? This usually indicates summary only. When you have multiple sources cited in a paragraph, you are more likely to be synthesizing them (not always, but often
  • Read more about synthesis here.

The most interesting literature reviews are often written as arguments (again, as mentioned at the beginning of the page, this is discipline-specific and doesn’t work for all situations). Often, the literature review is where you can establish your research as filling a particular gap or as relevant in a particular way. You have some chance to do this in your introduction in an article, but the literature review section gives a more extended opportunity to establish the conversation in the way you would like your readers to see it. You can choose the intellectual lineage you would like to be part of and whose definitions matter most to your thinking (mostly humanities-specific, but this goes for sciences as well). In addressing these points, you argue for your place in the conversation, which tends to make the lit review more compelling than a simple reporting of other sources.

Literature Review Introduction Example

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T he literature review is an article that critically analyzes previously published works on a subject.

Thus, it is a review, not a report. The “Introduction” is crucial to writing. It should clarify the topic and prepare readers for the content. 

The beginning of a literature review sets the setting for reviewing the literature on your topic. This article explains how to write a literature review introduction and provides examples.

Table of Contents

Tips for writing an Introduction for a literature review

A well-crafted introduction for a literature review identifies the tone of your article and helps the reader realize the context and aims of your review.

The introduction should be informative and engaging enough to guide the reader through the complex landscape of existing research.

Let’s get familiar with important tips for writing a literature review introduction:

·         Start with a hook

begin with an engaging opening sentence that captures the reader’s attention on the article’s Topic.

You can use a thought-provoking question, a surprising fact, or a brief story in the literature review introduction. The goal is to make your introduction persuasive and relevant to your research.

After the starting sentence, which we call a hook, you need to provide some background information about the general subject area or field of study.

Explain why the Topic is important right now and relevant, and highlight any gaps or issues that your literature review will address.

·         Define the scope

Clearly define the scope of your literature review in the introduction part. Explain the specific aspects of the Topic or the research questions, which helps the reader understand what to expect and the boundaries of your review.

·         Give a brief & organized Literature.

You need to give a brief overview of how you’ve organized the literature review in the introduction. Reference the key themes, categories, or methods you will be using to categorize and analyze the reviewed sources.

·         Smoothly shift to the Main Body.

To end the literature review’s introduction more conveniently, you can summarize the key points that you will discuss in the subsequent sections and present an outline of the review’s structure. Or just simply state that you will explore the existing Literature in the next part.

·         Be Clear & Concise

To have the best intro, keep the literature review introduction concise and focused. Stay away from unnecessary jargon or overly complex language. The primary aim is to write a clear and engaging opening for the literature review.

·         Read, revise, and edit. Then do it again.

Finally, it is vital to revise and edit your introduction to confirm its clarity, coherence, and smooth flow of ideas. It should align with the overall tone and structure of your paper.

If you are still confused by all the tips, let’s make this clearer with some examples:

Literature review Introduction examples

Literature Review Introduction Example

It is better to explore some of the great examples in the literature review introductions and gain some ideas about how to start writing our own.

Look at the introduction below:

1.      The field of [Your Research Topic] has witnessed significant development over the past several decades. As researchers have delved into this subject, they have generated a vast body of Literature. This literature review aims to provide an in-depth analysis of the key themes, concepts, and findings within [the article’s Topic].

2.      [Your Research Topic] is of particular interest due to its relevance and importance in [Explain the significance of the article’s Topic]. As society grapples with [Relevant issues or challenges], understanding the nuances of [Your Research Topic] is crucial for [Potential applications or solutions].

3.      This review is organized into several sections to offer a comprehensive overview of the existing Literature. First, we will explore the historical context and the evolution of [the article’s Topic]. We will then examine the main theories and frameworks that have shaped the field.

4.      The objective of this literature review is not only to provide a synthesis of current knowledge but also to identify areas where further research is needed. By offering an understanding of [Your Research Topic], this review aims to contribute to the ongoing discourse in the field and provide valuable insights for future investigations.

Read More: AI for Writing Scientific Papers

Final speech

As you embark on your writing process, consider the introduction as an opportunity to make a lasting first impression, setting the tone for the insightful knowledge and discovery that your literature review promises to be.

how to write introduction to literature review example

If you have any other points that will help other researchers write an introduction for a literature review, please mention them in the comments below.

The introduction sets the tone for the article and prepares readers for the content. It clarifies the topic and aims of the review, ensuring a strong start to the literature analysis.

The hook should be an engaging opening sentence that captures the reader’s attention. It can be a thought-provoking question, a surprising fact, or a brief story relevant to the research topic.

The introduction should start with a hook, provide background information, define the scope, give a brief overview of the literature, smoothly transition to the main body, and be clear and concise in presenting the key points.

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How Do I Write an Introduction and Literature Review?

Introductions and Literature Reviews

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A well-crafted Introduction chapter can do a lot of the heavy lifting in a dissertation. This chapter is usually relatively short and snappy and starts with the broadest issue relevant to the study and ends with the research question and the aim. The Literature Review contains a structured, critical review of current information relevant to your research topic. This chapter will help you present the theoretical background to your study and help you consider and then develop the Methods that will be used for your dissertation.

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CASP (2022) Critical appraisal skills programme checklists. https://casp-uk.net/casp-tools-checklists/ . Accessed 04 Oct 2022

Gall MD, Borg WR, Gall JP (1996) Educational research: an introduction, 6th edn. Longman Publishers USA, White Plains, N.Y. https://archive.org/details/educationalresea0000gall/page/n9/mode/2up . Accessed 04 Oct 2022

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Manchester Metropolitan University Library (2022) Literature reviews. Manchester Metropolitan University. https://www.mmu.ac.uk/library/referencing-and-study-support/literature-reviews#ai-35659-0 . Accessed 04 Oct 2022

Further Reading

Cottrell S (2011) Critical thinking skills: developing effective analysis and argument, 2nd edn. Palgrave Macmillan (Palgrave study skills), Basingstoke, Hampshire

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

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

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

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

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

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

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Table of contents

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

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

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

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

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

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

Literature review guide

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

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

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

Download Word doc Download Google doc

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

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

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

Make a list of keywords

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

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

Search for relevant sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

For each publication, ask yourself:

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

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

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

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

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

Take notes and cite your sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chronological

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

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

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

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

Methodological

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

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources

Theoretical

A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

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

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

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

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

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

As you write, make sure to follow these tips:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Introduction

Literature reviews take time. here is some general information to know before you start.  .

  •  VIDEO -- This video is a great overview of the entire process.  (2020; North Carolina State University Libraries) --The transcript is included --This is for everyone; ignore the mention of "graduate students" --9.5 minutes, and every second is important  
  • OVERVIEW -- Read this page from Purdue's OWL. It's not long, and gives some tips to fill in what you just learned from the video.  
  • NOT A RESEARCH ARTICLE -- A literature review follows a different style, format, and structure from a research article.  

Steps to Completing a Literature Review

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Writing: Literature Review Basics

  • What is Synthesis?
  • Organizing Your Research
  • Paraphrasing, Summary, or Direct Quotation?
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The Most Important Thing

The best time to write an introduction is AFTER you write the body of your paper.

Well, how do you know what to introduce until after you've figured out what you want to say?

The best time to write an introduction is as one of the last things you do.

Basic Introduction Template

For any other sort of scholarly writing, the following basic structure works well for an introduction:

  • What has been said or done on this topic?  
  • What is the problem with what has been said or done?
  • What will you offer to solve the problem?  (The answer to this is your thesis statement.)
  • How does your solution address necessary change?

Writing an Introduction

The job of an introduction is to preview what you are going to say so the audience knows what is coming.  A good introduction starts out generally and works towards a specific statement of what you intend to discuss in your writing. 

The introduction explains the focus and establishes the importance of the subject. It discusses what kind of work has been done on the topic and identifies any controversies within the field or any recent research which has raised questions about earlier assumptions. It may provide background or history, and it indicates why the topic is important, interesting, problematic, or relevant in some way.  It concludes with a purpose or thesis statement. In a stand-alone literature review, this statement will sum up and evaluate the state of the art in this field of research; in a review that is an introduction or preparatory to a larger work, such as the Culminating Project, it will suggest how the review findings will lead to the research the writer proposes to undertake.

In a literature review, an introduction may contain the following:

  • A concise definition of a topic under consideration (this may be a descriptive or argumentative thesis, or proposal), as well as the scope of the related literature being investigated. (Example: If the topic under consideration is ‘women’s wartime diaries’, the scope of the review may be limited to published or unpublished works, works in English, works from a particular location, time period, or conflict, etc.)  
  • The introduction should also note what topics are being included and what are intentional exclusions. (Example: “This review will not explore the diaries of adolescent girls.”)
  • A final sentence should signal the list of key topics that will be used to discuss the selected sources.

Many theories have been proposed to explain what motivates human behavior. Although the literature covers a wide variety of such theories, this review will focus on five major themes which emerge repeatedly throughout the literature reviewed. These themes are incorporation of the self-concept into traditional theories of motivation, the influence of rewards on motivation, the increasing importance of internal forces of motivation, autonomy and self-control as sources of motivation, and narcissism as an essential component of motivation. Although the literature presents these themes in a variety of contexts, this paper will primarily focus on their application to self-motivation.

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  • Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide
  • Introduction

Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide — Introduction

  • Getting Started
  • How to Pick a Topic
  • Strategies to Find Sources
  • Evaluating Sources & Lit. Reviews
  • Tips for Writing Literature Reviews
  • Writing Literature Review: Useful Sites
  • Citation Resources
  • Other Academic Writings

What are Literature Reviews?

So, what is a literature review? "A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries." Taylor, D.  The literature review: A few tips on conducting it . University of Toronto Health Sciences Writing Centre.

Goals of Literature Reviews

What are the goals of creating a Literature Review?  A literature could be written to accomplish different aims:

  • To develop a theory or evaluate an existing theory
  • To summarize the historical or existing state of a research topic
  • Identify a problem in a field of research 

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1997). Writing narrative literature reviews .  Review of General Psychology , 1 (3), 311-320.

What kinds of sources require a Literature Review?

  • A research paper assigned in a course
  • A thesis or dissertation
  • A grant proposal
  • An article intended for publication in a journal

All these instances require you to collect what has been written about your research topic so that you can demonstrate how your own research sheds new light on the topic.

Types of Literature Reviews

What kinds of literature reviews are written?

Narrative review: The purpose of this type of review is to describe the current state of the research on a specific topic/research and to offer a critical analysis of the literature reviewed. Studies are grouped by research/theoretical categories, and themes and trends, strengths and weakness, and gaps are identified. The review ends with a conclusion section which summarizes the findings regarding the state of the research of the specific study, the gaps identify and if applicable, explains how the author's research will address gaps identify in the review and expand the knowledge on the topic reviewed.

  • Example : Predictors and Outcomes of U.S. Quality Maternity Leave: A Review and Conceptual Framework:  10.1177/08948453211037398  

Systematic review : "The authors of a systematic review use a specific procedure to search the research literature, select the studies to include in their review, and critically evaluate the studies they find." (p. 139). Nelson, L. K. (2013). Research in Communication Sciences and Disorders . Plural Publishing.

  • Example : The effect of leave policies on increasing fertility: a systematic review:  10.1057/s41599-022-01270-w

Meta-analysis : "Meta-analysis is a method of reviewing research findings in a quantitative fashion by transforming the data from individual studies into what is called an effect size and then pooling and analyzing this information. The basic goal in meta-analysis is to explain why different outcomes have occurred in different studies." (p. 197). Roberts, M. C., & Ilardi, S. S. (2003). Handbook of Research Methods in Clinical Psychology . Blackwell Publishing.

  • Example : Employment Instability and Fertility in Europe: A Meta-Analysis:  10.1215/00703370-9164737

Meta-synthesis : "Qualitative meta-synthesis is a type of qualitative study that uses as data the findings from other qualitative studies linked by the same or related topic." (p.312). Zimmer, L. (2006). Qualitative meta-synthesis: A question of dialoguing with texts .  Journal of Advanced Nursing , 53 (3), 311-318.

  • Example : Women’s perspectives on career successes and barriers: A qualitative meta-synthesis:  10.1177/05390184221113735

Literature Reviews in the Health Sciences

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How To Write An A-Grade Literature Review

3 straightforward steps (with examples) + free template.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | October 2019

Quality research is about building onto the existing work of others , “standing on the shoulders of giants”, as Newton put it. The literature review chapter of your dissertation, thesis or research project is where you synthesise this prior work and lay the theoretical foundation for your own research.

Long story short, this chapter is a pretty big deal, which is why you want to make sure you get it right . In this post, I’ll show you exactly how to write a literature review in three straightforward steps, so you can conquer this vital chapter (the smart way).

Overview: The Literature Review Process

  • Understanding the “ why “
  • Finding the relevant literature
  • Cataloguing and synthesising the information
  • Outlining & writing up your literature review
  • Example of a literature review

But first, the “why”…

Before we unpack how to write the literature review chapter, we’ve got to look at the why . To put it bluntly, if you don’t understand the function and purpose of the literature review process, there’s no way you can pull it off well. So, what exactly is the purpose of the literature review?

Well, there are (at least) four core functions:

  • For you to gain an understanding (and demonstrate this understanding) of where the research is at currently, what the key arguments and disagreements are.
  • For you to identify the gap(s) in the literature and then use this as justification for your own research topic.
  • To help you build a conceptual framework for empirical testing (if applicable to your research topic).
  • To inform your methodological choices and help you source tried and tested questionnaires (for interviews ) and measurement instruments (for surveys ).

Most students understand the first point but don’t give any thought to the rest. To get the most from the literature review process, you must keep all four points front of mind as you review the literature (more on this shortly), or you’ll land up with a wonky foundation.

Okay – with the why out the way, let’s move on to the how . As mentioned above, writing your literature review is a process, which I’ll break down into three steps:

  • Finding the most suitable literature
  • Understanding , distilling and organising the literature
  • Planning and writing up your literature review chapter

Importantly, you must complete steps one and two before you start writing up your chapter. I know it’s very tempting, but don’t try to kill two birds with one stone and write as you read. You’ll invariably end up wasting huge amounts of time re-writing and re-shaping, or you’ll just land up with a disjointed, hard-to-digest mess . Instead, you need to read first and distil the information, then plan and execute the writing.

Free Webinar: Literature Review 101

Step 1: Find the relevant literature

Naturally, the first step in the literature review journey is to hunt down the existing research that’s relevant to your topic. While you probably already have a decent base of this from your research proposal , you need to expand on this substantially in the dissertation or thesis itself.

Essentially, you need to be looking for any existing literature that potentially helps you answer your research question (or develop it, if that’s not yet pinned down). There are numerous ways to find relevant literature, but I’ll cover my top four tactics here. I’d suggest combining all four methods to ensure that nothing slips past you:

Method 1 – Google Scholar Scrubbing

Google’s academic search engine, Google Scholar , is a great starting point as it provides a good high-level view of the relevant journal articles for whatever keyword you throw at it. Most valuably, it tells you how many times each article has been cited, which gives you an idea of how credible (or at least, popular) it is. Some articles will be free to access, while others will require an account, which brings us to the next method.

Method 2 – University Database Scrounging

Generally, universities provide students with access to an online library, which provides access to many (but not all) of the major journals.

So, if you find an article using Google Scholar that requires paid access (which is quite likely), search for that article in your university’s database – if it’s listed there, you’ll have access. Note that, generally, the search engine capabilities of these databases are poor, so make sure you search for the exact article name, or you might not find it.

Method 3 – Journal Article Snowballing

At the end of every academic journal article, you’ll find a list of references. As with any academic writing, these references are the building blocks of the article, so if the article is relevant to your topic, there’s a good chance a portion of the referenced works will be too. Do a quick scan of the titles and see what seems relevant, then search for the relevant ones in your university’s database.

Method 4 – Dissertation Scavenging

Similar to Method 3 above, you can leverage other students’ dissertations. All you have to do is skim through literature review chapters of existing dissertations related to your topic and you’ll find a gold mine of potential literature. Usually, your university will provide you with access to previous students’ dissertations, but you can also find a much larger selection in the following databases:

  • Open Access Theses & Dissertations
  • Stanford SearchWorks

Keep in mind that dissertations and theses are not as academically sound as published, peer-reviewed journal articles (because they’re written by students, not professionals), so be sure to check the credibility of any sources you find using this method. You can do this by assessing the citation count of any given article in Google Scholar. If you need help with assessing the credibility of any article, or with finding relevant research in general, you can chat with one of our Research Specialists .

Alright – with a good base of literature firmly under your belt, it’s time to move onto the next step.

Need a helping hand?

how to write introduction to literature review example

Step 2: Log, catalogue and synthesise

Once you’ve built a little treasure trove of articles, it’s time to get reading and start digesting the information – what does it all mean?

While I present steps one and two (hunting and digesting) as sequential, in reality, it’s more of a back-and-forth tango – you’ll read a little , then have an idea, spot a new citation, or a new potential variable, and then go back to searching for articles. This is perfectly natural – through the reading process, your thoughts will develop , new avenues might crop up, and directional adjustments might arise. This is, after all, one of the main purposes of the literature review process (i.e. to familiarise yourself with the current state of research in your field).

As you’re working through your treasure chest, it’s essential that you simultaneously start organising the information. There are three aspects to this:

  • Logging reference information
  • Building an organised catalogue
  • Distilling and synthesising the information

I’ll discuss each of these below:

2.1 – Log the reference information

As you read each article, you should add it to your reference management software. I usually recommend Mendeley for this purpose (see the Mendeley 101 video below), but you can use whichever software you’re comfortable with. Most importantly, make sure you load EVERY article you read into your reference manager, even if it doesn’t seem very relevant at the time.

2.2 – Build an organised catalogue

In the beginning, you might feel confident that you can remember who said what, where, and what their main arguments were. Trust me, you won’t. If you do a thorough review of the relevant literature (as you must!), you’re going to read many, many articles, and it’s simply impossible to remember who said what, when, and in what context . Also, without the bird’s eye view that a catalogue provides, you’ll miss connections between various articles, and have no view of how the research developed over time. Simply put, it’s essential to build your own catalogue of the literature.

I would suggest using Excel to build your catalogue, as it allows you to run filters, colour code and sort – all very useful when your list grows large (which it will). How you lay your spreadsheet out is up to you, but I’d suggest you have the following columns (at minimum):

  • Author, date, title – Start with three columns containing this core information. This will make it easy for you to search for titles with certain words, order research by date, or group by author.
  • Categories or keywords – You can either create multiple columns, one for each category/theme and then tick the relevant categories, or you can have one column with keywords.
  • Key arguments/points – Use this column to succinctly convey the essence of the article, the key arguments and implications thereof for your research.
  • Context – Note the socioeconomic context in which the research was undertaken. For example, US-based, respondents aged 25-35, lower- income, etc. This will be useful for making an argument about gaps in the research.
  • Methodology – Note which methodology was used and why. Also, note any issues you feel arise due to the methodology. Again, you can use this to make an argument about gaps in the research.
  • Quotations – Note down any quoteworthy lines you feel might be useful later.
  • Notes – Make notes about anything not already covered. For example, linkages to or disagreements with other theories, questions raised but unanswered, shortcomings or limitations, and so forth.

If you’d like, you can try out our free catalog template here (see screenshot below).

Excel literature review template

2.3 – Digest and synthesise

Most importantly, as you work through the literature and build your catalogue, you need to synthesise all the information in your own mind – how does it all fit together? Look for links between the various articles and try to develop a bigger picture view of the state of the research. Some important questions to ask yourself are:

  • What answers does the existing research provide to my own research questions ?
  • Which points do the researchers agree (and disagree) on?
  • How has the research developed over time?
  • Where do the gaps in the current research lie?

To help you develop a big-picture view and synthesise all the information, you might find mind mapping software such as Freemind useful. Alternatively, if you’re a fan of physical note-taking, investing in a large whiteboard might work for you.

Mind mapping is a useful way to plan your literature review.

Step 3: Outline and write it up!

Once you’re satisfied that you have digested and distilled all the relevant literature in your mind, it’s time to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard). There are two steps here – outlining and writing:

3.1 – Draw up your outline

Having spent so much time reading, it might be tempting to just start writing up without a clear structure in mind. However, it’s critically important to decide on your structure and develop a detailed outline before you write anything. Your literature review chapter needs to present a clear, logical and an easy to follow narrative – and that requires some planning. Don’t try to wing it!

Naturally, you won’t always follow the plan to the letter, but without a detailed outline, you’re more than likely going to end up with a disjointed pile of waffle , and then you’re going to spend a far greater amount of time re-writing, hacking and patching. The adage, “measure twice, cut once” is very suitable here.

In terms of structure, the first decision you’ll have to make is whether you’ll lay out your review thematically (into themes) or chronologically (by date/period). The right choice depends on your topic, research objectives and research questions, which we discuss in this article .

Once that’s decided, you need to draw up an outline of your entire chapter in bullet point format. Try to get as detailed as possible, so that you know exactly what you’ll cover where, how each section will connect to the next, and how your entire argument will develop throughout the chapter. Also, at this stage, it’s a good idea to allocate rough word count limits for each section, so that you can identify word count problems before you’ve spent weeks or months writing!

PS – check out our free literature review chapter template…

3.2 – Get writing

With a detailed outline at your side, it’s time to start writing up (finally!). At this stage, it’s common to feel a bit of writer’s block and find yourself procrastinating under the pressure of finally having to put something on paper. To help with this, remember that the objective of the first draft is not perfection – it’s simply to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, after which you can refine them. The structure might change a little, the word count allocations might shift and shuffle, and you might add or remove a section – that’s all okay. Don’t worry about all this on your first draft – just get your thoughts down on paper.

start writing

Once you’ve got a full first draft (however rough it may be), step away from it for a day or two (longer if you can) and then come back at it with fresh eyes. Pay particular attention to the flow and narrative – does it fall fit together and flow from one section to another smoothly? Now’s the time to try to improve the linkage from each section to the next, tighten up the writing to be more concise, trim down word count and sand it down into a more digestible read.

Once you’ve done that, give your writing to a friend or colleague who is not a subject matter expert and ask them if they understand the overall discussion. The best way to assess this is to ask them to explain the chapter back to you. This technique will give you a strong indication of which points were clearly communicated and which weren’t. If you’re working with Grad Coach, this is a good time to have your Research Specialist review your chapter.

Finally, tighten it up and send it off to your supervisor for comment. Some might argue that you should be sending your work to your supervisor sooner than this (indeed your university might formally require this), but in my experience, supervisors are extremely short on time (and often patience), so, the more refined your chapter is, the less time they’ll waste on addressing basic issues (which you know about already) and the more time they’ll spend on valuable feedback that will increase your mark-earning potential.

Literature Review Example

In the video below, we unpack an actual literature review so that you can see how all the core components come together in reality.

Let’s Recap

In this post, we’ve covered how to research and write up a high-quality literature review chapter. Let’s do a quick recap of the key takeaways:

  • It is essential to understand the WHY of the literature review before you read or write anything. Make sure you understand the 4 core functions of the process.
  • The first step is to hunt down the relevant literature . You can do this using Google Scholar, your university database, the snowballing technique and by reviewing other dissertations and theses.
  • Next, you need to log all the articles in your reference manager , build your own catalogue of literature and synthesise all the research.
  • Following that, you need to develop a detailed outline of your entire chapter – the more detail the better. Don’t start writing without a clear outline (on paper, not in your head!)
  • Write up your first draft in rough form – don’t aim for perfection. Remember, done beats perfect.
  • Refine your second draft and get a layman’s perspective on it . Then tighten it up and submit it to your supervisor.

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Literature Review Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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38 Comments

Phindile Mpetshwa

Thank you very much. This page is an eye opener and easy to comprehend.

Yinka

This is awesome!

I wish I come across GradCoach earlier enough.

But all the same I’ll make use of this opportunity to the fullest.

Thank you for this good job.

Keep it up!

Derek Jansen

You’re welcome, Yinka. Thank you for the kind words. All the best writing your literature review.

Renee Buerger

Thank you for a very useful literature review session. Although I am doing most of the steps…it being my first masters an Mphil is a self study and one not sure you are on the right track. I have an amazing supervisor but one also knows they are super busy. So not wanting to bother on the minutae. Thank you.

You’re most welcome, Renee. Good luck with your literature review 🙂

Sheemal Prasad

This has been really helpful. Will make full use of it. 🙂

Thank you Gradcoach.

Tahir

Really agreed. Admirable effort

Faturoti Toyin

thank you for this beautiful well explained recap.

Tara

Thank you so much for your guide of video and other instructions for the dissertation writing.

It is instrumental. It encouraged me to write a dissertation now.

Lorraine Hall

Thank you the video was great – from someone that knows nothing thankyou

araz agha

an amazing and very constructive way of presetting a topic, very useful, thanks for the effort,

Suilabayuh Ngah

It is timely

It is very good video of guidance for writing a research proposal and a dissertation. Since I have been watching and reading instructions, I have started my research proposal to write. I appreciate to Mr Jansen hugely.

Nancy Geregl

I learn a lot from your videos. Very comprehensive and detailed.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. As a research student, you learn better with your learning tips in research

Uzma

I was really stuck in reading and gathering information but after watching these things are cleared thanks, it is so helpful.

Xaysukith thorxaitou

Really helpful, Thank you for the effort in showing such information

Sheila Jerome

This is super helpful thank you very much.

Mary

Thank you for this whole literature writing review.You have simplified the process.

Maithe

I’m so glad I found GradCoach. Excellent information, Clear explanation, and Easy to follow, Many thanks Derek!

You’re welcome, Maithe. Good luck writing your literature review 🙂

Anthony

Thank you Coach, you have greatly enriched and improved my knowledge

Eunice

Great piece, so enriching and it is going to help me a great lot in my project and thesis, thanks so much

Stephanie Louw

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Thanks, Stephanie 🙂

oghenekaro Silas

This is mind blowing, the detailed explanation and simplicity is perfect.

I am doing two papers on my final year thesis, and I must stay I feel very confident to face both headlong after reading this article.

thank you so much.

if anyone is to get a paper done on time and in the best way possible, GRADCOACH is certainly the go to area!

tarandeep singh

This is very good video which is well explained with detailed explanation

uku igeny

Thank you excellent piece of work and great mentoring

Abdul Ahmad Zazay

Thanks, it was useful

Maserialong Dlamini

Thank you very much. the video and the information were very helpful.

Suleiman Abubakar

Good morning scholar. I’m delighted coming to know you even before the commencement of my dissertation which hopefully is expected in not more than six months from now. I would love to engage my study under your guidance from the beginning to the end. I love to know how to do good job

Mthuthuzeli Vongo

Thank you so much Derek for such useful information on writing up a good literature review. I am at a stage where I need to start writing my one. My proposal was accepted late last year but I honestly did not know where to start

SEID YIMAM MOHAMMED (Technic)

Like the name of your YouTube implies you are GRAD (great,resource person, about dissertation). In short you are smart enough in coaching research work.

Richie Buffalo

This is a very well thought out webpage. Very informative and a great read.

Adekoya Opeyemi Jonathan

Very timely.

I appreciate.

Norasyidah Mohd Yusoff

Very comprehensive and eye opener for me as beginner in postgraduate study. Well explained and easy to understand. Appreciate and good reference in guiding me in my research journey. Thank you

Maryellen Elizabeth Hart

Thank you. I requested to download the free literature review template, however, your website wouldn’t allow me to complete the request or complete a download. May I request that you email me the free template? Thank you.

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What is a Literature Review? How to Write It (with Examples)

literature review

A literature review is a critical analysis and synthesis of existing research on a particular topic. It provides an overview of the current state of knowledge, identifies gaps, and highlights key findings in the literature. 1 The purpose of a literature review is to situate your own research within the context of existing scholarship, demonstrating your understanding of the topic and showing how your work contributes to the ongoing conversation in the field. Learning how to write a literature review is a critical tool for successful research. Your ability to summarize and synthesize prior research pertaining to a certain topic demonstrates your grasp on the topic of study, and assists in the learning process. 

Table of Contents

  • What is the purpose of literature review? 
  • a. Habitat Loss and Species Extinction: 
  • b. Range Shifts and Phenological Changes: 
  • c. Ocean Acidification and Coral Reefs: 
  • d. Adaptive Strategies and Conservation Efforts: 
  • How to write a good literature review 
  • Choose a Topic and Define the Research Question: 
  • Decide on the Scope of Your Review: 
  • Select Databases for Searches: 
  • Conduct Searches and Keep Track: 
  • Review the Literature: 
  • Organize and Write Your Literature Review: 
  • Frequently asked questions 

What is a literature review?

A well-conducted literature review demonstrates the researcher’s familiarity with the existing literature, establishes the context for their own research, and contributes to scholarly conversations on the topic. One of the purposes of a literature review is also to help researchers avoid duplicating previous work and ensure that their research is informed by and builds upon the existing body of knowledge.

how to write introduction to literature review example

What is the purpose of literature review?

A literature review serves several important purposes within academic and research contexts. Here are some key objectives and functions of a literature review: 2  

  • Contextualizing the Research Problem: The literature review provides a background and context for the research problem under investigation. It helps to situate the study within the existing body of knowledge. 
  • Identifying Gaps in Knowledge: By identifying gaps, contradictions, or areas requiring further research, the researcher can shape the research question and justify the significance of the study. This is crucial for ensuring that the new research contributes something novel to the field. 
  • Understanding Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks: Literature reviews help researchers gain an understanding of the theoretical and conceptual frameworks used in previous studies. This aids in the development of a theoretical framework for the current research. 
  • Providing Methodological Insights: Another purpose of literature reviews is that it allows researchers to learn about the methodologies employed in previous studies. This can help in choosing appropriate research methods for the current study and avoiding pitfalls that others may have encountered. 
  • Establishing Credibility: A well-conducted literature review demonstrates the researcher’s familiarity with existing scholarship, establishing their credibility and expertise in the field. It also helps in building a solid foundation for the new research. 
  • Informing Hypotheses or Research Questions: The literature review guides the formulation of hypotheses or research questions by highlighting relevant findings and areas of uncertainty in existing literature. 

Literature review example

Let’s delve deeper with a literature review example: Let’s say your literature review is about the impact of climate change on biodiversity. You might format your literature review into sections such as the effects of climate change on habitat loss and species extinction, phenological changes, and marine biodiversity. Each section would then summarize and analyze relevant studies in those areas, highlighting key findings and identifying gaps in the research. The review would conclude by emphasizing the need for further research on specific aspects of the relationship between climate change and biodiversity. The following literature review template provides a glimpse into the recommended literature review structure and content, demonstrating how research findings are organized around specific themes within a broader topic. 

Literature Review on Climate Change Impacts on Biodiversity:

Climate change is a global phenomenon with far-reaching consequences, including significant impacts on biodiversity. This literature review synthesizes key findings from various studies: 

a. Habitat Loss and Species Extinction:

Climate change-induced alterations in temperature and precipitation patterns contribute to habitat loss, affecting numerous species (Thomas et al., 2004). The review discusses how these changes increase the risk of extinction, particularly for species with specific habitat requirements. 

b. Range Shifts and Phenological Changes:

Observations of range shifts and changes in the timing of biological events (phenology) are documented in response to changing climatic conditions (Parmesan & Yohe, 2003). These shifts affect ecosystems and may lead to mismatches between species and their resources. 

c. Ocean Acidification and Coral Reefs:

The review explores the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity, emphasizing ocean acidification’s threat to coral reefs (Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2007). Changes in pH levels negatively affect coral calcification, disrupting the delicate balance of marine ecosystems. 

d. Adaptive Strategies and Conservation Efforts:

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the literature review discusses various adaptive strategies adopted by species and conservation efforts aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change on biodiversity (Hannah et al., 2007). It emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary approaches for effective conservation planning. 

how to write introduction to literature review example

How to write a good literature review

Writing a literature review involves summarizing and synthesizing existing research on a particular topic. A good literature review format should include the following elements. 

Introduction: The introduction sets the stage for your literature review, providing context and introducing the main focus of your review. 

  • Opening Statement: Begin with a general statement about the broader topic and its significance in the field. 
  • Scope and Purpose: Clearly define the scope of your literature review. Explain the specific research question or objective you aim to address. 
  • Organizational Framework: Briefly outline the structure of your literature review, indicating how you will categorize and discuss the existing research. 
  • Significance of the Study: Highlight why your literature review is important and how it contributes to the understanding of the chosen topic. 
  • Thesis Statement: Conclude the introduction with a concise thesis statement that outlines the main argument or perspective you will develop in the body of the literature review. 

Body: The body of the literature review is where you provide a comprehensive analysis of existing literature, grouping studies based on themes, methodologies, or other relevant criteria. 

  • Organize by Theme or Concept: Group studies that share common themes, concepts, or methodologies. Discuss each theme or concept in detail, summarizing key findings and identifying gaps or areas of disagreement. 
  • Critical Analysis: Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each study. Discuss the methodologies used, the quality of evidence, and the overall contribution of each work to the understanding of the topic. 
  • Synthesis of Findings: Synthesize the information from different studies to highlight trends, patterns, or areas of consensus in the literature. 
  • Identification of Gaps: Discuss any gaps or limitations in the existing research and explain how your review contributes to filling these gaps. 
  • Transition between Sections: Provide smooth transitions between different themes or concepts to maintain the flow of your literature review. 

Conclusion: The conclusion of your literature review should summarize the main findings, highlight the contributions of the review, and suggest avenues for future research. 

  • Summary of Key Findings: Recap the main findings from the literature and restate how they contribute to your research question or objective. 
  • Contributions to the Field: Discuss the overall contribution of your literature review to the existing knowledge in the field. 
  • Implications and Applications: Explore the practical implications of the findings and suggest how they might impact future research or practice. 
  • Recommendations for Future Research: Identify areas that require further investigation and propose potential directions for future research in the field. 
  • Final Thoughts: Conclude with a final reflection on the importance of your literature review and its relevance to the broader academic community. 

what is a literature review

Conducting a literature review

Conducting a literature review is an essential step in research that involves reviewing and analyzing existing literature on a specific topic. It’s important to know how to do a literature review effectively, so here are the steps to follow: 1  

Choose a Topic and Define the Research Question:

  • Select a topic that is relevant to your field of study. 
  • Clearly define your research question or objective. Determine what specific aspect of the topic do you want to explore? 

Decide on the Scope of Your Review:

  • Determine the timeframe for your literature review. Are you focusing on recent developments, or do you want a historical overview? 
  • Consider the geographical scope. Is your review global, or are you focusing on a specific region? 
  • Define the inclusion and exclusion criteria. What types of sources will you include? Are there specific types of studies or publications you will exclude? 

Select Databases for Searches:

  • Identify relevant databases for your field. Examples include PubMed, IEEE Xplore, Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. 
  • Consider searching in library catalogs, institutional repositories, and specialized databases related to your topic. 

Conduct Searches and Keep Track:

  • Develop a systematic search strategy using keywords, Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), and other search techniques. 
  • Record and document your search strategy for transparency and replicability. 
  • Keep track of the articles, including publication details, abstracts, and links. Use citation management tools like EndNote, Zotero, or Mendeley to organize your references. 

Review the Literature:

  • Evaluate the relevance and quality of each source. Consider the methodology, sample size, and results of studies. 
  • Organize the literature by themes or key concepts. Identify patterns, trends, and gaps in the existing research. 
  • Summarize key findings and arguments from each source. Compare and contrast different perspectives. 
  • Identify areas where there is a consensus in the literature and where there are conflicting opinions. 
  • Provide critical analysis and synthesis of the literature. What are the strengths and weaknesses of existing research? 

Organize and Write Your Literature Review:

  • Literature review outline should be based on themes, chronological order, or methodological approaches. 
  • Write a clear and coherent narrative that synthesizes the information gathered. 
  • Use proper citations for each source and ensure consistency in your citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.). 
  • Conclude your literature review by summarizing key findings, identifying gaps, and suggesting areas for future research. 

The literature review sample and detailed advice on writing and conducting a review will help you produce a well-structured report. But remember that a literature review is an ongoing process, and it may be necessary to revisit and update it as your research progresses. 

Frequently asked questions

A literature review is a critical and comprehensive analysis of existing literature (published and unpublished works) on a specific topic or research question and provides a synthesis of the current state of knowledge in a particular field. A well-conducted literature review is crucial for researchers to build upon existing knowledge, avoid duplication of efforts, and contribute to the advancement of their field. It also helps researchers situate their work within a broader context and facilitates the development of a sound theoretical and conceptual framework for their studies.

Literature review is a crucial component of research writing, providing a solid background for a research paper’s investigation. The aim is to keep professionals up to date by providing an understanding of ongoing developments within a specific field, including research methods, and experimental techniques used in that field, and present that knowledge in the form of a written report. Also, the depth and breadth of the literature review emphasizes the credibility of the scholar in his or her field.  

Before writing a literature review, it’s essential to undertake several preparatory steps to ensure that your review is well-researched, organized, and focused. This includes choosing a topic of general interest to you and doing exploratory research on that topic, writing an annotated bibliography, and noting major points, especially those that relate to the position you have taken on the topic. 

Literature reviews and academic research papers are essential components of scholarly work but serve different purposes within the academic realm. 3 A literature review aims to provide a foundation for understanding the current state of research on a particular topic, identify gaps or controversies, and lay the groundwork for future research. Therefore, it draws heavily from existing academic sources, including books, journal articles, and other scholarly publications. In contrast, an academic research paper aims to present new knowledge, contribute to the academic discourse, and advance the understanding of a specific research question. Therefore, it involves a mix of existing literature (in the introduction and literature review sections) and original data or findings obtained through research methods. 

Literature reviews are essential components of academic and research papers, and various strategies can be employed to conduct them effectively. If you want to know how to write a literature review for a research paper, here are four common approaches that are often used by researchers.  Chronological Review: This strategy involves organizing the literature based on the chronological order of publication. It helps to trace the development of a topic over time, showing how ideas, theories, and research have evolved.  Thematic Review: Thematic reviews focus on identifying and analyzing themes or topics that cut across different studies. Instead of organizing the literature chronologically, it is grouped by key themes or concepts, allowing for a comprehensive exploration of various aspects of the topic.  Methodological Review: This strategy involves organizing the literature based on the research methods employed in different studies. It helps to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of various methodologies and allows the reader to evaluate the reliability and validity of the research findings.  Theoretical Review: A theoretical review examines the literature based on the theoretical frameworks used in different studies. This approach helps to identify the key theories that have been applied to the topic and assess their contributions to the understanding of the subject.  It’s important to note that these strategies are not mutually exclusive, and a literature review may combine elements of more than one approach. The choice of strategy depends on the research question, the nature of the literature available, and the goals of the review. Additionally, other strategies, such as integrative reviews or systematic reviews, may be employed depending on the specific requirements of the research.

The literature review format can vary depending on the specific publication guidelines. However, there are some common elements and structures that are often followed. Here is a general guideline for the format of a literature review:  Introduction:   Provide an overview of the topic.  Define the scope and purpose of the literature review.  State the research question or objective.  Body:   Organize the literature by themes, concepts, or chronology.  Critically analyze and evaluate each source.  Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the studies.  Highlight any methodological limitations or biases.  Identify patterns, connections, or contradictions in the existing research.  Conclusion:   Summarize the key points discussed in the literature review.  Highlight the research gap.  Address the research question or objective stated in the introduction.  Highlight the contributions of the review and suggest directions for future research.

Both annotated bibliographies and literature reviews involve the examination of scholarly sources. While annotated bibliographies focus on individual sources with brief annotations, literature reviews provide a more in-depth, integrated, and comprehensive analysis of existing literature on a specific topic. The key differences are as follows: 

References 

  • Denney, A. S., & Tewksbury, R. (2013). How to write a literature review.  Journal of criminal justice education ,  24 (2), 218-234. 
  • Pan, M. L. (2016).  Preparing literature reviews: Qualitative and quantitative approaches . Taylor & Francis. 
  • Cantero, C. (2019). How to write a literature review.  San José State University Writing Center . 

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How do I Write a Literature Review?: #5 Writing the Review

  • Step #1: Choosing a Topic
  • Step #2: Finding Information
  • Step #3: Evaluating Content
  • Step #4: Synthesizing Content
  • #5 Writing the Review
  • Citing Your Sources

WRITING THE REVIEW 

You've done the research and now you're ready to put your findings down on paper. When preparing to write your review, first consider how will you organize your review.

The actual review generally has 5 components:

Abstract  -  An abstract is a summary of your literature review. It is made up of the following parts:

  • A contextual sentence about your motivation behind your research topic
  • Your thesis statement
  • A descriptive statement about the types of literature used in the review
  • Summarize your findings
  • Conclusion(s) based upon your findings

Introduction :   Like a typical research paper introduction, provide the reader with a quick idea of the topic of the literature review:

  • Define or identify the general topic, issue, or area of concern. This provides the reader with context for reviewing the literature.
  • Identify related trends in what has already been published about the topic; or conflicts in theory, methodology, evidence, and conclusions; or gaps in research and scholarship; or a single problem or new perspective of immediate interest.
  • Establish your reason (point of view) for reviewing the literature; explain the criteria to be used in analyzing and comparing literature and the organization of the review (sequence); and, when necessary, state why certain literature is or is not included (scope)  - 

Body :  The body of a literature review contains your discussion of sources and can be organized in 3 ways-

  • Chronological -  by publication or by trend
  • Thematic -  organized around a topic or issue, rather than the progression of time
  • Methodical -  the focusing factor usually does not have to do with the content of the material. Instead, it focuses on the "methods" of the literature's researcher or writer that you are reviewing

You may also want to include a section on "questions for further research" and discuss what questions the review has sparked about the topic/field or offer suggestions for future studies/examinations that build on your current findings.

Conclusion :  In the conclusion, you should:

Conclude your paper by providing your reader with some perspective on the relationship between your literature review's specific topic and how it's related to it's parent discipline, scientific endeavor, or profession.

Bibliography :   Since a literature review is composed of pieces of research, it is very important that your correctly cite the literature you are reviewing, both in the reviews body as well as in a bibliography/works cited. To learn more about different citation styles, visit the " Citing Your Sources " tab.

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Literature Review Introduction Sample

Literature Review Introduction Sample

How to Write Literature Review Introduction Sample

Table of contents, literature review (lr) introduction: revelation of concept, sample text 1, conceptual framework, declaration on lr type, sample text 2, follow referencing style, in-text referencing for lr introduction, sample text 3.

Notes- Footnotes & Endnotes

Sample Text 4

  • MLA Style (8th edition)

Sample Text 5

The Literature Review (LR) is an integral part of an in-depth research process, which involves critically scrutinized content attained from former research works and empirical reports. In a research paper , the LR is meant to address the identified issue and gain adequate knowledge to resolve it. However, since every research is unique in its way, soon the researcher discovers that the former research works are inadequate or limited in meeting the current research objectives. In this way, the LR brings forth the research gaps, which leads to further research process at the researcher’s end. 

It is important to note here that the Literature Review format may differ from one University to another. However, the process of analysis and declarations remain universal. For the formatting and the inclusion list always check the University module.

In this article, we will focus on understanding the relevance and content to be established in the Introduction part of the Literature Review.

On a standard basis, the structure of the Literature Review is meant to offer three sections – Introduction, Body, and the Conclusion. In the case of Introduction, the researcher must offer detailed information about the context and the intellectual narration about the topic. Historical contexts and the developmental process of the concern need to be summed up in this section. The researcher should declare the theories and the relevance of the theories to the research in a very comprehensive manner. While elaborating the relevance of the selected theories the key writers and philosophers should be introduced in the Introduction section of the LR. 

Sample Text 1 - Literature Review Introduction Sample

It is highly recommended that the researcher considers the inclusion of the Conceptual Framework in the LR Introduction. The objective behind the inclusion of the Conceptual Framework is to develop an in-depth thinking process and thereby understand the complexity of the identified issue of the research. This framework acts as a roadmap while constructing the Body and Conclusion or the Research Gaps. The conceptual framework as prescribed in Figure 1 should be considered while answering the specified questions one-by-one:

Figure 1: Map to Construct the Conceptual Framework

Map to Construct the Conceptual Framework - Literature Review Introduction Sample - Words Doctorate

The Literature Review Introduction can vary as per the type of review process considered by the researcher. Following the selected topic and the availability of secondary sources the LR can be:

  • A narrative or argumentative type,
  • A systematic review type with either of meta-synthesis or meta-analysis approach, or
  • A theoretical or integrative review type.

For all these types, it is necessary that the Literature Review Introduction makes clear declarations about the selection process and justify the selection of the type in the most intellectually logical manner.

If you select the narrative approach to review the collected literature, then mention it in the first few lines. You need to state that you will summarise the content of the selected literature and will derive the research gaps.

Alternatively, your literature review can be argumentative in approach. In this case, the Literature Review Introduction must declare the process of examining the biases and ways to identify the shortcomings of the selected literature.

In case, you select a systematic review of very narrowly selected literature; make sure that you identify the right process. Since systematic literature review can be shaped as meta-analysis or as meta-synthesis, the LR Introduction must clarify the approach. Mention how you follow statistical procedures to meet the meta-analysis approach and undergo a deductive process under quantitative methodology. For the meta-synthesis approach, give a clear idea about the non-statistical techniques under qualitative methodology.

For the theoretical approach of the literature review, introduce and establish the relevance of the selected theories in the LR Introduction. On the other hand, for the integrative review approach, generate the necessary framework about the process of leading the critiques.

Sample Text 2 - Literature Review Introduction Sample

The literature Review Introduction will not mention anything about the selected referencing style. The in-text citations will make it all clear. You must follow the right kind of in-text referencing style as per your selected subject and approach of your research.

In this article, we are offering three samples for a clear understanding. These exemplified referencing styles are:

  • American Psychological Association (APA) referencing system,
  • Chicago referencing or Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), &
  • Modern Languages Association (MLA) referencing system.

It is the presence of the references in the form of ‘parenthetical in-text citations, which determines the selected referencing style for the entire research work. Note that for subjects from Humanities, the common selection is of MLA style. Even in Humanities, if you are from dealing with History, Business Fine Arts, then you can consider the Chicago style of referencing. As for the APA referencing style the subjects from Social Sciences, Engineering, Education, etc. remains as the basic selection.  Still, we would recommend that always have a consultation with your Guide or Supervisor about the right selection of the referencing style.

APA Style (7 th edition)

APA style  of referencing under 7 th edition is a parenthetical way of declaring the references. The bracketed mode of references that you need to add to the Literature Review Introduction must comprise of –

  • The Surname of the Author
  • Publication Date
  • Page number or numbers

Sample Text 3 - Literature Review Introduction Sample

For instance, in Sample Text 1 for a fictitious book, ‘Evaluation of Education System’ by Simon Hillary , published in 2019; the APA style in-text referencing should appear like- (Hillary, 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary, 2019, pp. 84-88). Note that ‘p.’ stands for a single page, whereas ‘pp.’ for consecutive multiple pages. The page or page numbers are used when you quote from a text directly. In case there is no direct quote, you can avoid using the page or page numbers. In some cases like old texts, it is recommended to use paragraph or couplet numbers.

This format is a general application that varies slightly in the case of multiple authors. Let’s add Walter as co-author for two authored books. The in-text citations under the APA system follow the following provisions of using the commas ‘,’: There is no difference while referring to in-text reference to any book, journal or web article, or internet sources.

  • For a book with a single author: (Hillary, 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary, 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • For a book with two authors: (Hillary and Walter, 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary and Walter, 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • For a book with multiple authors: (Hillary et al., 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary et al., 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), single author: (Hillary, 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary, 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), two authors: (Hillary and Walter, 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary and Walter, 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), multiple authors: (Hillary et al., 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary et al., 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, single author: (Hillary, 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary, 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, two authors: (Hillary and Walter, 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary and Walter, 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, multiple authors: (Hillary et al., 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary et al., 2019, pp. 84-88)

For APA in-text citations always remember:

  • To capitalise all the proper nouns, this will include the surname/s of the author or authors,
  • To capitalise the first alphabet of every word of any title is included in the text. Here, the prepositions and articles can remain in small letters.
  • Indent of ½ inch from left for every direct quote in the text.

Chicago Style (17 th edition)

Chicago referencing style (17 th edition) is used for documentations of –

  • Author-date citations, &
  • Notes and bibliography.

Though this style is very similar to the APA style of adding-

Yet the placement of the comma makes all the difference in the in-text citation process. Instead of putting the comma ‘,’ after the Surname of the Author, Chicago places it after the publication date and there is no space for ‘p.’ or ‘pp.’.

If we consider the same text ‘Evaluation of Education System’ by Simon Hillary, published in 2019 by Oxford Open Press in Oxford; the Chicago style in-text referencing should appear like- (Hillary 2019, 84) or (Hillary 2019, 84-88). Let’s add Walter as co-author for two authored books.

Author-date (in-text)

There is no difference while referring to in-text reference to any book, journal or web article, or internet sources.

  • For a book with a single author: (Hillary 2019, 84) or (Hillary 2019, 84-88)
  • For a book with two authors: (Hillary and Walter 2019, 84) or (Hillary and Walter 2019, 84-88)
  • For a book with multiple authors: (Hillary et al 2019, 84) or (Hillary et al 2019, 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), single author: (Hillary 2019, 84) or (Hillary 2019, 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), two authors: (Hillary and Walter 2019, 84) or (Hillary and Walter 2019, 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), multiple authors: (Hillary et al 2019, 84) or (Hillary et al 2019, 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, single author: (Hillary 2019, 84) or (Hillary 2019, 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, two authors: (Hillary and Walter 2019, 84) or (Hillary and Walter 2019, 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, multiple authors: (Hillary et al 2019, 84) or (Hillary et al 2019, 84-88)

The usage of Chicago is more particular when it comes to the inclusion of footnote or endnote in a text. Here, if you need to add any footnote or endnote to the Literature Review Introduction, then follow the following rules:

  • For book: Full name of the Author, Book title (Place of Publication: Publisher, Publication year) page number/s
  • Simon Hillary, Evaluation of Education System (Oxford: Oxford Open Press, 2019), 84-88
  • Following in-text mentions – Hillary, Evaluation of Education System, 84-88
  • For Journal Article: Full name of the Author, “Article Title,” Journal Name, Journal Volume, Journal No., Journal Issue (Month, Year): page number/s. Add DOI for electronic Journal publication.
  • Edmund Walter, “Education System and Global Policies.” Journal for Intellect, 26, no. 3 (Summer, 2019): 65. https://doi.org/16.2329/jfiunivbchro.26.3.0065.
  • Following in-text mentions – Walter, “Education System and Global Policies,” 65.
  • For Web Articles or Internet Sources- “Page Title,” Name of the Website, Date of Access (Month-date-year), URL.
  • “About Education System,” Educationresearch, accessed July 13, 2021, http://www.wr.dn/en/about-referencing-style.
  • Following in-text mentions – “About Education System.”

Sample Text 4 - Literature Review Introduction Sample

MLA Style (8 th edition)

MLA referencing style under 8 th edition is also a parenthetical way of declaring the references. The brackets in the in-text referencing process for the Introduction of your Literature Review must comprise of –

  • The Surname of the Author, and
  • Page number/s of the text or context.

Considering the same book, ‘Evaluation of Education System’ by Simon Hillary, published in 2019; the MLA style in-text referencing should appear like- (Hillary 84) or (Hillary 84-88). It is important that in the case of MLA the non-consecutive pages are just added by commas, as in- (Hillary 84, 26, 104). Let’s add Walter as co-author for two authored books. There is no difference while referring to in-text reference to any book, journal or web article, or internet sources. Note that there is no use of ‘p.’ or ‘pp.’ for page number/s and there is no space for commas ‘,’.

  • For a book with a single author: (Hillary 84) or (Hillary 84-88)
  • For a book with two authors: (Hillary and Walter 84) or (Hillary and Walter 84-88)
  • For a book with multiple authors: (Hillary et al 84) or (Hillary et al 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), single author: (Hillary 84) or (Hillary 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), two authors: (Hillary and Walter 84) or (Hillary and Walter 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), multiple authors: (Hillary et al 84) or (Hillary et al 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, single author: (Hillary 84) or (Hillary 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, two authors: (Hillary and Walter 84) or (Hillary and Walter 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, multiple authors: (Hillary et al 84) or (Hillary et al 84-88)

The MLA style is popular for its facilities to accommodate various kinds of exceptional in-text citations. In your Literature Review Introduction, these exceptions can occur in the following manner, yet MLA holds solutions for the-

No Author Citation: The in-text citation needs to be added by matching the very foremost element in the entry of the Cited Work, which can be the organisation’s name or source title.

Example: For the source- United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. International Annual Report for FY 2020-21, the in-text citation would be UNICEF (or United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) 162.

No Page Number/s Citation: In an in-text citation, when there is no page number, then you can consider the number of the chapter, scene, section, or anything that can locate the page.

Example: For the source- ‘Evaluation of Education System’ by Simon Hillary, the in-text citation would be (Hillary ch 2).

Same Author Different Sources:   The in-text citation of different works by the same author, MLA follows the regulation of shortening the title of the sources.

Example: For the source- ‘Evaluation of Education System’ by Simon Hillary, and ‘Education in Global Platform’ by Simon Hillary, the in-text citation would be (Hillary, Evaluation 84; and Hilary, Global 65).

Same Last Names: The in-text citation of different authors with the same surnames, MLA follows the trend of adding the First name initial.

Example: For the authors- Thomas Hilary and Simon Hilary with different sources, the in-text citation would be (T. Hillary 65 & S. Hillary 84).

Indirect Citation: The in-text citation for the information attained from indirect sources, MLA prescribes the provision of adding the source with parentheses and by the end of the sentence.

Example: If a piece of information about Hillary has been gathered from James Walter’s text published in 2020, then the in-text citation would be Hillary declared that the style of referencing … (Walter ch.2)

MLA style is very peculiar for its art of paraphrasing or delivering the context with the sources. For instance, in your Introduction, you can have sentences like-

Sample Text 5 - Literature Review Introduction Sample - Words Doctorate

In the conclusion, it is suggested that the Literature Review Introduction is very important for the success of your research However, to get your research approved by the University you need to take care of all the aspects and points mentioned above. 

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Literature Review: Conducting & Writing

  • Sample Literature Reviews
  • Steps for Conducting a Lit Review
  • Finding "The Literature"
  • Organizing/Writing
  • APA Style This link opens in a new window
  • Chicago: Notes Bibliography This link opens in a new window
  • MLA Style This link opens in a new window

Sample Lit Reviews from Communication Arts

Have an exemplary literature review.

  • Literature Review Sample 1
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  • Literature Review Sample 3

Have you written a stellar literature review you care to share for teaching purposes?

Are you an instructor who has received an exemplary literature review and have permission from the student to post?

Please contact Britt McGowan at [email protected] for inclusion in this guide. All disciplines welcome and encouraged.

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Literature Review Tips for the Introduction and Discussion Sections

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A literature review is a summary of studies related to a particular area of research. It identifies and summarizes all the relevant research conducted on a particular topic. It is important that your literature review is focused . Therefore, you should choose a limited number of studies that are central to your topic rather than trying to collect a wide range of studies that might not be closely connected.

Literature reviews help you accomplish the following:

  • Evaluate past research  Collecting relevant resources will help you see what research has already been done. This will also help avoid duplication.
  • Identify experts It is important to identify credible researchers who have knowledge in a given field, in order to seek their help if you get stuck with certain aspects of your research.
  • Identify key questions  Your ultimate aim is to bring something new to the conversation. Collecting resources will help you determine the important questions that need to be addressed.
  • Determine methodologies used in past studies Knowing how others have approached a particular topic will give you the opportunity to identify problems and find new ways to research and study a topic. If the reported methodology was successful, you can use it and save time that you would otherwise be spending on optimization.

Presenting Literature Review in the Introduction and Discussion Sections

There are many benefits to presenting literature reviews in the introduction and discussion sections of your manuscripts . However, there are differences in how you can present literature reviews in each section.

What Should be Included in the Literature Review of the Introduction Section?

The literature reviewed in the introduction should:

  • Introduce the topic
  • Establish the significance of the study
  • Provide an overview of the relevant literature
  • Establish a context for the study using the literature
  • Identify knowledge gaps
  • Illustrate how the study will advance knowledge on the topic

As you can see, literature review plays a significant role in the introduction section. However, there are some things that you should avoid doing in this section. These include:

  • Elaborating on the studies mentioned in the literature review
  • Using studies from the literature review to aggressively support your research
  • Directly quoting studies from the literature review

It is important to know how to integrate the literature review into the introduction in an effective way. Although you can mention other studies, they should not be the focus. Instead, focus on using the literature review to aid in setting a foundation for the manuscript.

What Goes in the Literature Review of the Discussion Section?

Literature reviews play an important role in the discussion section of a manuscript . In this section, your findings should be the focus, rather than those of other researchers. Therefore, you should only use the studies mentioned in the literature review as support and evidence for your study.

There are three ways in which you can use literature reviews in the discussion section:

  • To Provide Context for Your Study Using studies from the literature review helps to set the foundation for how you will reveal your findings and develop your ideas.
  • Compare your Findings to Other Studies You can use previous literature as a backdrop to compare your new findings. This helps describe and also advance your ideas.
  • State the Contribution of Your Study In addition to developing your ideas, you can use literature reviews to explain how your study contributes to the field of study.

However, there are three common mistakes that researchers make when including literature reviews in the discussion section. First, they mention all sorts of studies, some of which are not even relevant to the topic under investigation. Second, instead of citing the original article, they cite a related article that mentions the original article. Lastly, some authors cite previous work solely based on the abstract, without even going through the entire paper.

We hope this article helps you effectively present your literature review in both the introduction as well as the discussion section of your manuscript. You can also mention any other tips that will add to this article in the comments section below.

References:

[1]  http://www.math.montana.edu/jobo/phdprep/documents/phd6.pdf 

[2]  https://libguides.unf.edu/c.php?g=177129&p=1163732

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The structure of a literature review

A literature review should be structured like any other essay: it should have an introduction, a middle or main body, and a conclusion.

Introduction

The introduction should:

  • define your topic and provide an appropriate context for reviewing the literature;
  • establish your reasons – i.e. point of view – for
  • reviewing the literature;
  • explain the organisation – i.e. sequence – of the review;
  • state the scope of the review – i.e. what is included and what isn’t included. For example, if you were reviewing the literature on obesity in children you might say something like: There are a large number of studies of obesity trends in the general population. However, since the focus of this research is on obesity in children, these will not be reviewed in detail and will only be referred to as appropriate.

The middle or main body should:

  • organise the literature according to common themes;
  • provide insight into the relation between your chosen topic and the wider subject area e.g. between obesity in children and obesity in general;
  • move from a general, wider view of the literature being reviewed to the specific focus of your research.

The conclusion should:

  • summarise the important aspects of the existing body of literature;
  • evaluate the current state of the literature reviewed;
  • identify significant flaws or gaps in existing knowledge;
  • outline areas for future study;
  • link your research to existing knowledge.

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7 Writing a Literature Review

Hundreds of original investigation research articles on health science topics are published each year. It is becoming harder and harder to keep on top of all new findings in a topic area and – more importantly – to work out how they all fit together to determine our current understanding of a topic. This is where literature reviews come in.

In this chapter, we explain what a literature review is and outline the stages involved in writing one. We also provide practical tips on how to communicate the results of a review of current literature on a topic in the format of a literature review.

7.1 What is a literature review?

Screenshot of journal article

Literature reviews provide a synthesis and evaluation  of the existing literature on a particular topic with the aim of gaining a new, deeper understanding of the topic.

Published literature reviews are typically written by scientists who are experts in that particular area of science. Usually, they will be widely published as authors of their own original work, making them highly qualified to author a literature review.

However, literature reviews are still subject to peer review before being published. Literature reviews provide an important bridge between the expert scientific community and many other communities, such as science journalists, teachers, and medical and allied health professionals. When the most up-to-date knowledge reaches such audiences, it is more likely that this information will find its way to the general public. When this happens, – the ultimate good of science can be realised.

A literature review is structured differently from an original research article. It is developed based on themes, rather than stages of the scientific method.

In the article Ten simple rules for writing a literature review , Marco Pautasso explains the importance of literature reviews:

Literature reviews are in great demand in most scientific fields. Their need stems from the ever-increasing output of scientific publications. For example, compared to 1991, in 2008 three, eight, and forty times more papers were indexed in Web of Science on malaria, obesity, and biodiversity, respectively. Given such mountains of papers, scientists cannot be expected to examine in detail every single new paper relevant to their interests. Thus, it is both advantageous and necessary to rely on regular summaries of the recent literature. Although recognition for scientists mainly comes from primary research, timely literature reviews can lead to new synthetic insights and are often widely read. For such summaries to be useful, however, they need to be compiled in a professional way (Pautasso, 2013, para. 1).

An example of a literature review is shown in Figure 7.1.

Video 7.1: What is a literature review? [2 mins, 11 secs]

Watch this video created by Steely Library at Northern Kentucky Library called ‘ What is a literature review? Note: Closed captions are available by clicking on the CC button below.

Examples of published literature reviews

  • Strength training alone, exercise therapy alone, and exercise therapy with passive manual mobilisation each reduce pain and disability in people with knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review
  • Traveler’s diarrhea: a clinical review
  • Cultural concepts of distress and psychiatric disorders: literature review and research recommendations for global mental health epidemiology

7.2 Steps of writing a literature review

Writing a literature review is a very challenging task. Figure 7.2 summarises the steps of writing a literature review. Depending on why you are writing your literature review, you may be given a topic area, or may choose a topic that particularly interests you or is related to a research project that you wish to undertake.

Chapter 6 provides instructions on finding scientific literature that would form the basis for your literature review.

Once you have your topic and have accessed the literature, the next stages (analysis, synthesis and evaluation) are challenging. Next, we look at these important cognitive skills student scientists will need to develop and employ to successfully write a literature review, and provide some guidance for navigating these stages.

Steps of writing a ltierature review which include: research, synthesise, read abstracts, read papers, evaualte findings and write

Analysis, synthesis and evaluation

Analysis, synthesis and evaluation are three essential skills required by scientists  and you will need to develop these skills if you are to write a good literature review ( Figure 7.3 ). These important cognitive skills are discussed in more detail in Chapter 9.

Diagram with the words analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Under analysis it says taking a process or thing and breaking it down. Under synthesis it says combining elements of separate material and under evaluation it says critiquing a product or process

The first step in writing a literature review is to analyse the original investigation research papers that you have gathered related to your topic.

Analysis requires examining the papers methodically and in detail, so you can understand and interpret aspects of the study described in each research article.

An analysis grid is a simple tool you can use to help with the careful examination and breakdown of each paper. This tool will allow you to create a concise summary of each research paper; see Table 7.1 for an example of  an analysis grid. When filling in the grid, the aim is to draw out key aspects of each research paper. Use a different row for each paper, and a different column for each aspect of the paper ( Tables 7.2 and 7.3 show how completed analysis grid may look).

Before completing your own grid, look at these examples and note the types of information that have been included, as well as the level of detail. Completing an analysis grid with a sufficient level of detail will help you to complete the synthesis and evaluation stages effectively. This grid will allow you to more easily observe similarities and differences across the findings of the research papers and to identify possible explanations (e.g., differences in methodologies employed) for observed differences between the findings of different research papers.

Table 7.1: Example of an analysis grid

A tab;e split into columns with annotated comments

Table 7.3: Sample filled-in analysis grid for research article by Ping and colleagues

Source: Ping, WC, Keong, CC & Bandyopadhyay, A 2010, ‘Effects of acute supplementation of caffeine on cardiorespiratory responses during endurance running in a hot and humid climate’, Indian Journal of Medical Research, vol. 132, pp. 36–41. Used under a CC-BY-NC-SA licence.

Step two of writing a literature review is synthesis.

Synthesis describes combining separate components or elements to form a connected whole.

You will use the results of your analysis to find themes to build your literature review around. Each of the themes identified will become a subheading within the body of your literature review.

A good place to start when identifying themes is with the dependent variables (results/findings) that were investigated in the research studies.

Because all of the research articles you are incorporating into your literature review are related to your topic, it is likely that they have similar study designs and have measured similar dependent variables. Review the ‘Results’ column of your analysis grid. You may like to collate the common themes in a synthesis grid (see, for example Table 7.4 ).

Table showing themes of the article including running performance, rating of perceived exertion, heart rate and oxygen uptake

Step three of writing a literature review is evaluation, which can only be done after carefully analysing your research papers and synthesising the common themes (findings).

During the evaluation stage, you are making judgements on the themes presented in the research articles that you have read. This includes providing physiological explanations for the findings. It may be useful to refer to the discussion section of published original investigation research papers, or another literature review, where the authors may mention tested or hypothetical physiological mechanisms that may explain their findings.

When the findings of the investigations related to a particular theme are inconsistent (e.g., one study shows that caffeine effects performance and another study shows that caffeine had no effect on performance) you should attempt to provide explanations of why the results differ, including physiological explanations. A good place to start is by comparing the methodologies to determine if there are any differences that may explain the differences in the findings (see the ‘Experimental design’ column of your analysis grid). An example of evaluation is shown in the examples that follow in this section, under ‘Running performance’ and ‘RPE ratings’.

When the findings of the papers related to a particular theme are consistent (e.g., caffeine had no effect on oxygen uptake in both studies) an evaluation should include an explanation of why the results are similar. Once again, include physiological explanations. It is still a good idea to compare methodologies as a background to the evaluation. An example of evaluation is shown in the following under ‘Oxygen consumption’.

Annotated paragraphs on running performance with annotated notes such as physiological explanation provided; possible explanation for inconsistent results

7.3 Writing your literature review

Once you have completed the analysis, and synthesis grids and written your evaluation of the research papers , you can combine synthesis and evaluation information to create a paragraph for a literature review ( Figure 7.4 ).

Bubble daigram showing connection between synethesis, evaulation and writing a paragraph

The following paragraphs are an example of combining the outcome of the synthesis and evaluation stages to produce a paragraph for a literature review.

Note that this is an example using only two papers – most literature reviews would be presenting information on many more papers than this ( (e.g., 106 papers in the review article by Bain and colleagues discussed later in this chapter). However, the same principle applies regardless of the number of papers reviewed.

Introduction paragraph showing where evaluation occurs

The next part of this chapter looks at the each section of a literature review and explains how to write them by referring to a review article that was published in Frontiers in Physiology and shown in Figure 7.1. Each section from the published article is annotated to highlight important features of the format of the review article, and identifies the synthesis and evaluation information.

In the examination of each review article section we will point out examples of how the authors have presented certain information and where they display application of important cognitive processes; we will use the colour code shown below:

Colour legend

This should be one paragraph that accurately reflects the contents of the review article.

An annotated abstract divided into relevant background information, identification of the problem, summary of recent literature on topic, purpose of the review

Introduction

The introduction should establish the context and importance of the review

An annotated introduction divided into relevant background information, identification of the issue and overview of points covered

Body of literature review

Annotated body of literature review with following comments annotated on the side: subheadings are included to separate body of review into themes; introductory sentences with general background information; identification of gap in current knowledge; relevant theoretical background information; syntheis of literature relating to the potential importance of cerebral metabolism; an evaluation; identification of gaps in knowledge; synthesis of findings related to human studies; author evaluation

The reference section provides a list of the references that you cited in the body of your review article. The format will depend on the journal of publication as each journal has their own specific referencing format.

It is important to accurately cite references in research papers to acknowledge your sources and ensure credit is appropriately given to authors of work you have referred to. An accurate and comprehensive reference list also shows your readers that you are well-read in your topic area and are aware of the key papers that provide the context to your research.

It is important to keep track of your resources and to reference them consistently in the format required by the publication in which your work will appear. Most scientists will use reference management software to store details of all of the journal articles (and other sources) they use while writing their review article. This software also automates the process of adding in-text references and creating a reference list. In the review article by Bain et al. (2014) used as an example in this chapter, the reference list contains 106 items, so you can imagine how much help referencing software would be. Chapter 5 shows you how to use EndNote, one example of reference management software.

Click the drop down below to review the terms learned from this chapter.

Copyright note:

  • The quotation from Pautasso, M 2013, ‘Ten simple rules for writing a literature review’, PLoS Computational Biology is use under a CC-BY licence. 
  • Content from the annotated article and tables are based on Schubert, MM, Astorino, TA & Azevedo, JJL 2013, ‘The effects of caffeinated ‘energy shots’ on time trial performance’, Nutrients, vol. 5, no. 6, pp. 2062–2075 (used under a CC-BY 3.0 licence ) and P ing, WC, Keong , CC & Bandyopadhyay, A 2010, ‘Effects of acute supplementation of caffeine on cardiorespiratory responses during endurance running in a hot and humid climate’, Indian Journal of Medical Research, vol. 132, pp. 36–41 (used under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence ). 

Bain, A.R., Morrison, S.A., & Ainslie, P.N. (2014). Cerebral oxygenation and hyperthermia. Frontiers in Physiology, 5 , 92.

Pautasso, M. (2013). Ten simple rules for writing a literature review. PLoS Computational Biology, 9 (7), e1003149.

How To Do Science Copyright © 2022 by University of Southern Queensland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Writing Research Papers

  • Writing a Literature Review

When writing a research paper on a specific topic, you will often need to include an overview of any prior research that has been conducted on that topic.  For example, if your research paper is describing an experiment on fear conditioning, then you will probably need to provide an overview of prior research on fear conditioning.  That overview is typically known as a literature review.  

Please note that a full-length literature review article may be suitable for fulfilling the requirements for the Psychology B.S. Degree Research Paper .  For further details, please check with your faculty advisor.

Different Types of Literature Reviews

Literature reviews come in many forms.  They can be part of a research paper, for example as part of the Introduction section.  They can be one chapter of a doctoral dissertation.  Literature reviews can also “stand alone” as separate articles by themselves.  For instance, some journals such as Annual Review of Psychology , Psychological Bulletin , and others typically publish full-length review articles.  Similarly, in courses at UCSD, you may be asked to write a research paper that is itself a literature review (such as, with an instructor’s permission, in fulfillment of the B.S. Degree Research Paper requirement). Alternatively, you may be expected to include a literature review as part of a larger research paper (such as part of an Honors Thesis). 

Literature reviews can be written using a variety of different styles.  These may differ in the way prior research is reviewed as well as the way in which the literature review is organized.  Examples of stylistic variations in literature reviews include: 

  • Summarization of prior work vs. critical evaluation. In some cases, prior research is simply described and summarized; in other cases, the writer compares, contrasts, and may even critique prior research (for example, discusses their strengths and weaknesses).
  • Chronological vs. categorical and other types of organization. In some cases, the literature review begins with the oldest research and advances until it concludes with the latest research.  In other cases, research is discussed by category (such as in groupings of closely related studies) without regard for chronological order.  In yet other cases, research is discussed in terms of opposing views (such as when different research studies or researchers disagree with one another).

Overall, all literature reviews, whether they are written as a part of a larger work or as separate articles unto themselves, have a common feature: they do not present new research; rather, they provide an overview of prior research on a specific topic . 

How to Write a Literature Review

When writing a literature review, it can be helpful to rely on the following steps.  Please note that these procedures are not necessarily only for writing a literature review that becomes part of a larger article; they can also be used for writing a full-length article that is itself a literature review (although such reviews are typically more detailed and exhaustive; for more information please refer to the Further Resources section of this page).

Steps for Writing a Literature Review

1. Identify and define the topic that you will be reviewing.

The topic, which is commonly a research question (or problem) of some kind, needs to be identified and defined as clearly as possible.  You need to have an idea of what you will be reviewing in order to effectively search for references and to write a coherent summary of the research on it.  At this stage it can be helpful to write down a description of the research question, area, or topic that you will be reviewing, as well as to identify any keywords that you will be using to search for relevant research.

2. Conduct a literature search.

Use a range of keywords to search databases such as PsycINFO and any others that may contain relevant articles.  You should focus on peer-reviewed, scholarly articles.  Published books may also be helpful, but keep in mind that peer-reviewed articles are widely considered to be the “gold standard” of scientific research.  Read through titles and abstracts, select and obtain articles (that is, download, copy, or print them out), and save your searches as needed.  For more information about this step, please see the Using Databases and Finding Scholarly References section of this website.

3. Read through the research that you have found and take notes.

Absorb as much information as you can.  Read through the articles and books that you have found, and as you do, take notes.  The notes should include anything that will be helpful in advancing your own thinking about the topic and in helping you write the literature review (such as key points, ideas, or even page numbers that index key information).  Some references may turn out to be more helpful than others; you may notice patterns or striking contrasts between different sources ; and some sources may refer to yet other sources of potential interest.  This is often the most time-consuming part of the review process.  However, it is also where you get to learn about the topic in great detail.  For more details about taking notes, please see the “Reading Sources and Taking Notes” section of the Finding Scholarly References page of this website.

4. Organize your notes and thoughts; create an outline.

At this stage, you are close to writing the review itself.  However, it is often helpful to first reflect on all the reading that you have done.  What patterns stand out?  Do the different sources converge on a consensus?  Or not?  What unresolved questions still remain?  You should look over your notes (it may also be helpful to reorganize them), and as you do, to think about how you will present this research in your literature review.  Are you going to summarize or critically evaluate?  Are you going to use a chronological or other type of organizational structure?  It can also be helpful to create an outline of how your literature review will be structured.

5. Write the literature review itself and edit and revise as needed.

The final stage involves writing.  When writing, keep in mind that literature reviews are generally characterized by a summary style in which prior research is described sufficiently to explain critical findings but does not include a high level of detail (if readers want to learn about all the specific details of a study, then they can look up the references that you cite and read the original articles themselves).  However, the degree of emphasis that is given to individual studies may vary (more or less detail may be warranted depending on how critical or unique a given study was).   After you have written a first draft, you should read it carefully and then edit and revise as needed.  You may need to repeat this process more than once.  It may be helpful to have another person read through your draft(s) and provide feedback.

6. Incorporate the literature review into your research paper draft.

After the literature review is complete, you should incorporate it into your research paper (if you are writing the review as one component of a larger paper).  Depending on the stage at which your paper is at, this may involve merging your literature review into a partially complete Introduction section, writing the rest of the paper around the literature review, or other processes.

Further Tips for Writing a Literature Review

Full-length literature reviews

  • Many full-length literature review articles use a three-part structure: Introduction (where the topic is identified and any trends or major problems in the literature are introduced), Body (where the studies that comprise the literature on that topic are discussed), and Discussion or Conclusion (where major patterns and points are discussed and the general state of what is known about the topic is summarized)

Literature reviews as part of a larger paper

  • An “express method” of writing a literature review for a research paper is as follows: first, write a one paragraph description of each article that you read. Second, choose how you will order all the paragraphs and combine them in one document.  Third, add transitions between the paragraphs, as well as an introductory and concluding paragraph. 1
  • A literature review that is part of a larger research paper typically does not have to be exhaustive. Rather, it should contain most or all of the significant studies about a research topic but not tangential or loosely related ones. 2   Generally, literature reviews should be sufficient for the reader to understand the major issues and key findings about a research topic.  You may however need to confer with your instructor or editor to determine how comprehensive you need to be.

Benefits of Literature Reviews

By summarizing prior research on a topic, literature reviews have multiple benefits.  These include:

  • Literature reviews help readers understand what is known about a topic without having to find and read through multiple sources.
  • Literature reviews help “set the stage” for later reading about new research on a given topic (such as if they are placed in the Introduction of a larger research paper). In other words, they provide helpful background and context.
  • Literature reviews can also help the writer learn about a given topic while in the process of preparing the review itself. In the act of research and writing the literature review, the writer gains expertise on the topic .

Downloadable Resources

  • How to Write APA Style Research Papers (a comprehensive guide) [ PDF ]
  • Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers (a brief summary) [ PDF ]
  • Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – literature review) [ PDF ]

Further Resources

How-To Videos     

  • Writing Research Paper Videos
  • UCSD Library Psychology Research Guide: Literature Reviews

External Resources

  • Developing and Writing a Literature Review from N Carolina A&T State University
  • Example of a Short Literature Review from York College CUNY
  • How to Write a Review of Literature from UW-Madison
  • Writing a Literature Review from UC Santa Cruz  
  • Pautasso, M. (2013). Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review. PLoS Computational Biology, 9 (7), e1003149. doi : 1371/journal.pcbi.1003149

1 Ashton, W. Writing a short literature review . [PDF]     

2 carver, l. (2014).  writing the research paper [workshop]. , prepared by s. c. pan for ucsd psychology.

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  • Research Paper Structure
  • Formatting Research Papers
  • Using Databases and Finding References
  • What Types of References Are Appropriate?
  • Evaluating References and Taking Notes
  • Citing References
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  • Improving Scientific Writing
  • Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism
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  • Literature Reviews
  • Writing the Review

Literature Reviews: Writing the Review

Outline of review sections.

how to write introduction to literature review example

Your Literature Review should not be a summary and evaluation of each article, one after the other. Your sources should be integrated together to create a narrative on your topic.

Consider the following ways to organize your review:

  • By themes, variables, or issues
  • By varying perspectives regarding a topic of controversy
  • Chronologically, to show how the topic and research have developed over time

Use an outline to organize your sources and ideas in a logical sequence. Identify main points and subpoints, and consider the flow of your review. Outlines can be revised as your ideas develop. They help guide your readers through your ideas and show the hierarchy of your thoughts. What do your readers need to understand first? Where might certain studies fit most naturally? These are the kinds of questions that an outline can clarify.

An example outline for a Literature Review might look like this:

Introduction

  • Background information on the topic & definitions
  • Purpose of the literature review
  • Scope and limitations of the review (what is included /excluded)
  • Historical background 
  • Overview of the existing research on the topic
  • Principle question being asked
  • Organization of the literature into categories or themes
  • Evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of each study
  • Combining the findings from multiple sources to identify patterns and trends
  • Insight into the relationship between your central topic and a larger area of study
  • Development of a new research question or hypothesis
  • Summary of the key points and findings in the literature
  • Discussion of gaps in the existing knowledge
  • Implications for future research

Strategies for Writing

Annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography collects short descriptions of each source in one place. After you have read each source carefully, set aside some time to write a brief summary. Your summary might be simply informative (e.g. identify the main argument/hypothesis, methods, major findings, and/or conclusions), or it might be evaluative (e.g. state why the source is interesting or useful for your review, or why it is not).

This method is more narrative than the Literature Matrix talked about on the Documenting Your Search page.

Taking the time to write short informative and/or evaluative summaries of your sources while you are researching can help you transition into the drafting stage later on. By making a record of your sources’ contents and your reactions to them, you make it less likely that you will need to go back and re-read many sources while drafting, and you might also start to gain a clearer idea of the overarching shape of your review.

READ EXTANT LIT REVIEWS CLOSELY

As you conduct your research, you will likely read many sources that model the same kind of literature review that you are researching and writing. While your original intent in reading those sources is likely to learn from the studies’ content (e.g. their results and discussion), it will benefit you to re-read these articles rhetorically.

Reading rhetorically means paying attention to how a text is written—how it has been structured, how it presents its claims and analyses, how it employs transitional words and phrases to move from one idea to the next. You might also pay attention to an author’s stylistic choices, like the use of first-person pronouns, active and passive voice, or technical terminology.

See  Finding Example Literature Reviews on the Developing a Research Question page for tips on finding reviews relevant to your topic.

MIND-MAPPING

Creating a mind-map is a form of brainstorming that lets you visualize how your ideas function and relate. Draw the diagram freehand or download software that lets you easily manipulate and group text, images, and shapes ( Coggle ,  FreeMind , MindMaple ).

Write down a central idea, then identify associated concepts, features, or questions around that idea. Make lines attaching various ideas, or arrows to signify directional relationships. Use different shapes, sizes, or colors to indicate commonalities, sequences, or relative importance.

how to write introduction to literature review example

This drafting technique allows you to generate ideas while thinking visually about how they function together. As you follow lines of thought, you can see which ideas can be connected, where certain pathways lead, and what the scope of your project might be. By drawing out a mind-map you may be able to see what elements of your review are underdeveloped and will benefit from more focused attention.

USE VISUALIZATION TOOLS

Attribution.

Thanks to Librarian Jamie Niehof at the University of Michigan for providing permission to reuse and remix this Literature Reviews guide.

Avoiding Bias

Reporting bias.

This occurs when you are summarizing the literature in an unbalanced, inconsistent or distorted way . 

Ways to avoid:

  • look for literature that supports multiple perspectives, viewpoints or theories 
  • ask multiple people to review your writing for bias
  • Last Updated: Apr 9, 2024 3:50 PM
  • URL: https://info.library.okstate.edu/literaturereviews
  • How it works

Published by Nicolas at January 16th, 2024 , Revised On January 23, 2024

Literature Review Examples – How To Write One?

A literature review is a critical analysis of existing scholarly literature on a particular topic. It is often required as part of academic assignments, such as research papers , theses, and dissertations. However, writing a good literature review can be challenging, especially for first-time students. 

Table of Contents

This blog will guide you on how to write a literature review and provide you with exceptional literature review examples that work well in the universities in Canada for your assistance. Let’s get started.

What Is A Literature Review?

A literature review is not merely a summary of existing works; instead, it is a comprehensive analysis that identifies gaps, trends, and patterns within a particular subject area. A well-executed literature review establishes the context for your research and hypothesis and demonstrates your awareness of existing scholarship. Moreover, it showcases your ability to engage with academic discourse critically.

Purpose Of A Literature Review

The purpose of a literature review is to:

  • Demonstrate your knowledge of the existing literature on your topic.
  • Identify the key themes, debates, and gaps in the literature.
  • Position your own research in the context of the existing literature.
  • Show how your research will contribute to the field.

How To Write A Literature Review Example

Writing a literature review involves a systematic and organized approach. Follow the research paper format stated by your organization. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you write an effective literature review:

Step 1: Define The Scope And Purpose

  • Clearly define the research question, thesis statement, or topic you want to address in your literature review.
  • Determine the scope of your review by setting boundaries for the time period, geographic location, and specific aspects of the topic you want to cover.
  • Identify the purpose of your literature review, such as providing an overview, identifying gaps in existing research, or evaluating the current state of knowledge.

Step 2: Conduct A Comprehensive Literature Search

  • Use academic databases, library catalogues, and search engines to find relevant literature. Common databases include PubMed , Google Scholar , and specialized databases related to your field.
  • Use a combination of keywords and controlled vocabulary to refine your search.
  • Keep track of the sources you find, including bibliographic information, abstracts, and key findings.
  • Read professionally written examples of literature review for better understanding.

Step 3: Evaluate And Select Sources

  • Critically evaluate the quality and relevance of each source. Consider the credibility of the author, the publication venue, and the methodology used in the studies.
  • Organize the selected sources into themes or categories based on commonalities and differences.
  • Identify key theories, concepts, or methodologies that are central to your topic.
  • For example, in a finance thesis , add sources that are only relevant to the specific topic of finance that you wish to explore. 

Step 4: Synthesize Information

  • Summarize the main findings and arguments of each source, highlighting key themes and trends.
  • Identify areas of agreement and disagreement among the sources.
  • Organize the information in a logical and coherent manner. You can use a chronological, thematic, or methodological approach, depending on the nature of your literature review.

Step 5: Write And Revise

  • Start with an introduction that provides context for your literature review and clearly states the research question or purpose.
  • Organize the body of your literature review based on the themes or categories you identified during the synthesis.
  • Discuss each source in relation to your research question, highlighting key findings and their implications.
  • Conclude by summarizing the main contributions of the literature to your research question and identifying any gaps or areas for future research.
  • Revise and edit your literature review for clarity, coherence, and conciseness.

APA Literature Review Example

Whether you are writing a literature review in APA or MLA , follow the guidelines provided on the websites. Here is a comprehensive example of a literature review in APA that will provide a better understanding of how to write a literature review. 

Literature Review: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health in Adolescents

Social media has become an integral part of the lives of adolescents, with platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat dominating their online experiences. As the prevalence of social media continues to rise, there is a growing concern about its potential impact on the mental health of adolescents. This literature review aims to explore and analyze existing research on the relationship between social media usage and mental health outcomes in the adolescent population.

Social Media Usage Patterns

Several studies have investigated the patterns of social media usage among adolescents. Smith et al. (2017) found that 95% of adolescents aged 13-17 have access to a smartphone, and 85% use at least one social media platform regularly. Additionally, Jones and Brown (2019) reported that the average time spent on social media by adolescents is approximately 3 hours per day.

Cyberbullying and Mental Health

One of the negative consequences associated with social media use is the prevalence of cyberbullying. Patchin and Hinduja (2018) highlighted that adolescents who experience cyberbullying are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety. This finding is consistent with a longitudinal study by Williams et al. (2016), which demonstrated a significant association between cyberbullying victimization and increased risk of mental health problems in adolescents.

Social Comparison and Body Image

Social media platforms often facilitate social comparison, which has been linked to body image dissatisfaction and low self-esteem among adolescents. Fardouly et al. (2020) conducted a meta-analysis of 15 studies and found a moderate effect size, indicating a strong association between social media use and negative body image. Moreover, Perloff (2014) argued that constant exposure to idealized images on social media contributes to unrealistic beauty standards, impacting adolescents’ self-perception and mental well-being.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and Anxiety

The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a psychological phenomenon associated with anxiety and stress related to the fear of not being included or missing out on experiences others are having. Primack et al. (2017) conducted a cross-sectional analysis and discovered a positive correlation between higher social media use, FOMO, and increased levels of anxiety among adolescents. This suggests that the constant connectivity promoted by social media may contribute to heightened feelings of social comparison and anxiety.

Positive Aspects of Social Media Use

While there is a substantial body of literature examining the negative impacts of social media on adolescent mental health, some studies suggest positive aspects as well. Moreno et al. (2018) conducted a survey and found that social media can serve as a valuable platform for emotional expression, social support, and positive social interactions among adolescents. Additionally, the study by Wang and Burke (2020) indicated that strategic and limited use of social media may contribute to positive mental health outcomes.

The existing literature provides a deep understanding of the complex relationship between social media use and mental health outcomes in adolescents. While some studies highlight the negative impacts, such as cyberbullying, social comparison, and anxiety, others acknowledge the positive aspects, such as social support and positive interactions. Future research should focus on the development of effective interventions and guidelines to promote healthy social media use among adolescents.

Types Of Literature Review

There are several types of literature reviews, each serving different purposes and objectives. Here are some common types:

Narrative Or Traditional Literature Review

  • Provides a comprehensive overview of the existing literature on a particular topic.
  • Summarizes and synthesizes information from various sources without a specific methodological approach.

Systematic Literature Review

  • Follows a systematic and structured approach to identify, analyze, and synthesize relevant literature.
  • Involves a clearly defined research question and a detailed search strategy.
  • Aims to minimize bias and subjectivity in the selection and analysis of studies.

Systematic Literature Review Example

Conducted in accordance with PRISMA guidelines, this systematic literature review focuses on the efficacy of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) for anxiety disorders in pediatric populations. A comprehensive search across databases identified 25 relevant studies meeting the inclusion criteria. Results indicate consistent positive outcomes in symptom reduction across various anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety and social anxiety (Jones et al., 2020; Smith & Brown, 2019). However, methodological variations in CBT delivery and outcome measures highlight the need for standardized protocols. This review underscores the robust evidence supporting CBT’s effectiveness in treating pediatric anxiety, while advocating for more uniform research methodologies to enhance comparability and generalizability (Johnson et al., 2018).

Meta-Analysis

  • A specialized form of systematic review that involves statistical analysis of quantitative data from multiple studies.
  • Combines results from different studies to derive overall conclusions or effect sizes.
  • Requires homogeneity in study design and outcome measures for accurate analysis.

Meta-Synthesis

  • Meta-synthesis is a qualitative approach that synthesizes findings from multiple qualitative studies.
  • Involves the interpretation and integration of themes, concepts, or qualitative data across different studies.

Scoping Review

  • A preliminary literature review on a broad topic to identify key concepts, gaps, and research areas.
  • Provides an overview without necessarily synthesizing the evidence.

Scoping Literature Review Example 

This scoping review investigates the breadth of literature on the impact of mindfulness interventions on stress reduction. Initial searches in databases such as PubMed and PsycINFO yielded 80 relevant articles. Key themes emerged, including diverse intervention formats (e.g., mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness apps), target populations (e.g., healthcare professionals, students), and outcome measures (e.g., self-reported stress levels, physiological markers). Noteworthy is the limited exploration of long-term effects and variations in intervention delivery. The review provides a foundation for future research directions, emphasizing the need for standardized methodologies and comprehensive assessments to advance our understanding of mindfulness interventions’ effectiveness in stress reduction (Smith et al., 2021; Brown & Jones, 2020).

Critical Review

  • Evaluates and critiques the strengths and weaknesses of existing literature.
  • Focuses on the methodology, theoretical framework, and overall quality of the studies reviewed.

Integrative Review

  • Aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of a topic by integrating findings from different types of studies (quantitative, qualitative, or both).
  • May include a range of research designs and methodologies.

Rapid Review

  • Conducted within a shorter timeframe, often for decision-making purposes.
  • Involves a streamlined review process with limitations in terms of depth and comprehensiveness.

Umbrella Review

  • A review of existing systematic reviews and meta-analyses on a specific topic.
  • Provides a higher level of evidence synthesis by examining the findings of multiple reviews.

Mixed Methods Review

Incorporates both quantitative and qualitative research studies to gain a comprehensive understanding of a research question.

The literature review we write have:

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Tips For Writing A Good Literature Review

Here are a few additional tips for writing a good literature review in a dissertation or thesis :

Tip 1: Start Early 

Do not wait until the last minute to start writing your literature review. It takes time to do a good job.

Tip 2: Read Widely

Do not just read the most recent articles on your topic. Be sure to read older articles as well.

Tip 3: Take Breaks

Do not try to write your literature review all at once. Take breaks to avoid getting burned out.

Tip 4: Get Feedback

Ask your professor or a classmate to read your literature review and give you feedback.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing A Literature Review

While literature review examples can provide valuable guidance, it is equally important to be aware of common pitfalls that can undermine the effectiveness of your literature review.

  • Lack of Focus: A literature review should have a clear focus and not attempt to cover an entire field. Define the boundaries of your review and concentrate on the most relevant and recent literature.
  • Overreliance on Secondary Sources: While reviews of existing reviews can be informative, relying solely on secondary sources, such as newspapers , may lead to a lack of depth in your analysis. Strive to include primary research studies to strengthen the credibility of your literature review.
  • Failure to Synthesize: Merely summarizing individual studies without synthesizing their findings can result in a disjointed and unconvincing literature review. Connect the dots between different sources to provide a cohesive narrative.
  • Ignoring Contradictory Evidence: A robust literature review acknowledges and addresses conflicting findings in the existing literature. Ignoring contradictory evidence can weaken the overall credibility of your review.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a literature review.

A literature review is a critical analysis of existing research and scholarly works on a specific topic. It involves summarizing, evaluating, and synthesizing relevant literature to identify gaps, patterns, and trends. The review provides a foundation for understanding the current state of knowledge and informs future research directions.

How to write a literature review example?

To write a literature review, define your purpose, conduct a comprehensive search, critically evaluate sources, organize them thematically, and synthesize key findings. Structure your review with an introduction, thematic sections, and a conclusion. Properly cite sources, seek feedback, and revise. Maintain clarity, coherence, and adherence to citation styles throughout.

How to start a literature review example?

Begin your literature review with a concise introduction, providing context for the topic and clearly stating its importance. Define the scope and purpose, indicating the key themes or questions to be addressed. Engage readers by highlighting the relevance and significance of the reviewed literature to the broader research field.

How to write a literature review introduction example?

In this literature review, we explore the evolving landscape of artificial intelligence in healthcare. As advancements accelerate, understanding the implications of patient care and ethical considerations is crucial. This review aims to synthesize existing literature, identifying key trends, challenges, and opportunities in the intersection of artificial intelligence and healthcare delivery.

How to conclude a literature review example?

In conclusion, this literature review reveals the multifaceted nature of social media’s impact on mental health. While negative outcomes are associated with social comparison and excessive use, positive effects include social support. Thorough research is essential, considering individual differences and evolving social media dynamics, for a comprehensive understanding of its influence.

How to critique a literature review example?

This literature review demonstrates a comprehensive analysis of existing research on climate change adaptation strategies. Strengths include a clear organization and synthesis of findings. However, potential limitations include an emphasis on studies from specific regions, possibly affecting the generalizability of the conclusions. Further exploration of diverse geographic contexts could enhance the review’s robustness.

What is a preliminary literature review?

A preliminary literature review is an initial exploration of existing research on a specific topic. It helps researchers identify key concepts, relevant studies, and gaps in the literature before conducting an in-depth review. This phase informs the development of research questions and refines the focus for a more comprehensive literature review.

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Literature reviews.

  • What is a literature review?
  • How to develop a researchable question
  • How to find the literature
  • How to manage the reading and take notes that make sense
  • Organising your Literature Review

Advice, other sites and examples

  • Advice and examples for nursing students

Organising your literature review

https://www.helpforassessment.com/blog/how-to-outline-a-literature-review/

https://www.helpforassessment.com/blog/how-to-outline-a-literature-review/

Using your notes from the matrix, it is now time to plan before writing.  

The usual structure of Introduction, Body and Conclusion apply here but after that, you need to make decisions about how the information will be organised: 

  • Sequentially/Chronological?
  • Topical - subtopics?
  • Theoretical?
  • Methodology?
  • Importance?

This will sometimes depend on your discipline. For example, in Science disciplines it might be better to organise by the methods of research used if you are going to find gaps in those methods, while in Education or the Social Sciences, it might be better to organise by synthesising theory. 

Some literature reviews will require a description of the search strategy. For more information, you may want to look at the advice on this page:  Steps of Building Search Strategies

This video from Western Sydney University explains further and has examples for geographical and thematic organisation. 

Language and structure

Once you have written a draft, think carefully about the language you have used to signpost the structure of your review in order to build a convincing and logical synthesis.

how to write introduction to literature review example

Carefully choosing transition/linking words and reporting verbs will strengthen your writing. 

  • Transition and Linking Language
  • Reporting verbs
  • Academic Phrasebank: referring to sources This academic phrasebank has many more examples of using language to build the structure of your argument.
  • 1. Guidance notes for Lit Review
  • 2. Literature Review purpose
  • Cite/Write: Writing a literature Review, QUT
  • RMIT Learning Lab: Literature Review overview

Advice and examples for nursing students (may be useful for other Health Sciences)

  • Postgrad Literature Review Good example
  • Postgrad Literature Review Poor Example
  • Southern Cross University Literature Review Examples
  • Literature review outline Boswell, C & Cannon, S (eds) 2014, Introduction to nursing research: incorporating evidence-based practice, Jones and Bartlett Learning, Sudbury, viewed 5 October 2017, Ovid, http://ovidsp.ovid.com.ezproxy.utas.edu.au/ovidweb.cgi?T=JS&CSC=Y&NEWS=N&PAGE=booktext&D=books1&AN=01965234/4th_Edition/2&EPUB=Y

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  • Five tips for developing useful literature summary tables for writing review articles
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  • http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0157-5319 Ahtisham Younas 1 , 2 ,
  • http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7839-8130 Parveen Ali 3 , 4
  • 1 Memorial University of Newfoundland , St John's , Newfoundland , Canada
  • 2 Swat College of Nursing , Pakistan
  • 3 School of Nursing and Midwifery , University of Sheffield , Sheffield , South Yorkshire , UK
  • 4 Sheffield University Interpersonal Violence Research Group , Sheffield University , Sheffield , UK
  • Correspondence to Ahtisham Younas, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, NL A1C 5C4, Canada; ay6133{at}mun.ca

https://doi.org/10.1136/ebnurs-2021-103417

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Introduction

Literature reviews offer a critical synthesis of empirical and theoretical literature to assess the strength of evidence, develop guidelines for practice and policymaking, and identify areas for future research. 1 It is often essential and usually the first task in any research endeavour, particularly in masters or doctoral level education. For effective data extraction and rigorous synthesis in reviews, the use of literature summary tables is of utmost importance. A literature summary table provides a synopsis of an included article. It succinctly presents its purpose, methods, findings and other relevant information pertinent to the review. The aim of developing these literature summary tables is to provide the reader with the information at one glance. Since there are multiple types of reviews (eg, systematic, integrative, scoping, critical and mixed methods) with distinct purposes and techniques, 2 there could be various approaches for developing literature summary tables making it a complex task specialty for the novice researchers or reviewers. Here, we offer five tips for authors of the review articles, relevant to all types of reviews, for creating useful and relevant literature summary tables. We also provide examples from our published reviews to illustrate how useful literature summary tables can be developed and what sort of information should be provided.

Tip 1: provide detailed information about frameworks and methods

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Tabular literature summaries from a scoping review. Source: Rasheed et al . 3

The provision of information about conceptual and theoretical frameworks and methods is useful for several reasons. First, in quantitative (reviews synthesising the results of quantitative studies) and mixed reviews (reviews synthesising the results of both qualitative and quantitative studies to address a mixed review question), it allows the readers to assess the congruence of the core findings and methods with the adapted framework and tested assumptions. In qualitative reviews (reviews synthesising results of qualitative studies), this information is beneficial for readers to recognise the underlying philosophical and paradigmatic stance of the authors of the included articles. For example, imagine the authors of an article, included in a review, used phenomenological inquiry for their research. In that case, the review authors and the readers of the review need to know what kind of (transcendental or hermeneutic) philosophical stance guided the inquiry. Review authors should, therefore, include the philosophical stance in their literature summary for the particular article. Second, information about frameworks and methods enables review authors and readers to judge the quality of the research, which allows for discerning the strengths and limitations of the article. For example, if authors of an included article intended to develop a new scale and test its psychometric properties. To achieve this aim, they used a convenience sample of 150 participants and performed exploratory (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) on the same sample. Such an approach would indicate a flawed methodology because EFA and CFA should not be conducted on the same sample. The review authors must include this information in their summary table. Omitting this information from a summary could lead to the inclusion of a flawed article in the review, thereby jeopardising the review’s rigour.

Tip 2: include strengths and limitations for each article

Critical appraisal of individual articles included in a review is crucial for increasing the rigour of the review. Despite using various templates for critical appraisal, authors often do not provide detailed information about each reviewed article’s strengths and limitations. Merely noting the quality score based on standardised critical appraisal templates is not adequate because the readers should be able to identify the reasons for assigning a weak or moderate rating. Many recent critical appraisal checklists (eg, Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool) discourage review authors from assigning a quality score and recommend noting the main strengths and limitations of included studies. It is also vital that methodological and conceptual limitations and strengths of the articles included in the review are provided because not all review articles include empirical research papers. Rather some review synthesises the theoretical aspects of articles. Providing information about conceptual limitations is also important for readers to judge the quality of foundations of the research. For example, if you included a mixed-methods study in the review, reporting the methodological and conceptual limitations about ‘integration’ is critical for evaluating the study’s strength. Suppose the authors only collected qualitative and quantitative data and did not state the intent and timing of integration. In that case, the strength of the study is weak. Integration only occurred at the levels of data collection. However, integration may not have occurred at the analysis, interpretation and reporting levels.

Tip 3: write conceptual contribution of each reviewed article

While reading and evaluating review papers, we have observed that many review authors only provide core results of the article included in a review and do not explain the conceptual contribution offered by the included article. We refer to conceptual contribution as a description of how the article’s key results contribute towards the development of potential codes, themes or subthemes, or emerging patterns that are reported as the review findings. For example, the authors of a review article noted that one of the research articles included in their review demonstrated the usefulness of case studies and reflective logs as strategies for fostering compassion in nursing students. The conceptual contribution of this research article could be that experiential learning is one way to teach compassion to nursing students, as supported by case studies and reflective logs. This conceptual contribution of the article should be mentioned in the literature summary table. Delineating each reviewed article’s conceptual contribution is particularly beneficial in qualitative reviews, mixed-methods reviews, and critical reviews that often focus on developing models and describing or explaining various phenomena. Figure 2 offers an example of a literature summary table. 4

Tabular literature summaries from a critical review. Source: Younas and Maddigan. 4

Tip 4: compose potential themes from each article during summary writing

While developing literature summary tables, many authors use themes or subthemes reported in the given articles as the key results of their own review. Such an approach prevents the review authors from understanding the article’s conceptual contribution, developing rigorous synthesis and drawing reasonable interpretations of results from an individual article. Ultimately, it affects the generation of novel review findings. For example, one of the articles about women’s healthcare-seeking behaviours in developing countries reported a theme ‘social-cultural determinants of health as precursors of delays’. Instead of using this theme as one of the review findings, the reviewers should read and interpret beyond the given description in an article, compare and contrast themes, findings from one article with findings and themes from another article to find similarities and differences and to understand and explain bigger picture for their readers. Therefore, while developing literature summary tables, think twice before using the predeveloped themes. Including your themes in the summary tables (see figure 1 ) demonstrates to the readers that a robust method of data extraction and synthesis has been followed.

Tip 5: create your personalised template for literature summaries

Often templates are available for data extraction and development of literature summary tables. The available templates may be in the form of a table, chart or a structured framework that extracts some essential information about every article. The commonly used information may include authors, purpose, methods, key results and quality scores. While extracting all relevant information is important, such templates should be tailored to meet the needs of the individuals’ review. For example, for a review about the effectiveness of healthcare interventions, a literature summary table must include information about the intervention, its type, content timing, duration, setting, effectiveness, negative consequences, and receivers and implementers’ experiences of its usage. Similarly, literature summary tables for articles included in a meta-synthesis must include information about the participants’ characteristics, research context and conceptual contribution of each reviewed article so as to help the reader make an informed decision about the usefulness or lack of usefulness of the individual article in the review and the whole review.

In conclusion, narrative or systematic reviews are almost always conducted as a part of any educational project (thesis or dissertation) or academic or clinical research. Literature reviews are the foundation of research on a given topic. Robust and high-quality reviews play an instrumental role in guiding research, practice and policymaking. However, the quality of reviews is also contingent on rigorous data extraction and synthesis, which require developing literature summaries. We have outlined five tips that could enhance the quality of the data extraction and synthesis process by developing useful literature summaries.

  • Aromataris E ,
  • Rasheed SP ,

Twitter @Ahtisham04, @parveenazamali

Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Competing interests None declared.

Patient consent for publication Not required.

Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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COMMENTS

  1. How to write a literature review introduction (+ examples)

    These sections serve to establish a scholarly basis for the research or discussion within the paper. In a standard 8000-word journal article, the literature review section typically spans between 750 and 1250 words. The first few sentences or the first paragraph within this section often serve as an introduction.

  2. How to Write a Literature Review

    Examples of literature reviews. Step 1 - Search for relevant literature. Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources. Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps. Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure. Step 5 - Write your literature review.

  3. Writing a Literature Review

    Writing a Literature Review. A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels ...

  4. Literature Review Introduction Example [ + Examples Included ]

    The literature review is an article that critically analyzes previously published works on a subject. Thus, it is a review, not a report. The "Introduction" is crucial to writing. It should clarify the topic and prepare readers for the content. The beginning of a literature review sets the setting for reviewing the literature on your topic.

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

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

  6. PDF INTRODUCTION TO LITERATURE REVIEWS

    Organizing the sources in the body of a Literature Review Organizing a literature review requires you to order your sources according to a progression of ideas and content. Usually, good organization will follow one or more of the patterns of the Modes of Thought, the ways of writing and organizing your paper: Comparison and Contrast

  7. How Do I Write an Introduction and Literature Review?

    A well-structured introduction is short and snappy, starts with the broadest issue relevant to the study, and ends with the point of the project, i.e. the research question, or aim. In addition to the research question, the introduction may contain objectives and hypotheses. To ensure that you make use of what you read, you should write ...

  8. What is a Literature Review?

    A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research. There are five key steps to writing a literature review: Search for relevant literature. Evaluate sources. Identify themes, debates and gaps.

  9. START HERE

    Steps to Completing a Literature Review. Conduct searches for relevant information. Critically review your sources. Create a synthesis matrix to find connections between resources, and ensure your sources relate to your main ideas. Use the synthesis matrix to organize your literature review. Integrate the individual main ideas to put together ...

  10. AZHIN: Writing: Literature Review Basics: Introductions

    Writing an Introduction. The job of an introduction is to preview what you are going to say so the audience knows what is coming. A good introduction starts out generally and works towards a specific statement of what you intend to discuss in your writing. The introduction explains the focus and establishes the importance of the subject.

  11. Introduction

    In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your ...

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

    As mentioned above, writing your literature review is a process, which I'll break down into three steps: Finding the most suitable literature. Understanding, distilling and organising the literature. Planning and writing up your literature review chapter. Importantly, you must complete steps one and two before you start writing up your chapter.

  13. What is a Literature Review? How to Write It (with Examples)

    A literature review is a critical analysis and synthesis of existing research on a particular topic. It provides an overview of the current state of knowledge, identifies gaps, and highlights key findings in the literature. 1 The purpose of a literature review is to situate your own research within the context of existing scholarship ...

  14. PDF How to Write a Literature Review

    A literature review is a review or discussion of the current published material available on a particular topic. It attempts to synthesizeand evaluatethe material and information according to the research question(s), thesis, and central theme(s). In other words, instead of supporting an argument, or simply making a list of summarized research ...

  15. How to write an introduction for a literature review?

    If you are writing a standalone literature review article, the purpose of your introduction will be to establish the context of the field of research and the topic of the review. Thus, you can begin with a generic introduction that provides information about your field of study. You can then gradually narrow down to your topic, explain why you ...

  16. How do I Write a Literature Review?: #5 Writing the Review

    It is made up of the following parts: A contextual sentence about your motivation behind your research topic. Your thesis statement. A descriptive statement about the types of literature used in the review. Summarize your findings. Conclusion (s) based upon your findings. Introduction: Like a typical research paper introduction, provide the ...

  17. Write a Literature Review Introduction Sample

    On the other hand, for the integrative review approach, generate the necessary framework about the process of leading the critiques. Sample Text 2. Follow Referencing Style. The literature Review Introduction will not mention anything about the selected referencing style. The in-text citations will make it all clear.

  18. Sample Literature Reviews

    Steps for Conducting a Lit Review; Finding "The Literature" Organizing/Writing; APA Style This link opens in a new window; Chicago: Notes Bibliography This link opens in a new window; MLA Style This link opens in a new window; Sample Literature Reviews. Sample Lit Reviews from Communication Arts; Have an exemplary literature review? Get Help!

  19. Literature Review Tips for the Introduction and Discussion Sections

    The literature reviewed in the introduction should: Introduce the topic. Establish the significance of the study. Provide an overview of the relevant literature. Establish a context for the study using the literature. Identify knowledge gaps. Illustrate how the study will advance knowledge on the topic. As you can see, literature review plays a ...

  20. The structure of a literature review

    Introduction. The introduction should: define your topic and provide an appropriate context for reviewing the literature; establish your reasons - i.e. point of view - for. reviewing the literature; explain the organisation - i.e. sequence - of the review; state the scope of the review - i.e. what is included and what isn't included.

  21. Writing a Literature Review

    Writing a literature review is a very challenging task. Figure 7.2 summarises the steps of writing a literature review. Depending on why you are writing your literature review, you may be given a topic area, or may choose a topic that particularly interests you or is related to a research project that you wish to undertake.

  22. Writing a Literature Review

    Identify and define the topic that you will be reviewing. 2. Conduct a literature search. 3. Read through the research that you have found and take notes. 4. Organize your notes and thoughts; create an outline. 5. Write the literature review itself and edit and revise as needed.

  23. Writing the Review

    An example outline for a Literature Review might look like this: Introduction. ... you will likely read many sources that model the same kind of literature review that you are researching and writing. While your original intent in reading those sources is likely to learn from the studies' content (e.g. their results and discussion), it will ...

  24. Literature Review Examples

    Here are a few additional tips for writing a good literature review in a dissertation or thesis: Tip 1: Start Early. Do not wait until the last minute to start writing your literature review. It takes time to do a good job. Tip 2: Read Widely. Do not just read the most recent articles on your topic.

  25. How to bring it all together: examples, templates, links, guides

    An introduction to the Literature Review process and resources to help you get started. ... Cite/Write: Writing a literature Review, QUT. RMIT Learning Lab: Literature Review overview ... Southern Cross University Literature Review Examples. Literature review outline. Boswell, C & Cannon, S (eds) 2014, Introduction to nursing research ...

  26. Five tips for developing useful literature summary tables for writing

    Literature reviews offer a critical synthesis of empirical and theoretical literature to assess the strength of evidence, develop guidelines for practice and policymaking, and identify areas for future research.1 It is often essential and usually the first task in any research endeavour, particularly in masters or doctoral level education. For effective data extraction and rigorous synthesis ...

  27. Writing a Research Paper Introduction (with 3 Examples)

    Before writing an introduction or even starting your paper, you need to research academic sources. ... However, if you're looking to reduce your workload and maximize efficiency by automating repetitive tasks such as literature review, ZenoChat is the perfect solution for you. With its web search feature, ZenoChat can use the entire internet as ...