Best Practices on How to Write A Literature Review

user Homeworkdoer Blog
Best Practices on How to Write A Literature Review

I discovered early enough in my writing journey that mastering the art of crafting a perfect literature review was fundamental for researchers across disciplines.

I have come to observe many college essay writers simply summarising sources without any critical evaluation of the state of existing knowledge on a topic. 

I have therefore compiled this comprehensive guide to provide you with a systematic approach to writing top-notch literature reviews. 

My goal is to take you beyond only synthesizing existing knowledge but also identifying crucial gaps for further exploration.

That is the premise of a winning literature review. 

So let me walk you through it. 

What is a Literature Review

literature review is a comprehensive survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic, providing an overview of current knowledge.

According to the University of Toronto, these are sources written by experts in particular fields.

The literature review section of a dissertation or research paper analyzes, synthesizes, and critically evaluates existing research to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

Reviewing literature means marrying the key theme from other studies with your own research.

What is the Significance of literature review in Research?

In any research paper, especially in social sciences a literature review plays a pivotal role by situating your study within the existing body of knowledge

It helps you identify relevant theories, methodologies, and gaps in existing research.

A typical academic research paper might not require you to write literature reviews but whenever need be, you can always get an expert essay writer to guide you through the research process.

The Role of a Literature Review in a Research Paper

Conducting a literature review is a crucial step in writing a thesis, dissertation, or research paper.

It gives you a chance to situate your research within existing knowledge and identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in existing research.

Each section of a literature review is founded on a research question which basis writing a literature review on scholarly articles and systematic reviews.

In political science literature reviews, synthesizing diverse theoretical perspectives and empirical studies helps illuminate key debates and informs future research directions.

Preparing for Your Literature Review

Identifying Relevant Keywords and Search Terms for Journal Articles

 To begin, compile a comprehensive list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, along with synonyms and related terms.

For instance, if your research focuses on "human resource development," your keywords might include "HRD," "employee training," "workforce development," "organizational learning," and "career development."

Developing a Search Strategy for Sources 

Utilize your identified keywords to search through databases such as Google ScholarJSTORPubMed, and PsycINFO

These databases cater to different disciplines, ensuring comprehensive coverage of relevant literature. 

Select databases based on the specific focus of your research topic and academic discipline.

Organizing and Managing Your Sources 

Effective organization of sources is crucial for a systematic literature review. 

I recommend you use a citation management tool like EndNoteZotero, or Mendeley to store bibliographic information, organize PDFs of articles, and generate citations and bibliographies in various citation styles (e.g., APA, MLA).

Evaluating and Selecting Sources

Assessing the Credibility and Relevance of Sources 

Given the abundance of available literature, prioritize sources that are credible and directly relevant to your research question. 

Look for peer-reviewed articlesbooks from reputable publishers, and reports from trusted institutions. 

Here is how you can recognize peer-reviewed articles. 

Evaluate the methodologyfindings, and conclusions of each source to determine its reliability and relevance to your study.

Taking Notes and Citing Sources Correctly 

As you read, take detailed notes summarizing key findingsarguments, and methodologies used in each source. 

Properly cite all sources using your chosen citation style (e.g., APA, MLA) to avoid plagiarism and acknowledge the contributions of original authors.

Identifying Gaps and Debates in the Existing Literature 

To structure your literature review, identify gapscontroversies, and debates in the literature. 

Analyze how previous research approached the topic, highlighting conflicting viewpoints or unresolved issues. 

This critical evaluation helps in shaping your own research questions and hypotheses.

Identifying Themes and Patterns

Recognizing Emerging Themes and Trends 

Identify recurring central themes and emerging trends in the literature related to your topic. 

These themes may include theoretical frameworksresearch methodologies, or empirical findings that have shaped the field. 

Organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic, ensuring comprehensive coverage of other researchers.

Analyzing Debates and Contradictions 

Identify debates and contradictions in the existing literature. 

Critically evaluate different perspectives and methodologies used by researchers to explore the same topic. 

Addressing these debates enriches your literature review by presenting a nuanced understanding of the subject matter.

Identifying Gaps and Areas for Further Research 

Highlight gaps in the existing research that warrant further investigation into existing theories. 

These gaps could be methodological limitations, under-explored aspects of the topic, or emerging issues overlooked by current literature. 

Propose potential research directions and hypotheses to advance knowledge in the field.

Outlining Your Literature Review

Choosing a Structure: Chronological, Thematic, Methodological, or Theoretical 

Select an organizational structure that best suits your research objectives and the nature of your topic.

What are the common structures of writing literature reviews?

An article by the Monash University notes that the general structure of a literature review is just like that of a standard essay. 

The introduction, a body and a conclusion paragraphs are maintained but an extended literature review has an abstract too. 

What I will discuss here are some common patterns that I have observed writers use to organize their discussions. 

  • Chronological: Organizes sources based on the order of their publication, providing a historical overview of research development.
  • Thematic: Groups sources based on common themes or concepts relevant to your research question.
  • Methodological: Organizes sources based on the research methods used (e.g., qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods).
  • Theoretical: Focuses on theoretical frameworks and concepts guiding research studies on a particular topic.

Depending on the length and complexity of your literature review, consider combining these structures to provide a comprehensive analysis of the literature. 

The chronological review should not primarily discuss your own ideas.

Other patters might include definations, debates, theories, key works, theories, concepts, pros and cons or debates. 

Creating an Outline to Organize Your Thoughts 

Develop a detailed outline that outlines the sections and subsections of your literature review. 

Begin with an introduction that establishes the context and significance of your research topic. 

Divide the main body into thematic or methodological sections, each addressing different aspects of your research question. 

Conclude with a summary that synthesizes key findings, identifies research gaps, and proposes future research directions.

Ensuring Logical Flow and Transitions 

Maintain coherence and logical flow between sections and paragraphs of your literature review. 

Use clear topic sentences and transition phrases to guide readers through the particular topic review smoothly. 

Each section should build upon previous discussions and lead logically into subsequent analyses.

Writing Integrative Literature Reviews

Crafting a Compelling Introduction 

The introduction sets the stage for your literature review by outlining the scope, objectives, and significance of your study. 

Provide background information on the research topic, define key terms, and justify the importance of conducting a comprehensive literature review. 

Clearly state your research question or objectives to guide the reader through your review.

Writing a Clear and Concise Body 

Divide the body of your literature review into well-defined sections or subsections.

 Each section should focus on a specific theme, theory, or methodology relevant to your research question. 

Use descriptive subheadings to organize content and facilitate navigation for readers.

 Present a synthesis of existing literature, critically analyzing key findings, methodologies, and theoretical frameworks employed by researchers.

Concluding with Implications and Recommendations 

In the concluding section, summarize the main findings and contributions of your literature review. 

Discuss the implications of your findings for theory, practice, or policy in your field of study. 

Highlight unresolved issues or gaps in the literature that warrant further investigation.

 Propose recommendations for future research directions based on identified gaps and emerging trends in the field.

Best Practices for Literature Reviews

Avoiding Common Pitfalls and Mistakes 

Avoid over-reliance on direct quotations or extensive paraphrasing of source materials. 

Instead, strive to integrate sources into your own analytical framework and provide critical insights. 

Maintain objectivity and accuracy in representing authors' viewpoints, avoiding bias or misinterpretation of findings.

Ensuring Clarity, Coherence, and Consistency 

Use clear and concise language to communicate complex ideas and arguments.

 Provide evidence from multiple sources to support your interpretations and analyses.

 Synthesize information within each thematic section and across the entire review to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Using Language and Style Guidelines Effectively 

Adhere to specific language and style guidelines required by your academic discipline (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago). 

Consistently format citations, references, and bibliographic entries according to established conventions. 

Pay attention to details such as citation punctuation, author names, publication dates, and page numbers to ensure accuracy and adherence to scholarly standards.

Finalizing Your Literature Review

Editing and Revising Your Work 

Review your literature review for clarity, coherence, and logical consistency. Edit for grammar, spelling, and typographical errors. 

Ensure that each section contributes to the overall coherence and argumentative flow of the review. 

Revise content to enhance clarity of expression and refine analytical insights in your literature review.

Seeking Feedback and Peer Review 

Seek feedback from peers, colleagues, or academic advisors to gain different perspectives on your literature review. 

Incorporate constructive criticism and suggestions to strengthen the quality and rigor of your analysis. 

Peer review helps identify overlooked sources, logical inconsistencies, or alternative interpretations that enhance the scholarly merit of your review.

Preparing Your Literature Review for Publication 

If preparing your literature review for publication in a scholarly journal or conference proceedings, familiarize yourself with the submission guidelines and formatting requirements. 

Tailor your literature reviews to meet the specific expectations of your target audience and publication venue. 

Follow instructions for manuscript preparation, including word limits, referencing style, and supplementary materials (e.g., tables, figures).


By following these systematic steps and best practices, you can confidently craft a solid literature review that not only synthesizes existing research but also contributes to advancing knowledge in your field.

Mastering this process will enhance your research skills and establish you as a credible and informed academic writer.

Remember, a well-crafted literature review serves as the foundation for impactful research, providing a comprehensive synthesis of scholarly perspectives and guiding future investigations.

Embrace the opportunity to engage deeply with the existing literature, identify significant trends and debates, and propose innovative pathways for further inquiry.