Easy guide on how to successfully write a literature review

What is Literature Review?

In order to successfully start writing one, first of all, we need to figure out what is a literature review and ways to compose it. In short, a literature review is a comprehensive research on literature sources in the particular field of knowledge; it discloses the current situation in the particular area of study through in-depth analysis of various publications in the given topic. Literature reviews serve as a foundation for any type of scientific research. It can be included in both graduate and post-graduate scholarly papers, such as thesis, an article, and a research proposal, as well as to stand on its own as a separate assignment.

Tips and Tricks: In a quest on how to do a literature review, keep in mind that finding the examples could be extremely useful. Depending on your academic field, there could be some specific details to writing a paper, so it is always nice to read any related bodies of work.

The Main Purpose for Students

The general aim of the literature review is to assure an analytical foundation for further research or to show student’s familiarity with a given topic. However, it should go beyond the descriptive stage and provide critical analysis, outlines and clarification of data. You should also describe relations between stated literature sources while specifying their particular relation to your sphere of study.

There are numerous beneficial points in writing a literary review and here are several key features:

  • it can help demonstrate an insight in your study area, the way you navigate and analyze data related to the given topic it identifies methods, tools, and research that could be useful in further studies;
  • it gives a perspective on your own research and its place in the wider field of scientific knowledge;
  • it helps to fill in any gaps in your individual comprehension of the topic, as well as in general scientific discourse;
  • it lists sources and people that work in the same area, which could help gain additional contacts or push your research in the definitive direction;
  • it helps to prevent duplication in your research.

how to do a literature review

Structure of Writing Literature Review

Just like any other essays, a literature review has a definitive structure which should include an introduction, mail body, and conclusion.

  • Introduction serves as a gate into your research topic, it should define the main theme and introduce appropriate sources; it should explain a structure of your review, state your reasons, and articulate what is included in your research and what is not.
  • Main body (sometimes also middle body) primarily consists of the literature being organized according to the topics; here you should also indicate the relationships between the wider area of studies and your particular issue, as well as to narrow the focus from the general picture to your area of interest.
  • Conclusion is a final stage of your paper, it should provide a synopsis of main aspects in the reviewed literature, connect your project to the existing studies, point out any gaps and discrepancies in current research.

Tips and Tricks: For the better grasp of what your essay should be like, you can search for templates and samples online. It is also quite useful, especially if have troubles in the early composing stages of your research, to build a simplistic “skeleton” of your future paper by writing a plan which highlights main points. Later on, it would be much easier to write a body of text by following these easy guidelines.

How to write a literature review?

With so many information and sources, it is easy to get lost and feel warned out. To start your writing, just comply with this straightforward algorithm.

  • Develop research plan in order for you to understand aims and goals of your assignment. Choosing some key aspects such as phrases and words to search for may also help. Don’t forget to include synonymic terms to improve your search results.
  • Define your search sources. Think about primary places you can search for the information. It could be online platforms, scientific journals, local libraries and various databases. Almost all articles are being published online nowadays, so the Internet is still a main search field. You can also ask your teacher for advice, or any specialist in your field.
  • Don’t be afraid to try even what might seem like a strange place for research, such as Youtube, for instance. Many universities publish their video lectures there. Stay creative and search newspapers, discussion boards, conference papers.

Tips and Tricks: Don’t overwork yourself. Make pauses and rest. There are special apps available for download to expand your efficiency such as Focus Booster. They work as timers that remind you to take a 5-minute break every now and then. Statistics prove that this way your brain will show better capability for concentration and long hours of active work.

Format and Style

Now let’s dive into the literature review format, concentrating on the APA style. APA literature review should include:

  • 12 pt. Times New Roman font;
  • page header on every page in capitals, consisting of page number on the right and shortened (under 50 characters) title of your work on the left;
  • standard sized paper with margins on all sides;
  • four major sections: title page, abstract, main body, references;

Note: title page should include a title itself, your name, institution you are studying in- abstract should be 150-250 words, include page header, summary and key points of your work including conclusions and future possible research development.

References should go at the end of your paper as you quote some source in the main body of text; the title of this page should say “References” and be placed at the middle top of the page.

Single author: Berndt, T. J. (2002). Friendship quality and social development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 7-10.
Two authors: Wegener, D. T., & Petty, R. E. (1994). Mood management across affective states: The hedonic contingency hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 1034-1048.
Numerous authors (after the 6th name use ellipses): Miller, F. H., Choi, M. J., Angeli, L. L., Harland, A. A., Stamos, J. A., Thomas, S. T., . . . Rubin, L. H. (2009). Website usability for a blind and low-vision user. Technical Communication, 57, 323-335.

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While writing any kind of academic assignment could be stressful, it is certainly not an impossible task. Don’t forget to take occasional breaks, choosing topics and sources properly, and sticking to critical thinking. Here some extra things that can keep you sane while writing a literature review:

  • make a step by step scheme of actions and research;
  • focus on structure and formatting first;
  • don’t spread out – deal only with literature from you study field;
  • give a wide perspective of state of arts in the given area of knowledge, but then narrow it down to your particular issues;
  • be analytical!
  • point out difficulties and confusions in the current state of studies in a given topic
    connect your paper to the general scientific discourse;
  • explain why your research is relevant;
  • prepare to have a couple of drafts;
  • do a little writing every day;
  • don’t push yourself too hard, remember – it is just to show your cognition of a given topic, you can do it!
  • don’t forget to rest!