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. When you write a thesis or research paper, you will have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge.
A Step by Step Guide on How to Write a Literature Review
Step 1: Search for relevant literature
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.
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.
Step 2: Evaluate and select sources
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. Make sure the sources you use are credible and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.
Step 3: Identify themes, debates, and gaps
To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, you need to understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.
Step 4: Outline your literature review’s structure
There are various approaches to organizing 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).
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.
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.
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.
Step 5: Write your literature review
Like any other academic text, your literature review should have an introduction, the 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 graduateassignmentshelp.com.