How to write a literature review for a research paper

How to write a literature review for a research paper? The question probably arises in your mind about the literature review in research and how you should write it. The literature review is a part of the research paper in which you present the significant results of your research to the readers statistically and accurately in detail. The literature review has three sections. These sections include the introduction, the main body, and the conclusion. In the introduction, you should explain your research topic’s importance and talk about previous research and current knowledge.

You should also focus on scientific controversies. The body of a literature review must contain subheadings for subtopics or subcategories. The main body should address current topics and knowledge and areas that still need further exploration. Finally, in the conclusion section, you should summarize the results and findings of the research and determine the relationship between these findings.

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How to write a literature review for a research paper
How to write a literature review for a research paper

What is literature review in research

In fact, the literature review attempts to create a correct mentality and a good view for readers on a scientific subject. In order to write a review, you need to search for the most authoritative scientific articles and publications related to the subject. Finally, you will summarize the important opinions and findings on this subject by reviewing several different sources. This gives you an overview of a topic. The most important components of a literature review include:

  • Describe the research paper in a nutshell
  • A summary of the most important topics discussed in the article
  • Investigate the flaws and weaknesses of the article
  • Evaluate the article’s share of existing knowledge on the subject

Basic structure of a literature review

In general, like any other scholarly essay, a literature review should have an introduction, main body, and conclusion. So, there is no considerable distinction between literature review and essays.


Basically, in the introduction, you should do the following:

  • Identify the topic of the article and select the appropriate context for the review.
  • Give convincing reasons for choosing this topic and writing a literature review.
  • Specify the order of review of topics and resources
  • State the scope of the review and specify what topics you are going to talk about or not. For example, if you are talking about obesity in children, make it clear that you will not be talking about overweight in adults in this review.

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Main body

In the main body paragraphs, you must follow the rules:

  • Organize literature review based on common themes and concepts between sources.
  • Provide a complete overview of the relation between the topic under discussion and the broader topics.
  • Avoid generalization. In the literature review, you need to focus on specific topics.

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Eventually, in the conclusion part, you must do the following steps:

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  • Summarize the most critical points in the body part
  • assess the current state of the literature review
  • Identify gaps and shortcomings in current knowledge
  • Specify the scope of further studies
  • Identify the relationship between your research and current knowledge

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Various Kinds of Literature Reviews

Literature reviews can be written in a variety of ways. For example, you could write a literature review as part of the introduction to a research paper. You can also consider the literature review as a separate chapter from your doctoral dissertation. You can even publish a literature review as a standalone article. For example, some reputable journals, such as the Annual Review of Psychology, published the full text of article reviews. Sometimes, your professor may demand you write a literature review. For example, in coordination with your professor, write a literature review of your final undergraduate research. Sometimes a literature review may itself be part of a more comprehensive scholarly paper.

Literature review forms and methods are very diverse. Factors such as how the previous article was written and reviewed and the order of the topics you are considering can influence the style of writing a literary review. The following are examples of different styles of writing a literature review:

Summarization of previous paper compares with critical evaluation.

Sometimes the author simply summarizes the article and describes it. On the other hand, sometimes, the author prefers to review the paper critically. For example, review the strengths and weaknesses of the article and compare it with similar cases.

Chronological against categorical and other kinds of structure

Some literature reviews move forward in chronological order. The author begins his work by reviewing the oldest research and ends by reviewing the most recent article. This is called chronological. On the other hand, sometimes, the chronological order is not observed in the review. The author proceeds according to the categories. For example, it starts with the article that is most relevant to the topic and moves on. This is called categorical. Sometimes neither the categorical nor the chronological is observed. The author prefers to review the views of the opponents first and then the views of the proponents.

As mentioned earlier, literature reviews can be published separately as standalone articles. Literature reviews can also be used as part of a larger research paper. In any case, you should note that all literature reviews have one essential feature in common. Literature reviews do not present a unique study. Literature reviews review specific topics in previous papers.

The best ways for writing a Literature Review for a Research Paper

Although writing a literature review is not a difficult task, you will waste a lot of time if you make a mistake in writing a review. In this section, we introduce the simplest ways to write literature reviews:

  1. Finding first-hand resources is hard work. Basically, getting second-hand information is very simple. But, if you use this information, the reader will realize that you do not value your work enough. So, avoid the most common mistake among students. Try a little to gather first-hand information.
  2. Categorize the books and articles you have reviewed. In this way, readers can easily focus on the crucial points, discussions, unanswered questions, and main topics of the review.
  3. Before starting the research, you should take enough time to understand the nature of your chosen topic. If you understand the nature of your chosen topic, you will not make common mistakes in writing a literature review. One of the most common mistakes is choosing the wrong sources. Some sources have nothing to do with your topic.
  4. Not everyone is always going to agree with you. One of the most important things to do when writing a literature review is to analyze opposing opinions. This part is inevitable to get the correct answer.
  5. Highlight findings from previous research. Review each researcher’s findings and opinions. Describe the shortcomings and weaknesses of current knowledge. Identify future research topics based on current weaknesses.
  6. Describe how you identified and selected the resources you used in this review.
  7. Although students should always use their own tone of voice and should not imitate the writing style of others, remember to always use an academic writing style and do not stray from it.
  8. Be sure to list all the sources used in the review. If you do not cite the sources, this is considered plagiarism.
  9. One of the most important aspects of any paper is spelling, punctuation, and grammar. If your text has punctuation, spelling, and grammatical errors, its value is greatly diminished.

In this article, you found out how to write a literature review for a research paper. Still need help with your research paper?

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