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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.

literature review chart 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. 

literature review chart 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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Literature Review Basics

  • What is a Literature Review?
  • Synthesizing Research
  • Using Research & Synthesis Tables
  • Additional Resources

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About the Research and Synthesis Tables

Research Tables and Synthesis Tables are useful tools for organizing and analyzing your research as you assemble your literature review. They represent two different parts of the review process: assembling relevant information and synthesizing it. Use a Research table to compile the main info you need about the items you find in your research -- it's a great thing to have on hand as you take notes on what you read! Then, once you've assembled your research, use the Synthesis table to start charting the similarities/differences and major themes among your collected items.

We've included an Excel file with templates for you to use below; the examples pictured on this page are snapshots from that file.

  • Research and Synthesis Table Templates This Excel workbook includes simple templates for creating research tables and synthesis tables. Feel free to download and use!

Using the Research Table

Image of Model Research Excel Table

This is an example of a  research table,  in which you provide a basic description of the most important features of the studies, articles, and other items you discover in your research. The table identifies each item according to its author/date of publication, its purpose or thesis, what type of work it is (systematic review, clinical trial, etc.), the level of evidence it represents (which tells you a lot about its impact on the field of study), and its major findings. Your job, when you assemble this information, is to develop a snapshot of what the research shows about the topic of your research question and assess its value (both for the purpose of your work and for general knowledge in the field).

Think of your work on the research table as the foundational step for your analysis of the literature, in which you assemble the information you'll be analyzing and lay the groundwork for thinking about what it means and how it can be used.

Using the Synthesis Table

Image of Model Synthesis Excel Table

This is an example of a  synthesis table  or  synthesis matrix , in which you organize and analyze your research by listing each source and indicating whether a given finding or result occurred in a particular study or article ( each row lists an individual source, and each finding has its own column, in which X = yes, blank = no). You can also add or alter the columns to look for shared study populations, sort by level of evidence or source type, etc. The key here is to use the table to provide a simple representation of what the research has found (or not found, as the case may be). Think of a synthesis table as a tool for making comparisons, identifying trends, and locating gaps in the literature.

How do I know which findings to use, or how many to include?  Your research question tells you which findings are of interest in your research, so work from your research question to decide what needs to go in each Finding header, and how many findings are necessary. The number is up to you; again, you can alter this table by adding or deleting columns to match what you're actually looking for in your analysis. You should also, of course, be guided by what's actually present in the material your research turns up!

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Organizing and Creating Information

  • Citation and Attribution

What Is a Literature Review?

Review the literature, write the literature review, further reading, learning objectives, attribution.

This guide is designed to:

  • Identify the sections and purpose of a literature review in academic writing
  • Review practical strategies and organizational methods for preparing a literature review

A literature review is a summary and synthesis of scholarly research on a specific topic. It should answer questions such as:

  • What research has been done on the topic?
  • Who are the key researchers and experts in the field?
  • What are the common theories and methodologies?
  • Are there challenges, controversies, and contradictions?
  • Are there gaps in the research that your approach addresses?

The process of reviewing existing research allows you to fine-tune your research question and contextualize your own work. Preparing a literature review is a cyclical process. You may find that the research question you begin with evolves as you learn more about the topic.

Once you have defined your research question , focus on learning what other scholars have written on the topic.

In order to  do a thorough search of the literature  on the topic, define the basic criteria:

  • Databases and journals: Look at the  subject guide  related to your topic for recommended databases. Review the  tutorial on finding articles  for tips. 
  • Books: Search BruKnow, the Library's catalog. Steps to searching ebooks are covered in the  Finding Ebooks tutorial .
  • What time period should it cover? Is currency important?
  • Do I know of primary and secondary sources that I can use as a way to find other information?
  • What should I be aware of when looking at popular, trade, and scholarly resources ? 

One strategy is to review bibliographies for sources that relate to your interest. For more on this technique, look at the tutorial on finding articles when you have a citation .

Tip: Use a Synthesis Matrix

As you read sources, themes will emerge that will help you to organize the review. You can use a simple Synthesis Matrix to track your notes as you read. From this work, a concept map emerges that provides an overview of the literature and ways in which it connects. Working with Zotero to capture the citations, you build the structure for writing your literature review.

How do I know when I am done?

A key indicator for knowing when you are done is running into the same articles and materials. With no new information being uncovered, you are likely exhausting your current search and should modify search terms or search different catalogs or databases. It is also possible that you have reached a point when you can start writing the literature review.

Tip: Manage Your Citations

These citation management tools also create citations, footnotes, and bibliographies with just a few clicks:

Zotero Tutorial

Endnote Tutorial

Your literature review should be focused on the topic defined in your research question. It should be written in a logical, structured way and maintain an objective perspective and use a formal voice.

Review the Summary Table you created for themes and connecting ideas. Use the following guidelines to prepare an outline of the main points you want to make. 

  • Synthesize previous research on the topic.
  • Aim to include both summary and synthesis.
  • Include literature that supports your research question as well as that which offers a different perspective.
  • Avoid relying on one author or publication too heavily.
  • Select an organizational structure, such as chronological, methodological, and thematic.

The three elements of a literature review are introduction, body, and conclusion.

Introduction

  • Define the topic of the literature review, including any terminology.
  • Introduce the central theme and organization of the literature review.
  • Summarize the state of research on the topic.
  • Frame the literature review with your research question.
  • Focus on ways to have the body of literature tell its own story. Do not add your own interpretations at this point.
  • Look for patterns and find ways to tie the pieces together.
  • Summarize instead of quote.
  • Weave the points together rather than list summaries of each source.
  • Include the most important sources, not everything you have read.
  • Summarize the review of the literature.
  • Identify areas of further research on the topic.
  • Connect the review with your research.
  • DeCarlo, M. (2018). 4.1 What is a literature review? In Scientific Inquiry in Social Work. Open Social Work Education. https://scientificinquiryinsocialwork.pressbooks.com/chapter/4-1-what-is-a-literature-review/
  • Literature Reviews (n.d.) https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/literature-reviews/ Accessed Nov. 10, 2021

This guide was designed to: 

  • Identify the sections and purpose of a literature review in academic writing 
  • Review practical strategies and organizational methods for preparing a literature review​

Content on this page adapted from: 

Frederiksen, L. and Phelps, S. (2017).   Literature Reviews for Education and Nursing Graduate Students.  Licensed CC BY 4.0

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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.

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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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Common Assignments: Literature Review Matrix

Literature review matrix.

As you read and evaluate your literature there are several different ways to organize your research. Courtesy of Dr. Gary Burkholder in the School of Psychology, these sample matrices are one option to help organize your articles. These documents allow you to compile details about your sources, such as the foundational theories, methodologies, and conclusions; begin to note similarities among the authors; and retrieve citation information for easy insertion within a document.

You can review the sample matrixes to see a completed form or download the blank matrix for your own use.

  • Literature Review Matrix 1 This PDF file provides a sample literature review matrix.
  • Literature Review Matrix 2 This PDF file provides a sample literature review matrix.
  • Literature Review Matrix Template (Word)
  • Literature Review Matrix Template (Excel)

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literature review chart example

Literature Review Chart

  • Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur + −

How to Cite

Download citation.

Download this resource to see full details. Download this resource to see full details.

Usage Notes

Learning goals and assessments.

Learning Goal(s):

  • Students will be able to articulate the themes or concepts shared in common across a body of scholarly literature and use these ideas to draft a competent mini-literature review.

Goal Assessment(s):

  • After completing the template included in this resource, students should be asked to draft a 2-3 page literature review. A rubric for evaluating literature review drafts is included.

When using resources from TRAILS, please include a clear and legible citation.

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How to Conduct a Literature Review (Health Sciences and Beyond)

  • What is a Literature Review?
  • Developing a Research Question
  • Selection Criteria
  • Database Search
  • Documenting Your Search

Review Matrix

  • Reference Management

Using a spreadsheet or table to organize the key elements (e.g. subjects, methodologies, results) of articles/books you plan to use in your literature review can be helpful. This is called a review matrix.

When you create a review matrix, the first few columns should include (1) the authors, title, journal, (2) publication year, and (3) purpose of the paper. The remaining columns should identify important aspects of each study such as methodology and findings.

Click on the image below to view a sample review matrix.

Sample health sciences review matrix

You can also download this template as a Microsoft Excel file .

The information on this page is from the book below. The 5th edition is available online through VCU Libraries.

literature review chart example

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Grad Coach (R)

What’s Included: Literature Review Template

This template is structure is based on the tried and trusted best-practice format for formal academic research projects such as dissertations and theses. The literature review template includes the following sections:

  • Before you start – essential groundwork to ensure you’re ready
  • The introduction section
  • The core/body section
  • The conclusion /summary
  • Extra free resources

Each section is explained in plain, straightforward language , followed by an overview of the key elements that you need to cover. We’ve also included practical examples and links to more free videos and guides to help you understand exactly what’s required in each section.

The cleanly-formatted Google Doc can be downloaded as a fully editable MS Word Document (DOCX format), so you can use it as-is or convert it to LaTeX.

PS – if you’d like a high-level template for the entire thesis, you can we’ve got that too .

FAQs: Literature Review Template

What format is the template (doc, pdf, ppt, etc.).

The literature review chapter template is provided as a Google Doc. You can download it in MS Word format or make a copy to your Google Drive. You’re also welcome to convert it to whatever format works best for you, such as LaTeX or PDF.

What types of literature reviews can this template be used for?

The template follows the standard format for academic literature reviews, which means it will be suitable for the vast majority of academic research projects (especially those within the sciences), whether they are qualitative or quantitative in terms of design.

Keep in mind that the exact requirements for the literature review chapter will vary between universities and degree programs. These are typically minor, but it’s always a good idea to double-check your university’s requirements before you finalize your structure.

Is this template for an undergrad, Master or PhD-level thesis?

This template can be used for a literature review at any level of study. Doctoral-level projects typically require the literature review to be more extensive/comprehensive, but the structure will typically remain the same.

Can I modify the template to suit my topic/area?

Absolutely. While the template provides a general structure, you should adapt it to fit the specific requirements and focus of your literature review.

What structural style does this literature review template use?

The template assumes a thematic structure (as opposed to a chronological or methodological structure), as this is the most common approach. However, this is only one dimension of the template, so it will still be useful if you are adopting a different structure.

Does this template include the Excel literature catalog?

No, that is a separate template, which you can download for free here . This template is for the write-up of the actual literature review chapter, whereas the catalog is for use during the literature sourcing and sorting phase.

How long should the literature review chapter be?

This depends on your university’s specific requirements, so it’s best to check with them. As a general ballpark, literature reviews for Masters-level projects are usually 2,000 – 3,000 words in length, while Doctoral-level projects can reach multiples of this.

Can I include literature that contradicts my hypothesis?

Yes, it’s important to acknowledge and discuss literature that presents different viewpoints or contradicts your hypothesis. So, don’t shy away from existing research that takes an opposing view to yours.

How do I avoid plagiarism in my literature review?

Always cite your sources correctly and paraphrase ideas in your own words while maintaining the original meaning. You can always check our plagiarism score before submitting your work to help ease your mind. 

Do you have an example of a populated template?

We provide a walkthrough of the template and review an example of a high-quality literature research chapter here .

Can I share this literature review template with my friends/colleagues?

Yes, you’re welcome to share this template in its original format (no editing allowed). If you want to post about it on your blog or social media, all we ask is that you reference this page as your source.

Do you have templates for the other dissertation/thesis chapters?

Yes, we do. You can find our full collection of templates here .

Can Grad Coach help me with my literature review?

Yes, you’re welcome to get in touch with us to discuss our private coaching services , where we can help you work through the literature review chapter (and any other chapters).

Free Webinar: Literature Review 101

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Literature Review: Conducting & Writing

  • Sample Literature Reviews
  • Steps for Conducting a Lit Review
  • Finding "The Literature"
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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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National Academies Press: OpenBook

Redesigning Continuing Education in the Health Professions (2010)

Chapter: appendix a: literature review tables, appendix a literature review tables.

E vidence on the effectiveness of continuing education (CE) and CE methods was identified through a literature review. Although nonexhaustive, the review included a comprehensive search of the Research and Development Resource Base (RDRB), a bibliographic database of more than 18,000 articles from fields including CE, knowledge translation, interprofessional literature, and faculty development. Articles in the RDRB are culled from Medline, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Excerpta Medica Database (EMBASE), Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), Sociological Abstracts, PsychoInfo, Library Information and Science Abstracts (LISA), and business databases, as well as automatic retrieval of articles from journals dedicated to medical education (e.g., Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions , Medical Education , Studies in Continuing Education ).

The RDRB was searched using keywords, 1 and the results of the searches were culled by two independent reviewers using an iterative approach. Studies collected were from 1989 to April 2009.

Abstracts of search results were reviewed to eliminate articles that clearly did not pertain to CE methods, cost-effectiveness, or educational theory and to categorize the studies as informative, equivocal, or not informative of CE effectiveness. A wide range of designs were classified as informative, including randomized controlled trials, prospective cohort studies, observational studies, and studies with pre- and post-intervention assessment methodologies. Quantitative and qualitative approaches were included, and inclusion was not limited to studies with positive results. The most common reasons articles were classified as not informative were absence of a trial design, small sample size, and high likelihood of confounding factors in the design that could affect outcomes. The two reviewers independently classified abstracts and full texts of the articles and then compared their classification results. Interreviewer reliability was greater than 80 percent, and discrepancies were resolved by a consensus process. A third reviewer verified the results classified as informative or equivocal in a final round of detailed assessment of the study design, populations, intervention, type of outcome, and conclusions for each article. Systematic reviews and metaanalyses are included in Table A-1 ; studies and articles are included in Table A-2 .

Table A-1 begins on the next page.

TABLE A-1 Summary of Systematic Reviews on Effectiveness of CE Methods

TABLE A-2 Literature Review on the Effectiveness of CE Methods

This page intentionally left blank.

Today in the United States, the professional health workforce is not consistently prepared to provide high quality health care and assure patient safety, even as the nation spends more per capita on health care than any other country. The absence of a comprehensive and well-integrated system of continuing education (CE) in the health professions is an important contributing factor to knowledge and performance deficiencies at the individual and system levels.

To be most effective, health professionals at every stage of their careers must continue learning about advances in research and treatment in their fields (and related fields) in order to obtain and maintain up-to-date knowledge and skills in caring for their patients. Many health professionals regularly undertake a variety of efforts to stay up to date, but on a larger scale, the nation's approach to CE for health professionals fails to support the professions in their efforts to achieve and maintain proficiency.

Redesigning Continuing Education in the Health Professions illustrates a vision for a better system through a comprehensive approach of continuing professional development, and posits a framework upon which to develop a new, more effective system. The book also offers principles to guide the creation of a national continuing education institute.

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IMAGES

  1. 50 Smart Literature Review Templates (APA) ᐅ TemplateLab

    literature review chart example

  2. Writing the Literature Review

    literature review chart example

  3. 50 Smart Literature Review Templates (APA) ᐅ TemplateLab

    literature review chart example

  4. 50 plantillas inteligentes de revisión de literatura (APA)

    literature review chart example

  5. 50 Smart Literature Review Templates (APA) ᐅ TemplateLab

    literature review chart example

  6. 50 Smart Literature Review Templates (APA) ᐅ TemplateLab

    literature review chart example

VIDEO

  1. 3_session2 Importance of literature review, types of literature review, Reference management tool

  2. How to write literature review #literaturereview #review #research #researcheverything #researchtips

  3. Literature Review, Systematic Literature Review, Meta

  4. ENGLISH LITERATURE CHART|| COMPLETE#HISTORY OF #englishliterature#literatureshortsbyhridyesh#english

  5. WRITING THE LITERATURE REVIEW #research#trending

  6. Systematic Literature Review Technique

COMMENTS

  1. 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.

  2. 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 ...

  3. 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 ...

  4. PDF Writing A Literature Review and Using a Synthesis Matrix

    One way that seems particularly helpful in organizing literature reviews is the synthesis matrix. The synthesis matrix is a chart that allows a researcher to sort and categorize the different arguments presented on an issue. Across the top of the chart are the spaces to record sources, and along the side of the chart are the spaces to record ...

  5. Using Research & Synthesis Tables

    This is an example of a research table, in which you provide a basic description of the most important features of the studies, articles, and other items you discover in your research.The table identifies each item according to its author/date of publication, its purpose or thesis, what type of work it is (systematic review, clinical trial, etc.), the level of evidence it represents (which ...

  6. 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.

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

    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.

  8. Literature Review Example (PDF + Template)

    If you're working on a dissertation or thesis and are looking for an example of a strong literature review chapter, you've come to the right place.. In this video, we walk you through an A-grade literature review from a dissertation that earned full distinction.We start off by discussing the five core sections of a literature review chapter by unpacking our free literature review template.

  9. Literature Reviews

    Structure. The three elements of a literature review are introduction, body, and conclusion. Introduction. Define the topic of the literature review, including any terminology. Introduce the central theme and organization of the literature review. Summarize the state of research on the topic. Frame the literature review with your research question.

  10. PDF Five tips for developing useful literature summary tables for writing

    the needs of the individuals' review. For example, for a review about the effectiveness of healthcare interven-tions, a literature summary table must include infor-mation about the intervention, its type, content timing, duration, setting, effectiveness, negative consequences, and receivers and implementers' experiences of its usage.

  11. 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 ...

  12. Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review

    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 ...

  13. START HERE

    Steps to Completing a Literature Review. Find. Conduct searches for relevant information. Evaluate. Critically review your sources. Summarize. Determine the most important and relevant information from each source, theories, findings, etc. Synthesize. Create a synthesis matrix to find connections between resources, and ensure your sources ...

  14. Academic Guides: Common Assignments: Literature Review Matrix

    Literature Review Matrix. As you read and evaluate your literature there are several different ways to organize your research. Courtesy of Dr. Gary Burkholder in the School of Psychology, these sample matrices are one option to help organize your articles. These documents allow you to compile details about your sources, such as the foundational ...

  15. PDF Writing an Effective Literature Review

    Make sure you develop a good system that works for you and use it. 3. Don't write a laundry list of papers A literature review should be a synthesis of the papers you have read to tell a meaningful story about the literature, not a simple list of paraphrases of what each paper said. 4.

  16. Literature Review Chart

    This resource includes a Word template for students to organize their research and thoughts in the process of developing a five-source mini-literature review. Students asked to write a literature review for the first time typically struggle to move beyond "book report" style writing and toward literature synthesis. The template builds on a chart developed by the library at California State ...

  17. How to Conduct a Literature Review (Health Sciences and Beyond)

    This is called a review matrix. When you create a review matrix, the first few columns should include (1) the authors, title, journal, (2) publication year, and (3) purpose of the paper. The remaining columns should identify important aspects of each study such as methodology and findings. Click on the image below to view a sample review matrix.

  18. Free Literature Review Template (Word Doc & PDF)

    The literature review template includes the following sections: Before you start - essential groundwork to ensure you're ready. The introduction section. The core/body section. The conclusion /summary. Extra free resources. Each section is explained in plain, straightforward language, followed by an overview of the key elements that you ...

  19. 50 Smart Literature Review Templates (APA) ᐅ TemplateLab

    A literary review template is a type of written work that discusses published information about a specific subject matter. The length of the review doesn't matter. It can be as simple as a summary of sources or can be as long as several pages. An outline for literature review can also evaluate these sources and advise to the readers regarding ...

  20. PDF Sample Chapter: Writing the Literature Review: A Practical Guide

    Sue's example illustrates that carrying out a comprehensive literature review is a required step in any research project. First, a researcher cannot conduct the study. 1. without gaining a deep understanding of the research topic and learning from the work of other scholars and researchers in the field (Creswell, 2018).

  21. 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!

  22. How to Create a Table for a Literature Review Summary

    http://youstudynursing.com/ A Quick guide to creating a table in Microsoft Word for your literature reviewMusic By http://instrumentalsfree.com

  23. Literature Review Tables

    Evidence on the effectiveness of continuing education (CE) and CE methods was identified through a literature review.Although nonexhaustive, the review included a comprehensive search of the Research and Development Resource Base (RDRB), a bibliographic database of more than 18,000 articles from fields including CE, knowledge translation, interprofessional literature, and faculty development.