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Writing a Literature Review

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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.

how do you write a literature review outline

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Literature Review Outline Example

25 Feb 2022

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❔Elements of Literature Review Outline

✅Steps to Write a Literature Review

🔍Ways to Structure a Literature Review

✏️Structure a Literature Review Outline

💡Literature Review Outline: Tips

You've read the literature. You've learned about the field. You know how your research fits into that larger picture. You’re now wondering how to write a literature review outline. Well, it's time to organize all this information clearly and concisely for your readership. The outline for your literature review will be the foundation for writing your paper. It will help you organize your thoughts and research, and it will ensure that you are considering all possible angles of the topic.

An outline is an essential tool for organizing your thoughts before writing anything else, so use this article as guidance to write a great one.

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The Key Elements of the Literature Review Outline

First, let’s define what a literature review outline is. The literature review outline is a crucial component of a research paper. It helps you to develop your ideas, conduct research and discuss the results in an organized way.

The key elements of the outline for the literature review are:

  • Introduction The introduction should include a brief summary of the literature that is being reviewed, including the general topic and your specific focus. You should also provide some background information on the topic to help the reader understand why it is important. You should not include any citations in this section, because you will do that later in the paper.
  • Body The body is where you provide an overview of all the sources or literature, you have used for your paper. You should include an introduction to each source and a brief summary of what was found in each source. In addition to providing summaries, you should also describe how each source relates to your research question or hypothesis and then relate them back to each other if they are similar enough to be compared. Finally, you should explain how each source relates to one another in addition to explaining how they relate to your research question or hypothesis.
  • Conclusion The conclusion should summarize your arguments throughout the paper and then tie all of these things together into one coherent argument that proves or disproves your hypothesis or research question in relation to other sources discussed throughout this paper (and/or).

There are several different approaches you can base your outline, and they include:

  • A descriptive approach describes existing knowledge about a particular topic. This approach is used when there is little or no existing research on a topic. Still, there are some reasonable theories or hypotheses about it based on previous research in related areas. A descriptive approach involves gathering new data or analyzing existing data to describe what we know about a certain phenomenon or problem at a certain point in time.
  • An explanatory approach explains why something happens or exists in a particular way by presenting one or more theoretical explanations (hypotheses). An explanatory hypothesis must be falsifiable. There must be some way to prove whether it's true or false using scientific methods (observations). This type of hypothesis is often tested through experiments or controlled observations that test how two variables interact with each other under controlled conditions.

Writing a literature review is an integral part of a successful research article or dissertation, as it helps to synthesize and connect the existing body of knowledge. To write your lit review relevantly, it is important to ensure that you include new information when constructing your review and connect existing ideas and themes. A useful literature review outline can provide a structure for expressing your views, allowing you to connect and organize your ideas consistently and effectively.

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Steps to Write Your Literature Review

Writing a good outline for a literature review is important for your research paper. It helps you organize your thoughts and ideas and gives you a clear direction for the writing process.

An outline is not a formal document but rather an informal guide to assist you in organizing the information you want to include in your paper. The outline should be written in paragraph form, with each paragraph representing one major idea that will be expanded upon in subsequent paragraphs of the paper.

The main purpose of writing an outline is so that you can organize all of your sources in a way that will help you write a clear, concise essay. You just want to throw together quotes and facts without any order or reason. This will make it hard for the reader to follow along with what you are saying and make it appear that you have no idea what you're talking about. This can result in a low grade for your paper and make it difficult for them to understand what is happening within the text.

The process of writing a literature review is not easy, especially if you have never done one before. This article will give you a step-by-step guide on how to write a good literature review that will impress your teacher.

  • The first step to writing a literature review is to find a good topic. You will need to do a lot of research, so it is best to choose something that you are interested in and that you know a lot about.
  • The second step is to organize your structure. You can use an outline or simply make notes as you go along. This helps keep you on track and ensures that you cover all the points necessary for an effective report.
  • The third step is proofreading. Mistakes can be embarrassing and make your work look sloppy, so don't rush through this step! There are online tools that can help with proofreading as well as people who will do it for free if you pay them by the hour. Check out sites like Upwork or Fiverr for examples of what's available and what prices are charged for certain tasks.
  • The fourth step is to include the bibliographies you used in your report. This gives credit where credit is due and lets other researchers know where they can find more information about your topic if they want it.

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Ways to Structure a Literature Review

Now that you know how basic structuring works, it is time to focus on a common issue.

Many students make mistake with the structuring of their literature. Given how the process is complex, many seek literature review writing help. Therefore, we should note down the two ways of structuring it. Through this, you will grasp the idea of what you should do and what you shouldn't.

Each of them has two distinctive features. Although they are different, you can use both to structure your review. Below you will see a literature review structure example tips for each type.

Thematic Literature Review

That is the method favored by those who love to analyze. Students prefer it as it allows them to structure their reviews easier. This method groups the data by its theoretical meaning. So in a thematic literature review example, you will see the sources by their concept and relevance to the topic.

Using the thematic method allows you to focus on your central concept. Moreover, you can form the review's structure around your points by doing it. That makes it easier to explain them and the connection to the research.

Here it is important to note that choosing the proper sequence is not bound by rules. Yet, even with that freedom, you should try to keep a sequence from the central point to the less important ones. That will allow the reader to navigate and understand your writing easily.

Tip: An example of a thematic literature review can be a logical structure. It does not matter the date when something happened. But the importance of the case.

Chronological Literature Review Structure

Students do not favor this method. It is challenging to keep up, as it is not based on the literature's theme. The chronological method focuses on structuring the sources by date. To be more precise, the date of publishing.

That makes it less attractive to read and less appealing to the reader. However, the chronological method is perfect in some cases. For example, if you write historiographical works. Of course, that is not the limit. Using this method, you should be able to write a chronological literature review example that:

  • Focus on the investigation process;
  • Case development over time;
  • Or when you are writing about specific trends.

As you can see, all of these connect around a span of time.

So if you are not writing on such a topic, it will be wiser to pick the first method. This way, you can rely on your logic. We note that because the chronological approach is strictly data-based. That often can cause issues or illogical remarks.

Author Note: No matter which method you pick. Make sure you keep basic logic in your writing. Note that the literature review points out your knowledge regarding the used literature. Thus, you must always stay true to your sources.

How to Structure a Literature Review Outline

An outline for a literature review is a great tool for organizing your thoughts and ideas. You can use it to plan out your essay or research paper by listing the points you want to cover and how they relate to each other. By using a sample literature review outline, you’ll be able to organize your thoughts effectively, and you’ll have a clear idea of how long each section should be. This article will discuss how to structure a literature review outline. We will also share some tips for writing a good outline.

It is important that you familiarize yourself with the topic before you begin writing your paper or research paper. So, if you're writing about something you're not quite familiar with, make sure you spend enough time learning about it beforehand. This way, once you've finished writing your paper, there won't be any gaps in your research or any information missing from the paper.

We recommend that you start by reading through the assignment instructions carefully so that you know what type of information they are looking for in your paper and what format they want it written in (literature review outline template APA style). Make sure that you follow APA literature review outline instructions as closely as possible so that your teacher doesn't get confused.

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Literature Review Outline: Writing Tips

When writing a literature review outline, it's important to include all of the information your assignment requires. Sometimes, instructors will give you specific guidelines for how long your literature review should be and how many sources it needs to include. If they don't, however, you'll need to decide what works best for your situation.

A literature review outline will be the foundation of your paper. It will tell you what information is important and how to write it in a cohesive and logical way. When writing, it's important only to include facts backed up by evidence. This means that if you are writing about any research topic, there must be at least one piece of published work that backs up each claim or opinion you present.

If there isn't a single source supporting your writing. Don't put it in because it makes your paper seem like speculation or opinion rather than fact-based knowledge about the issue at hand. Another tip for writers is to write clearly and concisely so that readers can understand what they are reading quickly without having any difficulty following along from one point to another throughout the entire essay (or book).

Readers may get bored very quickly if they feel like they have to struggle through something too much before getting into where things go next. Therefore, proper grammar usage should also be kept while doing this type as well so there are no mistakes left behind after editing later down the line during the publishing stage itself.

The following are the most important tips for writing a literature review outline:

  • Use bullet points to create an outline of your review.
  • Make sure that each paragraph covers a single subject or idea.
  • Start with a thesis statement, which should sum up the paper's main idea in one sentence.
  • Write each paragraph in a way that flows from one point to another logically and coherently.
  • Include quotes and paraphrases from sources you have read in order to support your arguments and conclusions.
  • Make sure that you use credible sources as evidence for your claims and arguments in your paper.

When writing a literature review, it's important to create a well-structured outline to ensure that you cover all the important points. PapersOwl is a writing service that provides professional writing assistance and can help you create an effective literature review outline. With their help, you can ensure that your literature review follows a proper structure and that you address all the necessary points, making sure that your research is comprehensive and thorough.

Now that you have learned all the elements of an outline for a literature review, it is time to start writing your own. An outline of a literature review is important for research papers and can be used in many other writing areas. Following these steps will make your outline easy to read and understand so that readers can better understand what research was done before writing their own paper!

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How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

What is a literature review? 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 that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

Table of contents

What is the purpose of 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, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

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 .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods?
  • Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

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To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. 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).

Chronological

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.

Methodological

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. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources

Theoretical

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.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a 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 Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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What is a literature review?

A literature review is an integrated analysis -- not just a summary-- of scholarly writings and other relevant evidence related directly to your research question.  That is, it represents a synthesis of the evidence that provides background information on your topic and shows a association between the evidence and your research question.

A literature review may be a stand alone work or the introduction to a larger research paper, depending on the assignment.  Rely heavily on the guidelines your instructor has given you.

Why is it important?

A literature review is important because it:

  • Explains the background of research on a topic.
  • Demonstrates why a topic is significant to a subject area.
  • Discovers relationships between research studies/ideas.
  • Identifies major themes, concepts, and researchers on a topic.
  • Identifies critical gaps and points of disagreement.
  • Discusses further research questions that logically come out of the previous studies.

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1. Choose a topic. Define your research question.

Your literature review should be guided by your central research question.  The literature represents background and research developments related to a specific research question, interpreted and analyzed by you in a synthesized way.

  • Make sure your research question is not too broad or too narrow.  Is it manageable?
  • Begin writing down terms that are related to your question. These will be useful for searches later.
  • If you have the opportunity, discuss your topic with your professor and your class mates.

2. Decide on the scope of your review

How many studies do you need to look at? How comprehensive should it be? How many years should it cover? 

  • This may depend on your assignment.  How many sources does the assignment require?

3. Select the databases you will use to conduct your searches.

Make a list of the databases you will search. 

Where to find databases:

  • use the tabs on this guide
  • Find other databases in the Nursing Information Resources web page
  • More on the Medical Library web page
  • ... and more on the Yale University Library web page

4. Conduct your searches to find the evidence. Keep track of your searches.

  • Use the key words in your question, as well as synonyms for those words, as terms in your search. Use the database tutorials for help.
  • Save the searches in the databases. This saves time when you want to redo, or modify, the searches. It is also helpful to use as a guide is the searches are not finding any useful results.
  • Review the abstracts of research studies carefully. This will save you time.
  • Use the bibliographies and references of research studies you find to locate others.
  • Check with your professor, or a subject expert in the field, if you are missing any key works in the field.
  • Ask your librarian for help at any time.
  • Use a citation manager, such as EndNote as the repository for your citations. See the EndNote tutorials for help.

Review the literature

Some questions to help you analyze the research:

  • What was the research question of the study you are reviewing? What were the authors trying to discover?
  • Was the research funded by a source that could influence the findings?
  • What were the research methodologies? Analyze its literature review, the samples and variables used, the results, and the conclusions.
  • Does the research seem to be complete? Could it have been conducted more soundly? What further questions does it raise?
  • If there are conflicting studies, why do you think that is?
  • How are the authors viewed in the field? Has this study been cited? If so, how has it been analyzed?

Tips: 

  • Review the abstracts carefully.  
  • Keep careful notes so that you may track your thought processes during the research process.
  • Create a matrix of the studies for easy analysis, and synthesis, across all of the studies.
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Finding and Completing a Literature Review

Intro to creating a literature review.

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  • Palgrave's Study Guide to Carrying Out a Literature Review Your research is seen as a contribution to knowledge in the field and it needs to indicate, therefore, that there is an awareness of what that knowledge comprises. Read this guide to getting started.
  • Purdue OWL's Guide to Writing a Literature Review A literature review requires the writer to perform extensive research on published work in one’s field in order to explain how one’s own work fits into the larger conversation regarding a particular topic. This task requires the writer to spend time reading, managing, and conveying information; the complexity of literature reviews can make this section one of the most challenging parts of writing about one’s research. This handout will provide some strategies for revising literature reviews.

Every time you conduct research, you will need to make it clear where you got your evidence from. This work of citing our sources is absolutely essential for a couple of reasons.

  • It demonstrates to the readers of our own research that we have evidence to back up our claims.
  • A complete and correct citation directs readers to the original source for them to verify our claims and learn more.
  • It gives credit to the researchers whose intellectual work helped form our own research.
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Learn how to write a review of literature

What is a review of literature.

The format of a review of literature may vary from discipline to discipline and from assignment to assignment.

A review may be a self-contained unit — an end in itself — or a preface to and rationale for engaging in primary research. A review is a required part of grant and research proposals and often a chapter in theses and dissertations.

Generally, the purpose of a review is to analyze critically a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles.

Writing the introduction

In the introduction, you should:

Define or identify the general topic, issue, or area of concern, thus providing an appropriate context for reviewing the literature.

Point out overall trends in what has been published about the topic; or conflicts in theory, methodology, evidence, and conclusions; or gaps in research and scholarship; or a single problem or new perspective of immediate interest.

Establish the writer’s reason (point of view) for reviewing the literature; explain the criteria to be used in analyzing and comparing literature and the organization of the review (sequence); and, when necessary, state why certain literature is or is not included (scope).

Writing the body

In the body, you should:

Group research studies and other types of literature (reviews, theoretical articles, case studies, etc.) according to common denominators such as qualitative versus quantitative approaches, conclusions of authors, specific purpose or objective, chronology, etc.

Summarize individual studies or articles with as much or as little detail as each merits according to its comparative importance in the literature, remembering that space (length) denotes significance.

Provide the reader with strong “umbrella” sentences at beginnings of paragraphs, “signposts” throughout, and brief “so what” summary sentences at intermediate points in the review to aid in understanding comparisons and analyses.

Writing the conclusion

In the conclusion, you should:

Summarize major contributions of significant studies and articles to the body of knowledge under review, maintaining the focus established in the introduction.

Evaluate the current “state of the art” for the body of knowledge reviewed, pointing out major methodological flaws or gaps in research, inconsistencies in theory and findings, and areas or issues pertinent to future study.

Conclude by providing some insight into the relationship between the central topic of the literature review and a larger area of study such as a discipline, a scientific endeavor, or a profession.

For further information see our handouts on Writing a Critical Review of a Nonfiction Book or Article or Reading a Book to Review It .

To learn more about literature reviews, take a look at our workshop on Writing Literature Reviews of Published Research.

Sample Literature Reviews

An important strategy for learning how to compose literature reviews in your field or within a specific genre is to locate and analyze representative examples. The following collection of annotated sample literature reviews written and co-written by colleagues associated with UW-Madison showcases how these reviews can do different kind of work for different purposes. Use these successful examples as a starting point for understanding how other writers have approached the challenging and important task of situating their idea in the context of established research.

  • Sample 1 (PDF) A brief literature review within a political scientists’  National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship  grant
  • Sample 2 (PDF) A several-page literature review at the beginning of a published, academic article about philosophy
  • Sample 3 (PDF) A brief literature review at the beginning of a published, academic article about photochemistry

how do you write a literature review outline

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  • 04 December 2020
  • Correction 09 December 2020

How to write a superb literature review

Andy Tay is a freelance writer based in Singapore.

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Literature reviews are important resources for scientists. They provide historical context for a field while offering opinions on its future trajectory. Creating them can provide inspiration for one’s own research, as well as some practice in writing. But few scientists are trained in how to write a review — or in what constitutes an excellent one. Even picking the appropriate software to use can be an involved decision (see ‘Tools and techniques’). So Nature asked editors and working scientists with well-cited reviews for their tips.

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doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-03422-x

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Updates & Corrections

Correction 09 December 2020 : An earlier version of the tables in this article included some incorrect details about the programs Zotero, Endnote and Manubot. These have now been corrected.

Hsing, I.-M., Xu, Y. & Zhao, W. Electroanalysis 19 , 755–768 (2007).

Article   Google Scholar  

Ledesma, H. A. et al. Nature Nanotechnol. 14 , 645–657 (2019).

Article   PubMed   Google Scholar  

Brahlek, M., Koirala, N., Bansal, N. & Oh, S. Solid State Commun. 215–216 , 54–62 (2015).

Choi, Y. & Lee, S. Y. Nature Rev. Chem . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41570-020-00221-w (2020).

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Writing Research Papers

  • Writing a Literature Review

When writing a research paper on a specific topic, you will often need to include an overview of any prior research that has been conducted on that topic.  For example, if your research paper is describing an experiment on fear conditioning, then you will probably need to provide an overview of prior research on fear conditioning.  That overview is typically known as a literature review.  

Please note that a full-length literature review article may be suitable for fulfilling the requirements for the Psychology B.S. Degree Research Paper .  For further details, please check with your faculty advisor.

Different Types of Literature Reviews

Literature reviews come in many forms.  They can be part of a research paper, for example as part of the Introduction section.  They can be one chapter of a doctoral dissertation.  Literature reviews can also “stand alone” as separate articles by themselves.  For instance, some journals such as Annual Review of Psychology , Psychological Bulletin , and others typically publish full-length review articles.  Similarly, in courses at UCSD, you may be asked to write a research paper that is itself a literature review (such as, with an instructor’s permission, in fulfillment of the B.S. Degree Research Paper requirement). Alternatively, you may be expected to include a literature review as part of a larger research paper (such as part of an Honors Thesis). 

Literature reviews can be written using a variety of different styles.  These may differ in the way prior research is reviewed as well as the way in which the literature review is organized.  Examples of stylistic variations in literature reviews include: 

  • Summarization of prior work vs. critical evaluation. In some cases, prior research is simply described and summarized; in other cases, the writer compares, contrasts, and may even critique prior research (for example, discusses their strengths and weaknesses).
  • Chronological vs. categorical and other types of organization. In some cases, the literature review begins with the oldest research and advances until it concludes with the latest research.  In other cases, research is discussed by category (such as in groupings of closely related studies) without regard for chronological order.  In yet other cases, research is discussed in terms of opposing views (such as when different research studies or researchers disagree with one another).

Overall, all literature reviews, whether they are written as a part of a larger work or as separate articles unto themselves, have a common feature: they do not present new research; rather, they provide an overview of prior research on a specific topic . 

How to Write a Literature Review

When writing a literature review, it can be helpful to rely on the following steps.  Please note that these procedures are not necessarily only for writing a literature review that becomes part of a larger article; they can also be used for writing a full-length article that is itself a literature review (although such reviews are typically more detailed and exhaustive; for more information please refer to the Further Resources section of this page).

Steps for Writing a Literature Review

1. Identify and define the topic that you will be reviewing.

The topic, which is commonly a research question (or problem) of some kind, needs to be identified and defined as clearly as possible.  You need to have an idea of what you will be reviewing in order to effectively search for references and to write a coherent summary of the research on it.  At this stage it can be helpful to write down a description of the research question, area, or topic that you will be reviewing, as well as to identify any keywords that you will be using to search for relevant research.

2. Conduct a literature search.

Use a range of keywords to search databases such as PsycINFO and any others that may contain relevant articles.  You should focus on peer-reviewed, scholarly articles.  Published books may also be helpful, but keep in mind that peer-reviewed articles are widely considered to be the “gold standard” of scientific research.  Read through titles and abstracts, select and obtain articles (that is, download, copy, or print them out), and save your searches as needed.  For more information about this step, please see the Using Databases and Finding Scholarly References section of this website.

3. Read through the research that you have found and take notes.

Absorb as much information as you can.  Read through the articles and books that you have found, and as you do, take notes.  The notes should include anything that will be helpful in advancing your own thinking about the topic and in helping you write the literature review (such as key points, ideas, or even page numbers that index key information).  Some references may turn out to be more helpful than others; you may notice patterns or striking contrasts between different sources ; and some sources may refer to yet other sources of potential interest.  This is often the most time-consuming part of the review process.  However, it is also where you get to learn about the topic in great detail.  For more details about taking notes, please see the “Reading Sources and Taking Notes” section of the Finding Scholarly References page of this website.

4. Organize your notes and thoughts; create an outline.

At this stage, you are close to writing the review itself.  However, it is often helpful to first reflect on all the reading that you have done.  What patterns stand out?  Do the different sources converge on a consensus?  Or not?  What unresolved questions still remain?  You should look over your notes (it may also be helpful to reorganize them), and as you do, to think about how you will present this research in your literature review.  Are you going to summarize or critically evaluate?  Are you going to use a chronological or other type of organizational structure?  It can also be helpful to create an outline of how your literature review will be structured.

5. Write the literature review itself and edit and revise as needed.

The final stage involves writing.  When writing, keep in mind that literature reviews are generally characterized by a summary style in which prior research is described sufficiently to explain critical findings but does not include a high level of detail (if readers want to learn about all the specific details of a study, then they can look up the references that you cite and read the original articles themselves).  However, the degree of emphasis that is given to individual studies may vary (more or less detail may be warranted depending on how critical or unique a given study was).   After you have written a first draft, you should read it carefully and then edit and revise as needed.  You may need to repeat this process more than once.  It may be helpful to have another person read through your draft(s) and provide feedback.

6. Incorporate the literature review into your research paper draft.

After the literature review is complete, you should incorporate it into your research paper (if you are writing the review as one component of a larger paper).  Depending on the stage at which your paper is at, this may involve merging your literature review into a partially complete Introduction section, writing the rest of the paper around the literature review, or other processes.

Further Tips for Writing a Literature Review

Full-length literature reviews

  • Many full-length literature review articles use a three-part structure: Introduction (where the topic is identified and any trends or major problems in the literature are introduced), Body (where the studies that comprise the literature on that topic are discussed), and Discussion or Conclusion (where major patterns and points are discussed and the general state of what is known about the topic is summarized)

Literature reviews as part of a larger paper

  • An “express method” of writing a literature review for a research paper is as follows: first, write a one paragraph description of each article that you read. Second, choose how you will order all the paragraphs and combine them in one document.  Third, add transitions between the paragraphs, as well as an introductory and concluding paragraph. 1
  • A literature review that is part of a larger research paper typically does not have to be exhaustive. Rather, it should contain most or all of the significant studies about a research topic but not tangential or loosely related ones. 2   Generally, literature reviews should be sufficient for the reader to understand the major issues and key findings about a research topic.  You may however need to confer with your instructor or editor to determine how comprehensive you need to be.

Benefits of Literature Reviews

By summarizing prior research on a topic, literature reviews have multiple benefits.  These include:

  • Literature reviews help readers understand what is known about a topic without having to find and read through multiple sources.
  • Literature reviews help “set the stage” for later reading about new research on a given topic (such as if they are placed in the Introduction of a larger research paper). In other words, they provide helpful background and context.
  • Literature reviews can also help the writer learn about a given topic while in the process of preparing the review itself. In the act of research and writing the literature review, the writer gains expertise on the topic .

Downloadable Resources

  • How to Write APA Style Research Papers (a comprehensive guide) [ PDF ]
  • Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers (a brief summary) [ PDF ]
  • Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – literature review) [ PDF ]

Further Resources

How-To Videos     

  • Writing Research Paper Videos
  • UCSD Library Psychology Research Guide: Literature Reviews

External Resources

  • Developing and Writing a Literature Review from N Carolina A&T State University
  • Example of a Short Literature Review from York College CUNY
  • How to Write a Review of Literature from UW-Madison
  • Writing a Literature Review from UC Santa Cruz  
  • Pautasso, M. (2013). Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review. PLoS Computational Biology, 9 (7), e1003149. doi : 1371/journal.pcbi.1003149

1 Ashton, W. Writing a short literature review . [PDF]     

2 carver, l. (2014).  writing the research paper [workshop]. , prepared by s. c. pan for ucsd psychology.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Literature Reviews

What this handout is about.

This handout will explain what literature reviews are and offer insights into the form and construction of literature reviews in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

Introduction

OK. You’ve got to write a literature review. You dust off a novel and a book of poetry, settle down in your chair, and get ready to issue a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” as you leaf through the pages. “Literature review” done. Right?

Wrong! The “literature” of a literature review refers to any collection of materials on a topic, not necessarily the great literary texts of the world. “Literature” could be anything from a set of government pamphlets on British colonial methods in Africa to scholarly articles on the treatment of a torn ACL. And a review does not necessarily mean that your reader wants you to give your personal opinion on whether or not you liked these sources.

What is a literature review, then?

A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period.

A literature review can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information. It might give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates. And depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant.

But how is a literature review different from an academic research paper?

The main focus of an academic research paper is to develop a new argument, and a research paper is likely to contain a literature review as one of its parts. In a research paper, you use the literature as a foundation and as support for a new insight that you contribute. The focus of a literature review, however, is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of others without adding new contributions.

Why do we write literature reviews?

Literature reviews provide you with a handy guide to a particular topic. If you have limited time to conduct research, literature reviews can give you an overview or act as a stepping stone. For professionals, they are useful reports that keep them up to date with what is current in the field. For scholars, the depth and breadth of the literature review emphasizes the credibility of the writer in his or her field. Literature reviews also provide a solid background for a research paper’s investigation. Comprehensive knowledge of the literature of the field is essential to most research papers.

Who writes these things, anyway?

Literature reviews are written occasionally in the humanities, but mostly in the sciences and social sciences; in experiment and lab reports, they constitute a section of the paper. Sometimes a literature review is written as a paper in itself.

Let’s get to it! What should I do before writing the literature review?

If your assignment is not very specific, seek clarification from your instructor:

  • Roughly how many sources should you include?
  • What types of sources (books, journal articles, websites)?
  • Should you summarize, synthesize, or critique your sources by discussing a common theme or issue?
  • Should you evaluate your sources?
  • Should you provide subheadings and other background information, such as definitions and/or a history?

Find models

Look for other literature reviews in your area of interest or in the discipline and read them to get a sense of the types of themes you might want to look for in your own research or ways to organize your final review. You can simply put the word “review” in your search engine along with your other topic terms to find articles of this type on the Internet or in an electronic database. The bibliography or reference section of sources you’ve already read are also excellent entry points into your own research.

Narrow your topic

There are hundreds or even thousands of articles and books on most areas of study. The narrower your topic, the easier it will be to limit the number of sources you need to read in order to get a good survey of the material. Your instructor will probably not expect you to read everything that’s out there on the topic, but you’ll make your job easier if you first limit your scope.

Keep in mind that UNC Libraries have research guides and to databases relevant to many fields of study. You can reach out to the subject librarian for a consultation: https://library.unc.edu/support/consultations/ .

And don’t forget to tap into your professor’s (or other professors’) knowledge in the field. Ask your professor questions such as: “If you had to read only one book from the 90’s on topic X, what would it be?” Questions such as this help you to find and determine quickly the most seminal pieces in the field.

Consider whether your sources are current

Some disciplines require that you use information that is as current as possible. In the sciences, for instance, treatments for medical problems are constantly changing according to the latest studies. Information even two years old could be obsolete. However, if you are writing a review in the humanities, history, or social sciences, a survey of the history of the literature may be what is needed, because what is important is how perspectives have changed through the years or within a certain time period. Try sorting through some other current bibliographies or literature reviews in the field to get a sense of what your discipline expects. You can also use this method to consider what is currently of interest to scholars in this field and what is not.

Strategies for writing the literature review

Find a focus.

A literature review, like a term paper, is usually organized around ideas, not the sources themselves as an annotated bibliography would be organized. This means that you will not just simply list your sources and go into detail about each one of them, one at a time. No. As you read widely but selectively in your topic area, consider instead what themes or issues connect your sources together. Do they present one or different solutions? Is there an aspect of the field that is missing? How well do they present the material and do they portray it according to an appropriate theory? Do they reveal a trend in the field? A raging debate? Pick one of these themes to focus the organization of your review.

Convey it to your reader

A literature review may not have a traditional thesis statement (one that makes an argument), but you do need to tell readers what to expect. Try writing a simple statement that lets the reader know what is your main organizing principle. Here are a couple of examples:

The current trend in treatment for congestive heart failure combines surgery and medicine. More and more cultural studies scholars are accepting popular media as a subject worthy of academic consideration.

Consider organization

You’ve got a focus, and you’ve stated it clearly and directly. Now what is the most effective way of presenting the information? What are the most important topics, subtopics, etc., that your review needs to include? And in what order should you present them? Develop an organization for your review at both a global and local level:

First, cover the basic categories

Just like most academic papers, literature reviews also must contain at least three basic elements: an introduction or background information section; the body of the review containing the discussion of sources; and, finally, a conclusion and/or recommendations section to end the paper. The following provides a brief description of the content of each:

  • Introduction: Gives a quick idea of the topic of the literature review, such as the central theme or organizational pattern.
  • Body: Contains your discussion of sources and is organized either chronologically, thematically, or methodologically (see below for more information on each).
  • Conclusions/Recommendations: Discuss what you have drawn from reviewing literature so far. Where might the discussion proceed?

Organizing the body

Once you have the basic categories in place, then you must consider how you will present the sources themselves within the body of your paper. Create an organizational method to focus this section even further.

To help you come up with an overall organizational framework for your review, consider the following scenario:

You’ve decided to focus your literature review on materials dealing with sperm whales. This is because you’ve just finished reading Moby Dick, and you wonder if that whale’s portrayal is really real. You start with some articles about the physiology of sperm whales in biology journals written in the 1980’s. But these articles refer to some British biological studies performed on whales in the early 18th century. So you check those out. Then you look up a book written in 1968 with information on how sperm whales have been portrayed in other forms of art, such as in Alaskan poetry, in French painting, or on whale bone, as the whale hunters in the late 19th century used to do. This makes you wonder about American whaling methods during the time portrayed in Moby Dick, so you find some academic articles published in the last five years on how accurately Herman Melville portrayed the whaling scene in his novel.

Now consider some typical ways of organizing the sources into a review:

  • Chronological: If your review follows the chronological method, you could write about the materials above according to when they were published. For instance, first you would talk about the British biological studies of the 18th century, then about Moby Dick, published in 1851, then the book on sperm whales in other art (1968), and finally the biology articles (1980s) and the recent articles on American whaling of the 19th century. But there is relatively no continuity among subjects here. And notice that even though the sources on sperm whales in other art and on American whaling are written recently, they are about other subjects/objects that were created much earlier. Thus, the review loses its chronological focus.
  • By publication: Order your sources by publication chronology, then, only if the order demonstrates a more important trend. For instance, you could order a review of literature on biological studies of sperm whales if the progression revealed a change in dissection practices of the researchers who wrote and/or conducted the studies.
  • By trend: A better way to organize the above sources chronologically is to examine the sources under another trend, such as the history of whaling. Then your review would have subsections according to eras within this period. For instance, the review might examine whaling from pre-1600-1699, 1700-1799, and 1800-1899. Under this method, you would combine the recent studies on American whaling in the 19th century with Moby Dick itself in the 1800-1899 category, even though the authors wrote a century apart.
  • Thematic: Thematic reviews of literature are organized around a topic or issue, rather than the progression of time. However, progression of time may still be an important factor in a thematic review. For instance, the sperm whale review could focus on the development of the harpoon for whale hunting. While the study focuses on one topic, harpoon technology, it will still be organized chronologically. The only difference here between a “chronological” and a “thematic” approach is what is emphasized the most: the development of the harpoon or the harpoon technology.But more authentic thematic reviews tend to break away from chronological order. For instance, a thematic review of material on sperm whales might examine how they are portrayed as “evil” in cultural documents. The subsections might include how they are personified, how their proportions are exaggerated, and their behaviors misunderstood. A review organized in this manner would shift between time periods within each section according to the point made.
  • Methodological: A methodological approach differs from the two above in that the focusing factor usually does not have to do with the content of the material. Instead, it focuses on the “methods” of the researcher or writer. For the sperm whale project, one methodological approach would be to look at cultural differences between the portrayal of whales in American, British, and French art work. Or the review might focus on the economic impact of whaling on a community. A methodological scope will influence either the types of documents in the review or the way in which these documents are discussed. Once you’ve decided on the organizational method for the body of the review, the sections you need to include in the paper should be easy to figure out. They should arise out of your organizational strategy. In other words, a chronological review would have subsections for each vital time period. A thematic review would have subtopics based upon factors that relate to the theme or issue.

Sometimes, though, you might need to add additional sections that are necessary for your study, but do not fit in the organizational strategy of the body. What other sections you include in the body is up to you. Put in only what is necessary. Here are a few other sections you might want to consider:

  • Current Situation: Information necessary to understand the topic or focus of the literature review.
  • History: The chronological progression of the field, the literature, or an idea that is necessary to understand the literature review, if the body of the literature review is not already a chronology.
  • Methods and/or Standards: The criteria you used to select the sources in your literature review or the way in which you present your information. For instance, you might explain that your review includes only peer-reviewed articles and journals.

Questions for Further Research: What questions about the field has the review sparked? How will you further your research as a result of the review?

Begin composing

Once you’ve settled on a general pattern of organization, you’re ready to write each section. There are a few guidelines you should follow during the writing stage as well. Here is a sample paragraph from a literature review about sexism and language to illuminate the following discussion:

However, other studies have shown that even gender-neutral antecedents are more likely to produce masculine images than feminine ones (Gastil, 1990). Hamilton (1988) asked students to complete sentences that required them to fill in pronouns that agreed with gender-neutral antecedents such as “writer,” “pedestrian,” and “persons.” The students were asked to describe any image they had when writing the sentence. Hamilton found that people imagined 3.3 men to each woman in the masculine “generic” condition and 1.5 men per woman in the unbiased condition. Thus, while ambient sexism accounted for some of the masculine bias, sexist language amplified the effect. (Source: Erika Falk and Jordan Mills, “Why Sexist Language Affects Persuasion: The Role of Homophily, Intended Audience, and Offense,” Women and Language19:2).

Use evidence

In the example above, the writers refer to several other sources when making their point. A literature review in this sense is just like any other academic research paper. Your interpretation of the available sources must be backed up with evidence to show that what you are saying is valid.

Be selective

Select only the most important points in each source to highlight in the review. The type of information you choose to mention should relate directly to the review’s focus, whether it is thematic, methodological, or chronological.

Use quotes sparingly

Falk and Mills do not use any direct quotes. That is because the survey nature of the literature review does not allow for in-depth discussion or detailed quotes from the text. Some short quotes here and there are okay, though, if you want to emphasize a point, or if what the author said just cannot be rewritten in your own words. Notice that Falk and Mills do quote certain terms that were coined by the author, not common knowledge, or taken directly from the study. But if you find yourself wanting to put in more quotes, check with your instructor.

Summarize and synthesize

Remember to summarize and synthesize your sources within each paragraph as well as throughout the review. The authors here recapitulate important features of Hamilton’s study, but then synthesize it by rephrasing the study’s significance and relating it to their own work.

Keep your own voice

While the literature review presents others’ ideas, your voice (the writer’s) should remain front and center. Notice that Falk and Mills weave references to other sources into their own text, but they still maintain their own voice by starting and ending the paragraph with their own ideas and their own words. The sources support what Falk and Mills are saying.

Use caution when paraphrasing

When paraphrasing a source that is not your own, be sure to represent the author’s information or opinions accurately and in your own words. In the preceding example, Falk and Mills either directly refer in the text to the author of their source, such as Hamilton, or they provide ample notation in the text when the ideas they are mentioning are not their own, for example, Gastil’s. For more information, please see our handout on plagiarism .

Revise, revise, revise

Draft in hand? Now you’re ready to revise. Spending a lot of time revising is a wise idea, because your main objective is to present the material, not the argument. So check over your review again to make sure it follows the assignment and/or your outline. Then, just as you would for most other academic forms of writing, rewrite or rework the language of your review so that you’ve presented your information in the most concise manner possible. Be sure to use terminology familiar to your audience; get rid of unnecessary jargon or slang. Finally, double check that you’ve documented your sources and formatted the review appropriately for your discipline. For tips on the revising and editing process, see our handout on revising drafts .

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Jones, Robert, Patrick Bizzaro, and Cynthia Selfe. 1997. The Harcourt Brace Guide to Writing in the Disciplines . New York: Harcourt Brace.

Lamb, Sandra E. 1998. How to Write It: A Complete Guide to Everything You’ll Ever Write . Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Rosen, Leonard J., and Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook , 5th ed. New York: Longman.

Troyka, Lynn Quittman, and Doug Hesse. 2016. Simon and Schuster Handbook for Writers , 11th ed. London: Pearson.

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Grad Coach

How To Structure Your Literature Review

3 options to help structure your chapter.

By: Amy Rommelspacher (PhD) | Reviewer: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | November 2020 (Updated May 2023)

Writing the literature review chapter can seem pretty daunting when you’re piecing together your dissertation or thesis. As  we’ve discussed before , a good literature review needs to achieve a few very important objectives – it should:

  • 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 . Get the structure of your literature review chapter wrong and you’ll struggle to achieve these objectives. Don’t worry though – in this post, we’ll look at how to structure your literature review for maximum impact (and marks!).

The function of the lit review

But wait – is this the right time?

Deciding on the structure of your literature review should come towards the end of the literature review process – after you have collected and digested the literature, but before you start writing the chapter. 

In other words, you need to first develop a rich understanding of the literature before you even attempt to map out a structure. There’s no use trying to develop a structure before you’ve fully wrapped your head around the existing research.

Equally importantly, you need to have a structure in place before you start writing , or your literature review will most likely end up a rambling, disjointed mess. 

Importantly, don’t feel that once you’ve defined a structure you can’t iterate on it. It’s perfectly natural to adjust as you engage in the writing process. As we’ve discussed before , writing is a way of developing your thinking, so it’s quite common for your thinking to change – and therefore, for your chapter structure to change – as you write. 

Need a helping hand?

how do you write a literature review outline

Like any other chapter in your thesis or dissertation, your literature review needs to have a clear, logical structure. At a minimum, it should have three essential components – an  introduction , a  body   and a  conclusion . 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

1: The Introduction Section

Just like any good introduction, the introduction section of your literature review should introduce the purpose and layout (organisation) of the chapter. In other words, your introduction needs to give the reader a taste of what’s to come, and how you’re going to lay that out. Essentially, you should provide the reader with a high-level roadmap of your chapter to give them a taste of the journey that lies ahead.

Here’s an example of the layout visualised in a literature review introduction:

Example of literature review outline structure

Your introduction should also outline your topic (including any tricky terminology or jargon) and provide an explanation of the scope of your literature review – in other words, what you  will   and  won’t   be covering (the delimitations ). This helps ringfence your review and achieve a clear focus . The clearer and narrower your focus, the deeper you can dive into the topic (which is typically where the magic lies). 

Depending on the nature of your project, you could also present your stance or point of view at this stage. In other words, after grappling with the literature you’ll have an opinion about what the trends and concerns are in the field as well as what’s lacking. The introduction section can then present these ideas so that it is clear to examiners that you’re aware of how your research connects with existing knowledge .

Webinar - how to write a literature review

2: The Body Section

The body of your literature review is the centre of your work. This is where you’ll present, analyse, evaluate and synthesise the existing research. In other words, this is where you’re going to earn (or lose) the most marks. Therefore, it’s important to carefully think about how you will organise your discussion to present it in a clear way. 

The body of your literature review should do just as the description of this chapter suggests. It should “review” the literature – in other words, identify, analyse, and synthesise it. So, when thinking about structuring your literature review, you need to think about which structural approach will provide the best “review” for your specific type of research and objectives (we’ll get to this shortly).

There are (broadly speaking)  three options  for organising your literature review.

The body section of your literature review is the where you'll present, analyse, evaluate and synthesise the existing research.

Option 1: Chronological (according to date)

Organising the literature chronologically is one of the simplest ways to structure your literature review. You start with what was published first and work your way through the literature until you reach the work published most recently. Pretty straightforward.

The benefit of this option is that it makes it easy to discuss the developments and debates in the field as they emerged over time. Organising your literature chronologically also allows you to highlight how specific articles or pieces of work might have changed the course of the field – in other words, which research has had the most impact . Therefore, this approach is very useful when your research is aimed at understanding how the topic has unfolded over time and is often used by scholars in the field of history. That said, this approach can be utilised by anyone that wants to explore change over time .

Adopting the chronological structure allows you to discuss the developments and debates in the field as they emerged over time.

For example , if a student of politics is investigating how the understanding of democracy has evolved over time, they could use the chronological approach to provide a narrative that demonstrates how this understanding has changed through the ages.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you structure your literature review chronologically.

  • What is the earliest literature published relating to this topic?
  • How has the field changed over time? Why?
  • What are the most recent discoveries/theories?

In some ways, chronology plays a part whichever way you decide to structure your literature review, because you will always, to a certain extent, be analysing how the literature has developed. However, with the chronological approach, the emphasis is very firmly on how the discussion has evolved over time , as opposed to how all the literature links together (which we’ll discuss next ).

Option 2: Thematic (grouped by theme)

The thematic approach to structuring a literature review means organising your literature by theme or category – for example, by independent variables (i.e. factors that have an impact on a specific outcome).

As you’ve been collecting and synthesising literature , you’ll likely have started seeing some themes or patterns emerging. You can then use these themes or patterns as a structure for your body discussion. The thematic approach is the most common approach and is useful for structuring literature reviews in most fields.

For example, if you were researching which factors contributed towards people trusting an organisation, you might find themes such as consumers’ perceptions of an organisation’s competence, benevolence and integrity. Structuring your literature review thematically would mean structuring your literature review’s body section to discuss each of these themes, one section at a time.

The thematic structure allows you to organise your literature by theme or category  – e.g. by independent variables.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when structuring your literature review by themes:

  • Are there any patterns that have come to light in the literature?
  • What are the central themes and categories used by the researchers?
  • Do I have enough evidence of these themes?

PS – you can see an example of a thematically structured literature review in our literature review sample walkthrough video here.

Option 3: Methodological

The methodological option is a way of structuring your literature review by the research methodologies used . In other words, organising your discussion based on the angle from which each piece of research was approached – for example, qualitative , quantitative or mixed  methodologies.

Structuring your literature review by methodology can be useful if you are drawing research from a variety of disciplines and are critiquing different methodologies. The point of this approach is to question  how  existing research has been conducted, as opposed to  what  the conclusions and/or findings the research were.

The methodological structure allows you to organise your chapter by the analysis method  used - e.g. qual, quant or mixed.

For example, a sociologist might centre their research around critiquing specific fieldwork practices. Their literature review will then be a summary of the fieldwork methodologies used by different studies.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when structuring your literature review according to methodology:

  • Which methodologies have been utilised in this field?
  • Which methodology is the most popular (and why)?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the various methodologies?
  • How can the existing methodologies inform my own methodology?

3: The Conclusion Section

Once you’ve completed the body section of your literature review using one of the structural approaches we discussed above, you’ll need to “wrap up” your literature review and pull all the pieces together to set the direction for the rest of your dissertation or thesis.

The conclusion is where you’ll present the key findings of your literature review. In this section, you should emphasise the research that is especially important to your research questions and highlight the gaps that exist in the literature. Based on this, you need to make it clear what you will add to the literature – in other words, justify your own research by showing how it will help fill one or more of the gaps you just identified.

Last but not least, if it’s your intention to develop a conceptual framework for your dissertation or thesis, the conclusion section is a good place to present this.

In the conclusion section, you’ll need to present the key findings of your literature review and highlight the gaps that exist in the literature. Based on this, you'll  need to make it clear what your study will add  to the literature.

Example: Thematically Structured Review

In the video below, we unpack a literature review chapter so that you can see an example of a thematically structure review in practice.

Let’s Recap

In this article, we’ve  discussed how to structure your literature review for maximum impact. Here’s a quick recap of what  you need to keep in mind when deciding on your literature review structure:

  • Just like other chapters, your literature review needs a clear introduction , body and conclusion .
  • The introduction section should provide an overview of what you will discuss in your literature review.
  • The body section of your literature review can be organised by chronology , theme or methodology . The right structural approach depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your research.
  • The conclusion section should draw together the key findings of your literature review and link them to your research questions.

If you’re ready to get started, be sure to download our free literature review template to fast-track your chapter outline.

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Literature Review Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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Literature review 101 - how to find articles

26 Comments

Marin

Great work. This is exactly what I was looking for and helps a lot together with your previous post on literature review. One last thing is missing: a link to a great literature chapter of an journal article (maybe with comments of the different sections in this review chapter). Do you know any great literature review chapters?

ISHAYA JEREMIAH AYOCK

I agree with you Marin… A great piece

Qaiser

I agree with Marin. This would be quite helpful if you annotate a nicely structured literature from previously published research articles.

Maurice Kagwi

Awesome article for my research.

Ache Roland Ndifor

I thank you immensely for this wonderful guide

Malik Imtiaz Ahmad

It is indeed thought and supportive work for the futurist researcher and students

Franklin Zon

Very educative and good time to get guide. Thank you

Dozie

Great work, very insightful. Thank you.

KAWU ALHASSAN

Thanks for this wonderful presentation. My question is that do I put all the variables into a single conceptual framework or each hypothesis will have it own conceptual framework?

CYRUS ODUAH

Thank you very much, very helpful

Michael Sanya Oluyede

This is very educative and precise . Thank you very much for dropping this kind of write up .

Karla Buchanan

Pheeww, so damn helpful, thank you for this informative piece.

Enang Lazarus

I’m doing a research project topic ; stool analysis for parasitic worm (enteric) worm, how do I structure it, thanks.

Biswadeb Dasgupta

comprehensive explanation. Help us by pasting the URL of some good “literature review” for better understanding.

Vik

great piece. thanks for the awesome explanation. it is really worth sharing. I have a little question, if anyone can help me out, which of the options in the body of literature can be best fit if you are writing an architectural thesis that deals with design?

S Dlamini

I am doing a research on nanofluids how can l structure it?

PATRICK MACKARNESS

Beautifully clear.nThank you!

Lucid! Thankyou!

Abraham

Brilliant work, well understood, many thanks

Nour

I like how this was so clear with simple language 😊😊 thank you so much 😊 for these information 😊

Lindiey

Insightful. I was struggling to come up with a sensible literature review but this has been really helpful. Thank you!

NAGARAJU K

You have given thought-provoking information about the review of the literature.

Vakaloloma

Thank you. It has made my own research better and to impart your work to students I teach

Alphonse NSHIMIYIMANA

I learnt a lot from this teaching. It’s a great piece.

Resa

I am doing research on EFL teacher motivation for his/her job. How Can I structure it? Is there any detailed template, additional to this?

Gerald Gormanous

You are so cool! I do not think I’ve read through something like this before. So nice to find somebody with some genuine thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This site is one thing that is required on the internet, someone with a little originality!

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how do you write a literature review outline

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Write a Literature Review

1. narrow your topic and select papers accordingly, 2. search for literature, 3. read the selected articles thoroughly and evaluate them, 4. organize the selected papers by looking for patterns and by developing subtopics, 5. develop a thesis or purpose statement, 6. write the paper, 7. review your work.

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Consider your specific area of study. Think about what interests you and what interests other researchers in your field.

Talk to your professor, brainstorm, and read lecture notes and recent issues of periodicals in the field.

Limit your scope to a smaller topic area (ie. focusing on France's role in WWII instead of focusing on WWII in general).

  • Four Steps to Narrow Your Research Topic (Video) This 3-minute video provides instructions on how to narrow the focus of your research topic.
  • Developing a Research Question + Worksheet Use this worksheet to develop, assess, and refine your research questions. There is also a downloadable PDF version.

Define your source selection criteria (ie. articles published between a specific date range, focusing on a specific geographic region, or using a specific methodology).

Using keywords, search a library database.

Reference lists of recent articles and reviews can lead to other useful papers.

Include any studies contrary to your point of view.

Evaluate and synthesize the studies' findings and conclusions.

Note the following:

  • Assumptions some or most researchers seem to make
  • Methodologies, testing procedures, subjects, material tested researchers use
  • Experts in the field: names/labs that are frequently referenced
  • Conflicting theories, results, methodologies
  • Popularity of theories and how this has/has not changed over time
  • Findings that are common/contested
  • Important trends in the research
  • The most influential theories

Tip: If your literature review is extensive, find a large table surface, and on it place post-it notes or filing cards to organize all your findings into categories.

  • Move them around if you decide that (a) they fit better under different headings, or (b) you need to establish new topic headings.
  • Develop headings/subheadings that reflect the major themes and patterns you detected

Write a one or two sentence statement summarizing the conclusion you have reached about the major trends and developments you see in the research that has been conducted on your subject.

  • Templates for Writing Thesis Statements This template provides a two-step guide for writing thesis statements. There is also a downloadable PDF version.
  • 5 Types of Thesis Statements Learn about five different types of thesis statements to help you choose the best type for your research. There is also a downloadable PDF version.
  • 5 Questions to Strengthen Your Thesis Statement Follow these five steps to strengthen your thesis statements. There is also a downloadable PDF version.

Follow the organizational structure you developed above, including the headings and subheadings you constructed.

Make certain that each section links logically to the one before and after.

Structure your sections by themes or subtopics, not by individual theorists or researchers.

  • Tip: If you find that each paragraph begins with a researcher's name, it might indicate that, instead of evaluating and comparing the research literature from an analytical point of view, you have simply described what research has been done.

Prioritize analysis over description.

  • For example, look at the following two passages and note that Student A merely describes the literature, whereas Student B takes a more analytical and evaluative approach by comparing and contrasting. You can also see that this evaluative approach is well signaled by linguistic markers indicating logical connections (words such as "however," "moreover") and phrases such as "substantiates the claim that," which indicate supporting evidence and Student B's ability to synthesize knowledge.

Student A: Smith (2000) concludes that personal privacy in their living quarters is the most important factor in nursing home residents' perception of their autonomy. He suggests that the physical environment in the more public spaces of the building did not have much impact on their perceptions. Neither the layout of the building nor the activities available seem to make much difference. Jones and Johnstone make the claim that the need to control one's environment is a fundamental need of life (2001), and suggest that the approach of most institutions, which is to provide total care, may be as bad as no care at all. If people have no choices or think that they have none, they become depressed.

Student B: After studying residents and staff from two intermediate care facilities in Calgary, Alberta, Smith (2000) came to the conclusion that except for the amount of personal privacy available to residents, the physical environment of these institutions had minimal if any effect on their perceptions of control (autonomy). However, French (1998) and Haroon (2000) found that availability of private areas is not the only aspect of the physical environment that determines residents' autonomy. Haroon interviewed 115 residents from 32 different nursing homes known to have different levels of autonomy (2000). It was found that physical structures, such as standardized furniture, heating that could not be individually regulated, and no possession of a house key for residents limited their feelings of independence. Moreover, Hope (2002), who interviewed 225 residents from various nursing homes, substantiates the claim that characteristics of the institutional environment such as the extent of resources in the facility, as well as its location, are features which residents have indicated as being of great importance to their independence.

  • How to Integrate Critical Voice into Your Literature Review (Video)
  • Look at the topic sentences of each paragraph. If you were to read only these sentences, would you find that your paper presented a clear position, logically developed, from beginning to end? The topic sentences of each paragraph should indicate the main points of your literature review.
  • Make an outline of each section of the paper and decide whether you need to add information, to delete irrelevant information, or to re-structure sections.
  • Read your work out loud. That way you will be better able to identify where you need punctuation marks to signal pauses or divisions within sentences, where you have made grammatical errors, or where your sentences are unclear.
  • Since the purpose of a literature review is to demonstrate that the writer is familiar with the important professional literature on the chosen subject, check to make certain that you have covered all of the important, up-to-date, and pertinent texts. In the sciences and some of the social sciences it is important that your literature be quite recent; this is not so important in the humanities.
  • Make certain that all of the citations and references are correct and that you are referencing in the appropriate style for your discipline. If you are uncertain which style to use, ask your professor.
  • Check to make sure that you have not plagiarized either by failing to cite a source of information, or by using words quoted directly from a source. (Usually if you take three or more words directly from another source, you should put those words within quotation marks, and cite the page.)
  • Text should be written in a clear and concise academic style; it should not be descriptive in nature or use the language of everyday speech.
  • There should be no grammatical or spelling errors.
  • Sentences should flow smoothly and logically.
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How to Outline A Literature Review (Plus Examples You Can Use)

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by  Antony W

September 11, 2022

how to outline a literature review updated

In this guide, you'll learn exactly how to outline a literature review.

So if you are currently in the academic year in which you have to write a literature review for a research proposal, a dissertation, or a research paper, this guide is for you.

Key Takeaways

  • You can structure your literature review in Chicago, APA, or MLA format.
  • The outline of a literature review should include an introduction, a body, and a conclusion paragraph.
  • You can structure the body section of the literature review thematically, chronologically, thematically, or theoretically.

Literature Review Writing Help

Identifying a research issue, developing a research question, conducting research, structuring, and writing your literature review can be time consuming.

It gets even more challenging if you have to juggle between urgent assignments and your social life.

Our academic writing team is here to help you. Whether you haven’t started the project or you feel stuck in the introduction, you can  click here to get literature review writing help   and get the task completed fast.

The objective of a literature review is to give an overview of existing knowledge without adding your personal opinions or ideas.

It’s through a literature review that you identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the already existing research.

What is a Literature Review Outline? 

To  write a comprehensive literature review ,  you first have to create an outline, which you’ll use to present your studies in a way that shows what you’ve found by analyzing and summarizing the ideas and concepts of other authors.

An online for a literature review features an introduction, body, and conclusion. Start the review with a hook and then structure the body paragraphs thematically, theoretically, chronologically, or methodologically. The conclusion of your review show the strength and weaknesses gathered from the study.

In the following section, we’ll look at the main elements of a literature review’s outline and give you some tips you can use to make your outline stand out.

How Literature Review Compares With Other Assignments

Before we look at the elements of a comprehensive literature review outline, it might help to learn how literature review compares with other assignments. 

We've included links to our researched guides to help you with these. All you have to do is read them now or bookmark this page for future reading. 

  • Literature Review vs Research Paper
  • Literature Review vs Systematic Paper
  • Annotated Bibliography vs Literature Review

With that out of the way, let's look at the elements that make a good literature review outline. 

The Elements of a Literature Review Outline

understanding literature review outline

Introduction

Your literature review should start with a strong introduction to grab the attention of a reader form the get go.

A good introduction is the one that starts with a hook and then provide an overview of the question you wish to explore in your research.

Your description of the literature should be relevant to the topic and naturally present your interest in the research.

The body of the literature review should give a clear picture of the already existing knowledge on the research question you’re trying to explore.

Since you’re looking into already existing work, you shouldn’t have a hard time analyzing and interpreting information.

It’s best to have an easy time working on this section than struggling to put words together. So try to use subheadings and transition words to make your work easier.

To make the body section easier to write, consider structuring your work chronologically, methodically, theoretical, or thematically.

Theoretical Structure

Theoretical Structure

Credit: Science Direct

Given that a literature review is the core of a theoretical framework , you’re free to write about different theories and models. 

Even better, you can argue for a certain theoretical approach or give definitions of key concepts if your topic demands.

Chronological Structure

chronological-order-image

Credit: E-reading Worksheet

With the chronological structure , you write the literature review based on a sequence. In such a case, the focus is on the timeline, starting from the very beginning to the end.

You don’t necessarily have to list all the event in the order of their occurrence, as doing so may make your literature review unnecessarily longer.

Instead, look at themes and turning points and then focus only on those that are more significant.

Thematic Structure

Thematic Structure

In a thematic review structure, you have to find link between your  sources  and the literary text you wish to summarize. You’ll have to organize central issues into subsections and address each.

Keep in mind that your professor will be looking closely into the details you provide in the thematic structure.

So make sure you analyze each central issue in details. Doing so might take time, but the results will be worth it.

Methodological Structure

Methodological Structure

If you choose to write your literature review methodically, your focus will be on analyzing concepts by presenting methods based on their impact.

Also, you may need to focus on quantitative and qualitative nature, ethical nature, sociological, and cultural impact of your literature.

The concluding section of your literature review doesn’t have to be too long.

You’re wrapping up your work, so it’s best to summarize your most valuable points and then show the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the existing knowledge.

Depending on the research question you wish to explore, you may also give an emphasis on the significance of the literature review.

Format for a Literature Review

You can format your literature review in APA, MLA, and Chicago. Your instructor will indicate the citation style they want you to use.

In the case that they don’t suggest a format to use, feel free to use either APA, MLA, or Chicago – or consult them for further assistance.

MLA format research paper

The following is how to structure your literature review in the MLA format:

  • 1-inch page margins
  • You should double-space the whole text
  • Each new paragraph should have a half an inch indent
  • Use Times New Roman with 12-point font size
  • Doesn’t require a title page, but you’re may include one
  • There must be a running head in the top corner of each page

APA research paper format

The following are the rules for structuring your literature review paper in the APA format:

  • Double-space the whole text – unless stated otherwise
  • Page numbers should appear in the upper right corner of every page
  • For fonts, use Times New Roman with 12-point font size
  • There should be a header at the top of every page. It should be not more than 50 characters and in capital
  • Include a title page

Chicago Format

chicago paper format

Credit: Essay Pro

You should observe the following rules if your instructor ask you to use the Chicago style to write your literature review.

  • No spaces between paragraphs
  • Times New Roman or Courier font with font size between 10 and 12 points
  • Double-space for texts, except for references, figure captions, table titles notes, and block quotes
  • Page numbers must appear at the top right corner of every page
  • Include a cover page, which should show your full name, class details, and the date

Frequently Asked Questions

1. what is an outline in literature.

An outline in a literature is the formal structure used to present information to demonstrate a comprehensive and clear analysis of a research issue.

With an outline, you can organize your topic and subtopics in a logical order, from the declaration sentence , through the supporting evidence, all the way to the conclusion.

2. Is It Necessary to Outline the Structure of a Literature Review?

It’s necessary to outline the structure of a literature review so that you can have a logical flow of ideas from the introduction to the conclusion.

Notably, you’ll find the outline extremely useful when drawing your research from a variety of subjects or if you’re analyzing varying methodologies.

3. How Do You Structure a Literature Review Paragraph?

The best way to structure a literature review paragraph is to state the main idea in the beginning.

Following the topic sentence should be evidence relevant to the topic, analysis of the evidence clearly explained within the paragraph, and a conclusion written in your own words.

4. What Makes a Good Literature Review?

For your literature review to be comprehensive or good enough, you have to demonstrate clear synthesis and understanding of the topic under investigation.

Don’t hold back on going the extra mile to present a strong evidence of analytical creativity that connect between the literatures under review.  

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

Literature Review Outline: Examples, Approaches, & Templates

A literature review is an update on the status of current research related to the issue in question . Its purpose is to provide the reader with a guide to a particular research topic. And for the writer, a well-written literature review is the best way to show their competence in the field.

Our specialists will write a custom essay on any topic for 13.00 10.40/page

As with any other academic paper, the key to a successful literature review is its outline. Below you’ll find great tips for creating a perfect one. See where you can place your thesis statement in the introduction and when it’s time to reference sources. And you can examine an example of a literature review outline (APA format). Just keep reading this article prepared by Custom-writing experts!

  • 🔭 General Information
  • 📑 Main Approaches
  • 🗺️ Mapping the Concepts
  • ✍️ Writing Tips

🔗 References

🔭 literature review outline: general information.

Literature reviews are written mostly in sciences and social sciences, and sometimes in humanities. A literature review aims to discuss published information on the studies in a particular area. The most simple version of a literature review can be a mere summary of the sources. However, it usually features an organizational pattern and implies not only summary but also synthesis.

A literature review aims to provide a reader with a clear and understandable guide to a particular research topic. And for its writer, a solid review is an excellent opportunity to show them as an expert in a chosen field.

As MLA, Chicago, or APA style cover page generators help students with the very first part of any paper, the key to a successful literature review is a good outline . When planning a literature review, remember that no matter whether you’re dealing with a Chicago, MLA, or APA literature review outline, you’ll have to remember several important things.

📑 Literature Review Outline: Approaches to Structuring

A well-formed vision of the writing strategy before you start the main body paragraphs is half of the success. There are four approaches to arranging a literature review. Depending on the intended length of your paper, you can combine some or all of them. For instance, more than often, thematic and methodological strategies comprise a theoretical approach when it comes to details.

Literature Review Can Be Organized Chronologically, Theoretically, Methodologically, and Thematically.

Chronological Approach

Tracing the reviewed works in succession, starting with the earliest available materials, is the easiest way to examine the specific topic. Be careful not to list the works in chronological order with their summaries. The purpose of such a review is to find out the key patterns, central debates, and turning points of the prevailing opinion at specific periods.

Here is a sample to make the approach clear. If the first available source dates 1995, and the most recent one was written in 2017, divide your analysis into decades: 1995 – 2000, 2001 – 2010, and 2010 – present.

The chronological approach can perfectly combine with thematic or methodological ones. In such a case, the timescale is divided not by decades but by periods characterized by a predominant methodology or preferred theme.

Thematic Approach

This method is organized around a particular issue, rather than time progression. If you have found recurring themes in the course of your reading, it is an excellent idea to focus the review on them. As a rule, the thematic approach requires an in-depth study of the available scientific literature. It also looks more substantial and time-consuming than the chronological one.

Here, the sections dwell upon different issues or various aspects of one topic. For example, an overview of psychology literature on nonverbal communication can be divided into the following parts: facial expressions, postures, eye contact, gestures, touch, etc.

Receive a plagiarism-free paper tailored to your instructions.

Methodological Approach

Sometimes the results of findings are not as outstanding as the ways of obtaining those results. A review of research methods provides a profound scientific understanding of the subject field, notably the approaches to data collection, study, and systematization. It also provides an insight into how scientists went from isolated data to a concept, and from the concept to practical conclusions.

This form proves to be the most successful in the analysis of multidisciplinary works. You can list all the methods used and conclude on their efficiency. Alternatively, you can compare the qualitative and quantitative, empirical and theoretical, or any other incompatible methodology. The materials for analysis are the results obtained by such or another method.

Theoretical Approach

Very often, a literature review becomes the basis for a theoretical framework of a research paper. In this case, the theoretical approach is the most effective way to structure the report.

Wherever you can single out several theories on a single phenomenon, different models of a system, or diverging definitions of the same concept, the theoretical approach is the best choice. The purpose is to analyze the corpus of theory that has accumulated regarding an idea, opinion, or event. Usually, this form establishes the existing scientific knowledge gaps and finds out the outstanding research questions.

🗺️ Literature Review Outline: Mapping the Concepts

Wish to outline literature review papers correctly? First, try drawing a concept map for your outline! Create a graphic map with all the concepts and ideas you’ll want to include in the literature review outline. When you start writing, make sure that you’ve included everything you have on the map.

Just 13.00 10.40/page , and you can get an custom-written academic paper according to your instructions

Well, now you’re ready to write the most fantastic outline for a literature review ever! So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and try writing your own outline using the template below – success is just around the corner!

📰 Literature Review Outline: Template

Feel free to use the literature review outline template below! Note that the template is organized thematically.

I. ISSUE #1

A. Its features

1. Positive features

a) Feature #1

b) Feature #2

2. Negative features

B. Its significance

1. Positive effects

a) Effect #1

b) Effect #2

2. Negative effects

II. ISSUE #2…

Check the literature review samples by the University of West Florida to get a clear idea on how to write this type of paper.

And now, it’s time for you to see an example of an outline for literature review writing!

👌 Literature Review Outline: Example

When creating your own review, consider the following literature review example:

Literature Review Outline: Postmodern Literature

  • Introduction: postmodern literature
  • Definition of the phenomenon
  • The development of postmodern literature
  • Research studies on postmodern themes
  • Research studies on postmodern techniques
  • Research studies on postmodern perspectives
  • Conclusion: promising ideas for research on postmodern literature

With this literature review outline example, you’ll surely handle even the most complicated literature review structure!

✍️ Literature Review Outline: Writing Tips

When you start writing a literature review, you should keep the following issues in mind:

  • Use evidence to support your interpretation of available sources.
  • Be selective. Limit your literature review to sources relevant to the topic of your research. You should select only the most important points in each source.
  • Compare and contrast the views of different authors. Organize the material for your reader to show trends in the literature.
  • Use quotes sparingly. Apply them only when you want to emphasize the author’s point and cannot rewrite it in your own words. Always focus on giving your own summary and interpretation of the literature, showing your original thinking and analysis.
  • Paraphrase in your own words to explain authors’ ideas . Give references to other sources when you are writing, but start and end the paragraphs with your own ideas.
  • Summarize and synthesize your literature review sources. Identify the main points in a concise manner for your readers. Evaluate your sources , consider their strengths and weaknesses, compare and contrast the results of the studies, and discuss the strength of the evidence.
  • Look for gaps in the existing research. Think about what aspects of your literature review topic have not yet been explored.
  • Be creative!
  • Draft and redraft. Improve the quality of your literature review by editing and proofreading.

Literature Review Essay Topics

  • Literature review: aspects of nursing in the emergency department. 
  • Review the literature that analyzes the specifics of evidence-based nursing practice . 
  • Write a literature review on the role of hepcidin in the human body.  
  • Analysis of challenges faced by small and medium businesses in South Africa: a literature review.  
  • Explore the literature that examines the interdependence between evidence and practice in healthcare .  
  • Review the studies examining how peritoneal dialysis influences patients’ mortality rate.  
  • Analyze the articles studying the connection between obesity and depression. 
  • Literature review the use of ecology in art .  
  • Discuss the academic literature examining the algorithms of speaking recognition techniques.   
  • Study the articles on the importance of environmental biology for preserving nature.  
  • Write a literature review on the role of digital signatures and cryptography.   
  • Examine whether the recent studies prove the connection between peritoneal dialysis and mortality rate.   
  • Literature analysis on a qualitative study in healthcare. 
  • Explore the scientific literature researching how to adjust and regulate the effect of autism spectrum disorder .  
  • Analyze the articles on the causes of chronic fatigue .  
  • Review the academic literature discussing the effect of the token economy on the behavior of students with autism .   
  • The causes and effects of pressure ulcers .   
  • Literature review on the link between COVID-19 infection and eye diseases . 
  • Literature review on third culture kids . 
  • Study the articles reviewing the efficacy of contemporary pressure ulcer prevention methods. 
  • Discuss the recent scholarly studies examining the correlation between nursing ratios and cases of hospital-acquired infections.   
  • Write the literature review on the benefits and side effects of corticosteroids used for asthma treatment .  
  • Examine the pertinent scholarly articles researching the aspects of irritable bowel syndrome diagnostics.  
  • Analyze the academic literature on chronic pain management.  
  • Provide the synthesis of recent scholarly studies focused on ventilator-associated pneumonia .  
  • Review the literature on cholecystitis symptoms and treatment.  
  • Importance and specifics of evidence-based nursing implementation.  
  • Explore the recent studies on anemia of chronic diseases .  
  • Discuss the academic articles analyzing postoperative readmission rates . 
  • Literature review on the breakthroughs in treating Alzheimer’s disease . 
  • Examine the relevant literature on the benefits of Electronic Health Record systems.  
  • Analyze the role of pressure ulcer protocols in reducing the rates of hospital-acquired pressure ulcer cases.  
  • Write a literature review on the effectiveness of the most popular ways of patient fall prevention .  
  • Review the relevant scholarly articles discussing the role of interprofessional collaboration in healthcare.  
  • Examine the recent academic literature on childhood obesity issues.  
  • Review the literature on the Capstone’s PICOT question .  
  • Literature review of articles on cyber security of young children .  
  • Discuss the latest studies examining the connection between American football and the drop in public health rates.   
  • Explore the relevant scholarly articles studying the challenges of single African American parents . 
  • Can the implementation of special physical exercises improve the balance and stability of elderly patients? 
  • Effects of traumatic brain injury: a literature review . 
  • Analyze the academic literature discussing the course and outcomes of operation Jawbreaker .  
  • Write a literature review on the emergency room wait time and healthcare quality.  
  • Review the academic articles that examine the causes of substance abuse and the efficacy of modern treatment methods.  
  • Examine the recent scholarly studies researching the homelessness issue .  
  • Discuss the academic literature analyzing the concept of biodiversity .  
  • Research the archeological articles studying the ancient Roman roads .  
  • Analyze the literature examining the benefits and drawbacks of flipped classroom approach .  
  • Literature review on prevention of breast cancer . 
  • Review the scholarly articles studying the impact of the ZIP code on human health.  

Writing a good literature review is not an easy task. It requires quite a lot of reading and researching. Check our 45 great tips on how to format and structure the literature review for more advice.

If you still have any problems in writing your literature review outline, ask for professional writing help online.

✏️ Literature Review FAQ

The way such paper should look like is best presented in the form of an outline . A simplified form would include an introduction, 3+ paragraphs (preferably with 2+ subparagraphs in each) as a review body, and a conclusion.

You should write about your interpretation of the literary piece. Include your understanding of the author’s message and the way he puts that idea across (scenes, characters, allusions, etc.). For a research paper, however, include more precise details than personal impressions.

Outlines for a paper should list concise notes about the structure of the text and its content (usually in the format of bullet points). Remember that an outline is not a research proposal or dissertation, so do not write about the goals, objectives, methods, etc.

Do you have a list of ideas you want to describe in the paper already? If so, just make those notes structured in logical consequence and format them as bullet points highlighting the gist of each part.

  • Literature Review Outline
  • Literature Review Outline: What You Need to Get Started
  • Writing a Literature Review
  • Literature Reviews
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please I was asked to write a 3000-word essay Evaluating Approaches to Literature Searching and Literature Review in Educational Research. And I don’t know how write or go about it. Can someone please help me with an outline in writing this. please someone should help

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Hello! Our experts will help you with any task!

HI, how long would you suggest an undergraduate’s final year research paper should be? ( minimum in pages for both quanti and quali researches) and is 15 pages of literature review( double spacing okay?

It would probably be between 10 and 20 pages. But it all comes down to the specific topic and instructions given. Fifteen pages for a literature review sounds good, if it’s an independent type of assignment. However, if it’s part of the undergraduate’s final year research paper mentioned above, then fifteen pages is probably too much. But, again, it all depends on the instructions, topic, etc.

thankyouuuu!!!!!!! best one so far

We are glad to hear your opinion! Thank you, Sadia🙂!

useful blog keep going

Thank you, Soran! Glad you found the blog useful 🙂

Very well explained!

Thank you, Rimpy!

Really appreciate the great information guide on writing. It’s outstanding and brilliant how the outline process is explained herewith. Thanks.

Thank you for your kind words, Dominic! Glad the article was useful for you.

Thank you so much. This was so helpful, especially with your examples of an outline.

I’m glad the article was helpful for you, Jane!

I am working on a literary review on a couple of articles having to do with college football players getting paid. I have started my intro with info about the college athletic industry and how it is controversial, but how do I introduce/transition into the articles and the actually literary review?

Try to go with the facts, and stick with them. It would work kind of well, Janeth.

Thanks for stopping by. Try to write about features, positive and negative ones.

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Writing a literature review might be easier than you think. You should understand its basic rules, and that’s it! This article is just about that.

Why is the literature review important? What are its types? We will uncover these and other possible questions.

Whether you are an experienced researcher or a student, this article will come in handy. Keep reading!

What Is a Literature Review?

  • Step-by-Step Strategy

Let’s start with the literature review definition.

Literature review outlooks the existing sources on a given topic. Its primary goal is to provide an overall picture of the study object. It clears up the context and showcases the analysis of the paper’s theoretical methodology.

In case you want to see the examples of this type of work, check out our collection of free student essays .

Importance of Literature Review

In most cases, you need to write a literature review as a part of an academic project. Those can be dissertations , theses, or research papers.

Why is it important?

Imagine your final research as a 100% bar. Let’s recall Pareto law: 20% of efforts make 80% of the result. In our case, 20% is preparing a literature review. Writing itself is less important than an in-depth analysis of current literature. Do you want to avoid possible frustration in academic writing? Make a confident start with a literature review.

Sure, it’s impossible to find a topic that hasn’t been discussed or cited. That is why we cannot but use the works of other authors. You don’t have to agree with them. Discuss, criticize, analyze, and debate.

So, the purpose of the literature review is to give the knowledge foundation for the topic and establish its understanding. Abstracting from personal opinions and judgments is a crucial attribute.

Types of Literature Review.

Types of Literature Review

You can reach the purpose we have discussed above in several ways, which means there are several types of literature review.

What sets them apart?

In short, it’s their research methods and structure. Let’s break down each type:

  • Meta-analysis implies the deductive approach. At first, you gather several related research papers. Then, you carry out its statistical analysis. As a result, you answer a formulated question.
  • Meta-synthesis goes along with the inductive approach. It bases qualitative data assessment.
  • Theoretical literature review implies gathering theories. Those theories apply to studied ideas or concepts. Links between theories become more explicit and clear. Why is it useful? It confirms that the theoretical framework is valid. On top of that, it assists in new hypothesis-making.
  • Argumentative literature review starts with a problem statement. Then, you select and study the topic-related literature to confirm or deny the stated question. There is one sufficient problem in this type, by the way. The author may write the text with a grain of bias.
  • Narrative literature review focuses on literature mismatches. It indicates possible gaps and concludes the body of literature. The primary step here is stating a focused research question. Another name for this type — a traditional literature review.
  • Integrative literature review drives scientific novelty. It generates new statements around the existing research. The primary tool for that is secondary data . The thing you need is to review and criticize it. When is the best option to write an integrative literature review? It’s when you lack primary data analysis.

Remember: before writing a literature review, specify its type . Another step you should take is to argue your choice. Make sure it fits the research framework. It will save your time as you won’t need to figure out fitting strategies and methods.

Annotated Bibliography vs. Literature Review

Some would ask: isn’t what you are writing about is just an annotated bibliography ? Sure, both annotated bibliography and literature review list the research topic-related sources. But no more than that. Such contextual attributes as goal, structure, and components differ a lot.

For a more visual illustration of its difference, we made a table:

To sum up: an annotated bibliography is more referral. It does not require reading all the sources in the list. On the contrary, you won’t reach the literature review purpose without examining all the sources cited.

Literature Review: Step-by-Step Strategy.

Literature Review: Step-by-Step Strategy

Now it’s time for a step-by-step guide. We are getting closer to a perfect literature review!

✔️ Step 1. Select the Topic

Selecting a topic requires looking from two perspectives. They are the following:

  • Stand-alone paper . Choose an engaging topic and state a central problem. Then, investigate the trusted literature sources in scholarly databases.
  • Part of a dissertation or thesis . In this case, you should dig around the thesis topic, research objectives, and purpose.

Regardless of the situation, you should not just list several literature items. On the contrary, build a decent logical connection and analysis. Only that way, you’ll answer the research question .

✔️ Step 2. Identify the Review Scope

One more essential thing to do is to define the research boundaries: don’t make them too broad or too narrow.

Push back on the chosen topic and define the number and level of comprehensiveness of your paper. Define the historical period as well. After that, select a pool of credible sources for further synthesis and analysis.

✔️ Step 3. Work with Sources

Investigate each chosen source. Note each important insight you come across. Learn how to cite a literature review to avoid plagiarism.

✔️ Step 4. Write a Literature Review Outline

No matter what the writing purpose is: research, informative, promotional, etc. The power of your future text is in the proper planning. If you start with a well-defined structure, there’s a much higher chance that you’ll reach exceptional results.

✔️ Step 5. Review the Literature

Once you’ve outlined your literature review, you’re ready for a writing part. While writing, try to be selective, thinking critically, and don’t forget to stay to the point. In the end, make a compelling literature review conclusion.

On top of the above five steps, explore some other working tips to make your literature review as informative as possible.

The purpose of literature review.

Literature Review Outline

We’ve already discussed the importance of a literature review outline. Now, it’s time to understand how to create it.

An outline for literature review has a bit different structure comparing with other types of paper works. It includes:

  • Selected topic
  • Research question
  • Related research question trends and prospects
  • Research methods
  • Expected research results
  • Overview of literature core areas
  • Research problem consideration through the prism of this piece of literature
  • Methods, controversial points, gaps
  • Cumulative list of arguments around the research question
  • Links to existing literature and a place of your paper in the existing system of knowledge.

It can be a plus if you clarify the applicability of your literature review in further research.

Once you outline your literature review, you can slightly shorten your writing path. Let’s move on to actual samples of literature review.

Literature Review Examples

How does a well-prepared literature review look like? Check these three StudyCorgi samples to understand. Follow the table:

Take your time and read literature review examples to solidify knowledge and sharpen your skills. You’ll get a more definite picture of the literature review length, methods, and topics.

Do you still have any questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us! Our writing experts are ready to help you with your paper on time.

❓ What Is the Purpose of a Literature Review?

Literature review solves several problems at once. Its purpose is to identify and gather the top insights, gaps, and answers to research questions. Those help to get a general idea of the degree of topic exploration. As a result, it forms a basis for further research. Or vice versa: it reveals a lack of need for additional studies.

❓ How Do You Structure a Literature Review?

Like any other academic paper, a literature review consists of three parts: introduction, main body, and the conclusion. Each of them needs full disclosure and logical interconnection

The introduction contains the topic overview, its problematics, research methods, and other general attributes of academic papers.

The body reveals how each of the selected literature sources answers the formulated questions from the introduction.

The conclusion summarizes the key findings from the body, connects the research to existing studies, and outlines the need for further investigation.

To ensure the success of your analysis, you should equally uphold all of these parts.

❓ What Must a Literature Review Include?

A basic literature review includes the introduction with the research topic definition, its arguments, and problems. Then, it has a synthesis of the picked pieces of literature. It may describe the possible gaps and contradictions in existing research. The practical relevance and contribution to new studies are also welcome.

❓ What Are the 5 C's of Writing a Literature Review?

Don’t forget about these five C’s to make things easier in writing a literature review:

Cite. Make a list of references for research you’ve used and apply proper citation rules. Use Google Scholar for this.

Compare. Make a comparison of such literature attributes as theories, insights, trends, arguments, etc. It’s better to use tables or diagrams to make your content visual.

Contrast. Use listings to categorize particular approaches, themes, and so on.

Critique. Critical thinking is a must in any scientific research. Don’t take individual formulations as truth. Explore controversial points of view.

Connect. Find a place of your research between existing studies. Propose new possible areas to dig further.

❓ How Long Should a Literature Review Be?

In most cases, professors or educational establishment guidelines determine the length of a literature review. Study them and stick to their requirements, so you don’t get it wrong.

If there are no specific rules, make sure it is no more than 30% of the whole research paper.

If your literature review is not a part of the thesis and goes as a stand-alone paper — be concise but explore the research area in-depth.

  • Literature Reviews – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • What is a literature review? – The Royal Literary Fund
  • Literature Review: Purpose of a Literature Review – University of South Carolina
  • The Literature Review: A Few Tips On Conducting It – University of Toronto
  • Steps for Conducting a Lit Review – Florida A&M University Libraries
  • Types of Literature Review – Business Research Methodology
  • How to Conduct a Literature Review: Types of Literature Reviews – University Libraries
  • Annotated bibliography VS. Literature Review – UNT Dallas Learning Commons
  • Literature Review: Conducting & Writing – University of West Florida
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Literature Review: Outline and Example 

Published by Boni on November 3, 2022 November 3, 2022

Literature Review Outline

Literature Review Definition

When writing an essay for academic purposes, you may have to enumerate, evaluate, illustrate and clarify your findings. A research paper has a theoretical base to determine its nature. A background check helps your readers understand the reason your research was necessary in the first place. In short, you create a rationale that shows why it is so important to conduct the study.

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So, what exactly is a literature review? A literature review is a comprehensive summary of the research procedure and findings on a topic. The summary conveys a landscape to inform readers that the author appreciates previous research findings on the topic at hand.

In short, the literature review provides an overview of the significant writings and sources of information about a given topic. Such sources may include websites, books, scholarly journal articles, and reports from authoritative institutions. Sometimes, the review can be embedded in a longer research paper, while it can stand alone in other cases.

At Gudwriter we understand that writing a literature review for your research paper can be a daunting task to most students. We intend to make your life easier by tutoring you through your research project. Contact our best research paper writer online , and guarantee yourself an A+ grade today!

Why is a Literature Review Important?

The literature review justifies the research as an overview of the research topic. The review summarizes the sources without which writing the research paper would be impossible. And it proves to the readers that the research is worth their time.

Other purposes of a literature review include:

  • Place the research in the proper context
  • Justification of the research
  • Acknowledge previous research findings, theories, hypotheses, and points of view on the topic.
  • Sort out the objective scientific truth from the heresies and misconceptions
  • Highlight mistakes in previous research and scholarly works
  • Fit in the research into existing knowledge
  • Contribute to the furthering of knowledge in a given topic

Types of Literature Review

Literature reviews take several forms. Your choice of a literature review outline depends on its suitability to your research approach. The main types of literature reviews include:

1. Narrative literature review

The narrative type is the traditional literature review that critiques previous sources and summarizes the research paper. The narrative provides an overview of the topic and concludes. Further, it highlights the inconsistencies of the last research papers to give a conclusive verdict.

2. Scoping literature review

Scoping means finding the extent of existing research on a given topic. Scholars see this literature as helpful in examining new evidence and posing more questions on existing evidence. 

Plus, scoping reviews are essential when addressing detailed systematic research. It’s different from a systematic literature review because the former is based on general research questions while the latter deals with specific questions.

3. Systematic literature review

A well-defined review provides a detailed overview of the data and timeframes for the research. Systematic literature review outlines are found in two categories: the meta-synthesis and the meta-analysis.

Meta-synthesis evaluates and interprets the findings of non-statistical qualitative research. It’s ideal for inductive research methods.

Then, the meta-analysis examines the quantitative and statistical techniques. Conclusions are drawn from statistical patterns and relationships. This type of literature review is standard for deductive research approaches.

4. Integrative

Integrative literature reviews synthesize and critique the available secondary data about a research topic to enable the generation of new perspectives. The option is ideal for researchers and authors not using primary data.

5. Argumentative literature review

This review examines different types of literature to refute or support a claim. The author then takes philosophical approaches based on assumptions to establish their point of view. However, the argumentative literature review is weak because it is associated with biased claims.

6. Theoretical literature review

This type focuses on the pools of theories that accumulate around a topic. It establishes the existing theories and relations between them. Then, the outline includes an account of the development and testing of these hypotheses.

What are the Elements of the Literature Review Outline

A literature review outline is the standard structure of an essay. The outline includes an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion. However, each part of the review can be broader depending on the scope or type of research paper you are writing.

The main elements of a literature review outline include the following:

  • Introduction : The introduction gives the reader a quick view of the research paper. Also, it provides a little background information, central themes, or the general organization of the research.
  • Body : The body section discusses and examines the data and knowledge sources used in the research. An author organizes the sources thematically, chronologically, or methodologically depending on the structuring approach they take.
  • Conclusion : The author ends the review by drawing a solid conclusion from the findings. Then, they give recommendations and open up a scholarly discussion.

Steps to Outline a Literature Review

  • Find an exciting research topic
  • Research widely from multiple certified sources
  • Create a logical structure for your paper. Choose a structural approach that fits a proper presentation of facts
  • Edit your work thoroughly to remove any errors and common mistakes
  • Format the literature review into the appropriate style, with proper citation and bibliography

Approaches to Structuring a Literature Review Outline

The body of a literature review can be disorganized unless you design it correctly. If you want to make it easier and orderly, you can work it out methodically, theoretically, thematically, or chronologically.

  • Chronological Approach : Highlights the sequence of relevant events and knowledge from the earliest to the latest. 
  • Thematic Approach: Links sources to the research paper by their topics and subsections. In short, this approach organizes the sources depending on how closely related they are.
  • Methodological Approach: Analyzes the methods of research based on their ethical, cultural, qualitative, or quantitative nature.
  • Theoretical Approach : Gives you the freedom to write about various models and theories. Literature review forms the basis of any theoretical framework. So, you can comment on different theories and define the concepts demanded by the topic. 

Literature Review Outline Example

 Get inspiration from our sample literature review outline to write up a solid paper:

Sample Literature Review Outline:

Title: Research in Classical Literature

Introduction

  • Definition of Classical Literature
  • Chronological Trends in the development of classical literature
  • Seminal research studies in classical literature
  • Research on Classical Characters
  • Research on the styles of classical literature
  • Research on the themes of classical literature
  • The future of research in classical literature

Literature Review Outline: Writing Tips

  • Choose authoritative sources of information
  • Only use updated and fact-checked data
  • Solve the gaps in your paper
  • Be a little more creative
  • Edit your work thoroughly

How to Write a Good Literature Review

A few necessary details go into writing a killer literature review. The approach applies to the stand-alone literature review paper and the one embedded within a large project. Here are things to remember if you want to write a literature review that draws your professor’s attention.

  • Know the topic well
  • Immerse into in-depth research
  • Prioritize the most important sources
  • Examine all the gaps, ideas, and relationships of related topical arguments by different scholars
  • Write a plausible outline
  • Write clearly and comprehensively
  • Remember to proofread your work

A literature review can make or break your research paper. Whether writing a solo review or incorporating it into an extensive research project, you must give a proper outline. The literature review outline is the architecture that guides you in examining sources of knowledge.

Here is a sample of a poverty research paper that features an outline, 1200+ words, APA in-text citations and a list of credible references that is worth exploring.

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Learn How to Use ChatGPT to Write a Scientific Research Paper

Table of Contents

Are you a student struggling to write your scientific research paper? If yes, then don’t worry. Especially, to make your academic writing process easier, there are several free AI writing tools available on the market. One such free popular writing tool is ChatGPT with which you can effectively come up with an excellent scientific research paper. In case, you have no idea how to use ChatGPT to write a scientific research paper, continue reading this blog post. Here, we have shared the simple and effective steps to write a scientific research paper using ChatGPT. Simply by following the ways suggested here, you can craft an outstanding scientific research paper deserving of an A+ grade.

Before we move on to the ways to write a scientific research paper using ChatGPT, first, let us see a brief overview of the scientific research paper and ChatGPT.

What is a Scientific Research Paper?

A Scientific research paper is a detailed academic document that is prepared to summarize the findings of extensive research conducted on any science topic. Especially, through scientific research papers, one can communicate important scientific findings and discoveries to the large academic and research community.

This academic paper is being written to distinguish its dependence on objective, empirical analysis, and evidence-based data. Moreover, its ultimate aim is to analyze certain research questions and prove the relevant thesis statement with valid supporting evidence and proper citations.

When it comes to writing a scientific research paper, it is necessary to organize all the ideas clearly. So, a well-structured scientific research paper can be crafted by including essential sections such as an abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. Remember, the composed scientific research paper should neatly present the analysis, results, and evidence to the readers.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence language model developed by OpenAI. It will help to generate text, videos, and images based on the input or prompts provided by the user. This is one of the effective writing tools in which the users to have a human-like conversation with a Chatbot. Especially, professionals from different sectors can earn a lot of benefits by using ChatGPT for various tasks. Moreover, with the help of ChatGPT, students can also create excellent scientific research papers, theses, dissertations, essays, reports, and other academic documents.

Steps for Writing a Scientific Research Paper

how to use ChatGPT to write a scientific research paper

Before we look at how to use ChatGPT to write a scientific research paper, it is important to understand the fundamental steps for writing a scientific research paper.

In case, you are asked to submit a scientific research paper, then this is what you should do.

  • Select a topic: Firstly, analyze and find a good scientific research paper topic matching your area of interest. Also, remember the topic you have chosen should be original, specific, significant, feasible, and adhere to ethical standards.
  • Conduct Research: Secondly, conduct in-depth research on the selected topic and gather the important details, facts, and evidence from relevant and credible materials to prove your thesis statement.
  • Create an Outline: Thirdly, organize all the gathered ideas and sketch a well-structured scientific research paper outline as per the standard format by including the major components.
  • Compose the scientific research paper: Next, elaborate on the outline and draft a detailed scientific research paper in accordance with your university guidelines.
  • Proofread the paper: Lastly, after you complete writing your scientific research paper, double-check the content. Then, rectify if there are any grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors in the paper. Note that, the final draft of the academic paper that is ready for submission should be non-plagiarized, and error-free.

Also Read : ChatGPT: Opportunities and Challenges For Education

Standard Format of a Scientific Research Paper Outline

Composing a well-structured scientific research paper always begins with creating a neat outline. So, first, as per the standard format, you need to sketch an excellent scientific research paper outline by including the key sections listed below.

  • Title: Begin with a clear and informative title related to the subject of your study.
  • Abstract: In a single paragraph, summarize your paper’s aims, methodology, findings, and conclusions.
  • Introduction: State the relevance of the study topic and explain your research question or hypothesis.
  • Literature Review: Discuss important earlier research and its relevance to your project.
  • Methodology: Explain your research methodology, data collection methods, and data analysis approaches.
  • Results: Use tables, graphs, or written explanations to present your findings.
  • Discussion: Interpret your findings, explain their consequences, and address any shortcomings.
  • Conclusion: Summarize your significant results and their larger implications.
  • References: Use a specific citation style (e.g., APA, MLA) to cite all sources used in your article.
  • Appendices: Add any additional materials that are required.

Till now, we have seen the basic steps for writing a scientific research paper and the standard format of a scientific research paper outline. In the next section, let us see how to use ChatGPT to write a scientific research paper effectively.

Learn How to Use ChatGPT to write a Scientific Research Paper

Are you unsure how to write a scientific research paper using ChatGPT? If yes, then just follow the simple and effective ways that are recommended below.

Generate Ideas

ChatGPT will help you begin your scientific research paper by creating interesting ideas and suggesting relevant topics. If you provide a brief description of your research topic to ChatGPT, it will recommend research questions. Additionally, it will also suggest hypotheses or research directions.

Create Literature Review

It is important to conduct a literature review before you start crafting a scientific research paper. You can ask ChatGPT to summarize existing research and highlight important references or primary sources.

Formulate Research Question

The core of a research paper is formulating a clear and succinct research question or a topic. You can use ChatGPT to refine your research question so that it is specific, relevant, and connected to your goals.

Identify the Methodology

You can get guidance from ChatGPT for selecting the best experimental design and research methodologies for your study. Usually, ChatGPT will explain several approaches and will then help you decide which methodology is appropriate for your study.

Analyze Data

Ask ChatGPT for assistance with statistical analysis and data interpretation. Remember, for data analysis, all you need to give ChatGPT is the relevant data that you have collected for your research. Based on the data you have provided, ChatGPT will perform data analysis, interpret results, and create charts or graphs.

Compose the Introduction

The introduction is the key component of a scientific research paper. With the help of ChatGPT, you can create an interesting opening that gives background information, establishes context, and defines the aims of your research.

Also Read : What Is AGI Artificial Intelligence?

Craft the Methodology Section

Work together with ChatGPT to compose the methodology section of your scientific research paper. The tool is capable of providing extensive explanations of data collection methods, experimental procedures, and statistical approaches.

Present Results and Discussion

ChatGPT can help you organize your findings and discussion areas. Also, it can assist you with explaining the relevance of your results, connecting them to your research topic, and suggesting potential interpretations.

Add Citations

For a scientific research paper, proper citation and referencing is a must. By using ChatGPT, you can format your citations and generate a list of references as per different citation styles such as APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.

Proofread and Edit

ChatGPT can help you proofread and modify your research paper once you’ve finished it. Also, it can detect and rectify grammatical errors, enhance sentence structure, and improve the overall readability of your paper.

Sample ChatGPT prompts for Writing a Scientific Research Paper

Basically, ChatGPT is simple and easy to use. If you enter a prompt in ChatGPT, it will give you relevant results. In case, you are confused about what prompt to give in ChatGPT for writing your scientific paper, take a look below. Here, we have suggested some sample ChatGPT prompts for scientific research paper writing.

  • I have to write a research paper on ‘Globalization of Fashion’. It must be ten pages long with five different original sources cited. Can you help me think of a certain topic?
  • Could you give me an outline for a ten-page long research paper that must include five original sources on the topic “The role of fashion in shaping cultural identities”?
  • Can you give me sources for a ten-page long paper on this topic, “The role of fashion in shaping cultural identities”?

Similarly, by using valid prompts you can compose an outstanding scientific research paper using the ChatGPT.

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Wrapping Up

We hope you are now aware of how to use ChatGPT to write a scientific research paper. But use the tool only as an assistant for your writing process rather than relying entirely on it for writing a scientific research paper. In case, you still have doubts about using ChatGPT for preparing your scientific research paper, without any hesitation contact us quickly. We have experienced and well-qualified assignment helper and research paper writers from different educational backgrounds to offer high-quality scientific research paper help online. Particularly, as per your needs, our scholarly writers will compose and deliver a plagiarism-free scientific research paper on time and will help you achieve top grades.

Just book your order on our website and enjoy the extraordinary benefits offered by our scientific research paper writing help service.

how to use ChatGPT to write a scientific research paper

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  1. Writing a Literature Review

    Conducting Research 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 ).

  2. Literature Review Outline [Template]

    The key elements of the outline for the literature review are: Introduction The introduction should include a brief summary of the literature that is being reviewed, including the general topic and your specific focus. You should also provide some background information on the topic to help the reader understand why it is important.

  3. How to Write a Literature Review

    There are five key steps to writing a literature review: Search for relevant literature Evaluate sources Identify themes, debates, and gaps Outline the structure Write your literature review

  4. How to Write a Literature Review: Six Steps to Get You from ...

    Step One: Decide on your areas of research: Before you begin to search for articles or books, decide beforehand what areas you are going to research. Make sure that you only get articles and books in those areas, even if you come across fascinating books in other areas. A literature review I am currently working on, for example, explores ...

  5. Comprehensive Literature Review: A Guide

    A literature review is a collection of selected articles, books and other sources about a specific subject. The purpose is to summarize the existing research that has been done on the subject in order to put your research in context and to highlight what your research will add to the existing body of knowledge.

  6. PDF How to Write a Literature Review

    1 of 7 How to Write a Literature Review Literature reviews are a vital part of a research project or paper, and they are particularly important during graduate school. This handout will focus on defining what a literature review is, how to organize and synthesize information, and what the different parts of a literature review are.

  7. Steps in Conducting a Literature Review

    1. Choose a topic. Define your research question. Your literature review should be guided by your central research question. the literature represents background and research developments related to a specific research question, interpreted and analyzed by you in a synthesized way. Tips:

  8. How to Write a Stellar Literature Review

    Updated on June 2, 2022 Students When you're conducting academic research, a literature review is a survey of the scholarly sources you've consulted in your research. Typically, literature reviews are only necessary when you're doing a significant academic project, such as a dissertation, research paper, or a thesis.

  9. Creating a Literature Review

    A literature review requires the writer to perform extensive research on published work in one's field in order to explain how one's own work fits into the larger conversation regarding a particular topic. This task requires the writer to spend time reading, managing, and conveying information; the complexity of literature reviews can make ...

  10. Learn how to write a review of literature

    A review is a required part of grant and research proposals and often a chapter in theses and dissertations. Generally, the purpose of a review is to analyze critically a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles.

  11. How to write a superb literature review

    The best proposals are timely and clearly explain why readers should pay attention to the proposed topic. It is not enough for a review to be a summary of the latest growth in the literature: the ...

  12. Writing a Literature Review

    1. Identify and define the topic that you will be reviewing. 2. Conduct a literature search.

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

    Step 1: Find the relevant literature Naturally, the first step in the literature review journey is to hunt down the existing research that's relevant to your topic. While you probably already have a decent base of this from your research proposal, you need to expand on this substantially in the dissertation or thesis itself.

  14. Literature Reviews

    A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period. A literature review can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis.

  15. Literature Review: Conducting & Writing

    Literature Review: Conducting & Writing; Sample Literature Reviews; Search this Guide Search. Literature Review: Conducting & Writing. This guide will provide research and writing tips to help students complete a literature review assignment. ... Have you written a stellar literature review you care to share for teaching purposes?

  16. How To Structure A Literature Review (Free Template)

    Your introduction should also outline your topic (including any tricky terminology or jargon) and provide an explanation of the scope of your literature review - in other words, what you will and won't be covering (the delimitations ). This helps ringfence your review and achieve a clear focus.

  17. Write a Literature Review

    Seven Steps to Writing a Literature Review. 1. Narrow your topic and select papers accordingly; 2. Search for literature; 3. Read the selected articles thoroughly and evaluate them ... The topic sentences of each paragraph should indicate the main points of your literature review. Make an outline of each section of the paper and decide whether ...

  18. PDF Literature Review Outline

    Literature Review Outline Sample I. Introduction a. Describe the topic that you have been investigating, why it is important to the field b. Give a "big picture" of the literature. c. Present a thesis or argument statement - why is it important to explore this topic? II. Theme A1 a. b.

  19. How to Outline A Literature Review (Plus Examples You Can Use)

    The outline of a literature review should include an introduction, a body, and a conclusion paragraph. You can structure the body section of the literature review thematically, chronologically, thematically, or theoretically. Literature Review Writing Help

  20. Literature Review Outline: Examples, Approaches, & Templates

    📰 Template 👌 Example ️ Writing Tips ️ FAQ 🔗 References 🔭 Literature Review Outline: General Information Literature reviews are written mostly in sciences and social sciences, and sometimes in humanities. A literature review aims to discuss published information on the studies in a particular area.

  21. Literature Review

    Also known as 'narrative literature review'. " Key takeaways from the Psi Chi webinar So You Need to Write a Literature Review via APA Style.org. Examples of Literature Reviews Financial socialization: A decade in review (2021) The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the development of anxiety disorders - a literature review (2021) ...

  22. Literature Review: Outline, Strategies, and Examples [2023]

    Step-by-Step Strategy Outline Examples FAQ What Is a Literature Review? Let's start with the literature review definition. Literature review outlooks the existing sources on a given topic. Its primary goal is to provide an overall picture of the study object.

  23. Literature Review Outline

    1. Narrative literature review The narrative type is the traditional literature review that critiques previous sources and summarizes the research paper. The narrative provides an overview of the topic and concludes.

  24. Learn How to Use ChatGPT to Write a Scientific Research Paper

    Steps for Writing a Scientific Research Paper. Standard Format of a Scientific Research Paper Outline. Learn How to Use ChatGPT to write a Scientific Research Paper. Generate Ideas. Create Literature Review. Formulate Research Question. Identify the Methodology. Analyze Data. Compose the Introduction.