A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Write a Good Literature Review

A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Write a Good Literature Review

How to Write a Literature Review

What is a literature review?

A literature review is a piece of writing that demonstrates you have sound understanding and knowledge of your field of study or research in a particular field, topic or question. It can be a chapter in a thesis or a stand-alone paper like a term paper or review article of a publication. It should portray that you have read and understood well published works from other researchers on a topic or your field of study.  This article will take you through the process of how to write a literature review.

A literature review is a critical argument of what others have published and tries to establish an argument of your own by bringing different arguments, approaches and arguments. A literature review identifies gaps, areas of controversy and areas needing further research in relation to what others have published. It compares and contrasts different authors’ arguments and views on a particular issue.

Guidelines to writing a good literature review

A good literature review must have a clear line of argument which means the reader must be able to understand fully what you are trying to argue in your discussion.

It must have a brief and clear introduction, outline of the review, major topics covered in the thesis or dissertation and how they follow each other in your discussion.

A goo literature review must also show a good correlation between your research and your argument. I.e. you cannot have an argument that contradicts your research. At the end of each section you should have a brief summary.

However it’s important to note that although your argument and research should correlate, you should acknowledge opposing viewpoints else your arguments will not be strong.

Qualities of a Good Literature Review- The Structure

The structure of your literature review will be mainly determined by your thesis/dissertation or the kind of research you are conducting. It involves comparing and contrasting different opinions of different publishers by grouping them on particular topics that relate to your research. You should discuss issues of controversy, questions and topics that have varying viewpoints.

After arguing out your case don’t forget to give a summary of your literature review in relation to your hypothesis or question you were trying to answer.

Another important thing to note is that you MUST NEVER PLAGIARIZE your sources. Always give credit to your research sources and don’t present them as your own.

Some other qualities of a good literature review are highlighted below in this step-by-step guide on how to write the best literature review.


A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Write a Good Literature Review


 Step 1: How to Write a Literature Review- Choose a Topic

Choosing a topic is very important because it guides you on what focus on while researching and writing your literature review. It will help you to stay focused on a specific subject or idea.

Step 2: How to Write a Literature Review- Identify What Literature You Are Going To Review

Now that you have identified the topic you wish to base your discussion on, it’s time to establish the relevant material in form of published works by other writers to use.

Here is where you decide if the topic you are basing your review is too broad and if it needs to be narrowed down or not.

Step3: Tips to Writing a Literature Review- Analyzing The Material/Sources

After identifying the literature you want to review, you now must analyze them critically and organize them accordingly.

Get a general idea of each of your reference material. This will help you further decide if they hold weight in regard to what you want to discuss.

After this, then you need to categorize or group them together. You do this by grouping them chronologically into topics and subtopics.

Critical analysis involves noting the key statistics, emphasis, useful quotes, strengths and weaknesses, gaps in the literature you are reviewing, trends, currency and patterns, relationships among the materials.

Step 4: Guidelines to Writing a Literature Review- Summarizing the Literature to Use

The best way to do this is by coming up with a table that includes definitions of major terms, what research methods you have used and a summary of the results.

Step 5: Qualities of a Good Literature Review- Fine Tuning Your Literature Review

To fine tune the literature review you should do the following:

  • Analyze the purpose of your review,
  • Check the tone/voice of your review. You should portray a command/deep understanding of your field of study.
  • Plan how to organize your findings
  • Outline your topics chronologically

Step 6: Tips to Writing a Literature Review- Writing The Literature Review Body

  • Start by stating the main subject matter you are discussing and why it’s necessary to review the matter
  • Make sure there is a clear distinction between sources and findings
  • Explain why some areas of study are weighty/important to your discussion
  • Identify key landmarks and be specific on timelines
  • Elaborate the literature reviews used and refer the reader to other reviews you will not discuss deeply
  • Minimize nonspecific references and explain instances where you did not find relevant resources
  • Also make sure varying and inconsistent sources are cited separately
  • Finally make sure all relevant references/resources used are cited.

Step 7: How to Write a Good Literature Review- Incorporating Essay Format While Writing Your Review

  • Give an overview at the beginning of your review and make sure you indicate what will and will not be covered. Be specific on your viewpoint so that your reader can clearly understand what you will be discussing.
  • The whole essay should be clear, cohesive and must include all the key points and communicate them well.
  • Make use of subheadings
  • Incorporate transition statements to help integrate your arguments in a flowing manner.
  • In cases where you discuss different topics and subjects make sure each subject is reviewed independently.

Step 8: How to Write a Literature Review- Concluding/Summarizing Your Review

The conclusion you come up with will depend on what kind of review you were writing. If it was a standalone review, the conclusion should indicate how the discussion supports the assertion you presented in the introduction.

On the other hand if it was part of a journal, thesis or dissertation then it must indicate the research question that will be discussed/addressed.


The above step-by-step guide on how to write a literature review and the qualities of a good literature review, is designed to offer guidelines to students so they can sharpen their skills in literature review writing. You can always look for other online resources and samples to help you master the art of writing a good literature review.


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