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How To Write An A-Grade Literature Review

3 straightforward steps (with examples) + free template.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | October 2019

Quality research is about building onto the existing work of others , “standing on the shoulders of giants”, as Newton put it. The literature review chapter of your dissertation, thesis or research project is where you synthesise this prior work and lay the theoretical foundation for your own research.

Long story short, this chapter is a pretty big deal, which is why you want to make sure you get it right . In this post, I’ll show you exactly how to write a literature review in three straightforward steps, so you can conquer this vital chapter (the smart way).

Overview: The Literature Review Process

  • Understanding the “ why “
  • Finding the relevant literature
  • Cataloguing and synthesising the information
  • Outlining & writing up your literature review
  • Example of a literature review

But first, the “why”…

Before we unpack how to write the literature review chapter, we’ve got to look at the why . To put it bluntly, if you don’t understand the function and purpose of the literature review process, there’s no way you can pull it off well. So, what exactly is the purpose of the literature review?

Well, there are (at least) four core functions:

  • For you to gain an understanding (and demonstrate this understanding) of where the research is at currently, what the key arguments and disagreements are.
  • For you to identify the gap(s) in the literature and then use this as justification for your own research topic.
  • To help you build a conceptual framework for empirical testing (if applicable to your research topic).
  • To inform your methodological choices and help you source tried and tested questionnaires (for interviews ) and measurement instruments (for surveys ).

Most students understand the first point but don’t give any thought to the rest. To get the most from the literature review process, you must keep all four points front of mind as you review the literature (more on this shortly), or you’ll land up with a wonky foundation.

Okay – with the why out the way, let’s move on to the how . As mentioned above, writing your literature review is a process, which I’ll break down into three steps:

  • Finding the most suitable literature
  • Understanding , distilling and organising the literature
  • Planning and writing up your literature review chapter

Importantly, you must complete steps one and two before you start writing up your chapter. I know it’s very tempting, but don’t try to kill two birds with one stone and write as you read. You’ll invariably end up wasting huge amounts of time re-writing and re-shaping, or you’ll just land up with a disjointed, hard-to-digest mess . Instead, you need to read first and distil the information, then plan and execute the writing.

Free Webinar: Literature Review 101

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.

Essentially, you need to be looking for any existing literature that potentially helps you answer your research question (or develop it, if that’s not yet pinned down). There are numerous ways to find relevant literature, but I’ll cover my top four tactics here. I’d suggest combining all four methods to ensure that nothing slips past you:

Method 1 – Google Scholar Scrubbing

Google’s academic search engine, Google Scholar , is a great starting point as it provides a good high-level view of the relevant journal articles for whatever keyword you throw at it. Most valuably, it tells you how many times each article has been cited, which gives you an idea of how credible (or at least, popular) it is. Some articles will be free to access, while others will require an account, which brings us to the next method.

Method 2 – University Database Scrounging

Generally, universities provide students with access to an online library, which provides access to many (but not all) of the major journals.

So, if you find an article using Google Scholar that requires paid access (which is quite likely), search for that article in your university’s database – if it’s listed there, you’ll have access. Note that, generally, the search engine capabilities of these databases are poor, so make sure you search for the exact article name, or you might not find it.

Method 3 – Journal Article Snowballing

At the end of every academic journal article, you’ll find a list of references. As with any academic writing, these references are the building blocks of the article, so if the article is relevant to your topic, there’s a good chance a portion of the referenced works will be too. Do a quick scan of the titles and see what seems relevant, then search for the relevant ones in your university’s database.

Method 4 – Dissertation Scavenging

Similar to Method 3 above, you can leverage other students’ dissertations. All you have to do is skim through literature review chapters of existing dissertations related to your topic and you’ll find a gold mine of potential literature. Usually, your university will provide you with access to previous students’ dissertations, but you can also find a much larger selection in the following databases:

  • Open Access Theses & Dissertations
  • Stanford SearchWorks

Keep in mind that dissertations and theses are not as academically sound as published, peer-reviewed journal articles (because they’re written by students, not professionals), so be sure to check the credibility of any sources you find using this method. You can do this by assessing the citation count of any given article in Google Scholar. If you need help with assessing the credibility of any article, or with finding relevant research in general, you can chat with one of our Research Specialists .

Alright – with a good base of literature firmly under your belt, it’s time to move onto the next step.

Need a helping hand?

scribbr dissertation literature review

Step 2: Log, catalogue and synthesise

Once you’ve built a little treasure trove of articles, it’s time to get reading and start digesting the information – what does it all mean?

While I present steps one and two (hunting and digesting) as sequential, in reality, it’s more of a back-and-forth tango – you’ll read a little , then have an idea, spot a new citation, or a new potential variable, and then go back to searching for articles. This is perfectly natural – through the reading process, your thoughts will develop , new avenues might crop up, and directional adjustments might arise. This is, after all, one of the main purposes of the literature review process (i.e. to familiarise yourself with the current state of research in your field).

As you’re working through your treasure chest, it’s essential that you simultaneously start organising the information. There are three aspects to this:

  • Logging reference information
  • Building an organised catalogue
  • Distilling and synthesising the information

I’ll discuss each of these below:

2.1 – Log the reference information

As you read each article, you should add it to your reference management software. I usually recommend Mendeley for this purpose (see the Mendeley 101 video below), but you can use whichever software you’re comfortable with. Most importantly, make sure you load EVERY article you read into your reference manager, even if it doesn’t seem very relevant at the time.

2.2 – Build an organised catalogue

In the beginning, you might feel confident that you can remember who said what, where, and what their main arguments were. Trust me, you won’t. If you do a thorough review of the relevant literature (as you must!), you’re going to read many, many articles, and it’s simply impossible to remember who said what, when, and in what context . Also, without the bird’s eye view that a catalogue provides, you’ll miss connections between various articles, and have no view of how the research developed over time. Simply put, it’s essential to build your own catalogue of the literature.

I would suggest using Excel to build your catalogue, as it allows you to run filters, colour code and sort – all very useful when your list grows large (which it will). How you lay your spreadsheet out is up to you, but I’d suggest you have the following columns (at minimum):

  • Author, date, title – Start with three columns containing this core information. This will make it easy for you to search for titles with certain words, order research by date, or group by author.
  • Categories or keywords – You can either create multiple columns, one for each category/theme and then tick the relevant categories, or you can have one column with keywords.
  • Key arguments/points – Use this column to succinctly convey the essence of the article, the key arguments and implications thereof for your research.
  • Context – Note the socioeconomic context in which the research was undertaken. For example, US-based, respondents aged 25-35, lower- income, etc. This will be useful for making an argument about gaps in the research.
  • Methodology – Note which methodology was used and why. Also, note any issues you feel arise due to the methodology. Again, you can use this to make an argument about gaps in the research.
  • Quotations – Note down any quoteworthy lines you feel might be useful later.
  • Notes – Make notes about anything not already covered. For example, linkages to or disagreements with other theories, questions raised but unanswered, shortcomings or limitations, and so forth.

If you’d like, you can try out our free catalog template here (see screenshot below).

Excel literature review template

2.3 – Digest and synthesise

Most importantly, as you work through the literature and build your catalogue, you need to synthesise all the information in your own mind – how does it all fit together? Look for links between the various articles and try to develop a bigger picture view of the state of the research. Some important questions to ask yourself are:

  • What answers does the existing research provide to my own research questions ?
  • Which points do the researchers agree (and disagree) on?
  • How has the research developed over time?
  • Where do the gaps in the current research lie?

To help you develop a big-picture view and synthesise all the information, you might find mind mapping software such as Freemind useful. Alternatively, if you’re a fan of physical note-taking, investing in a large whiteboard might work for you.

Mind mapping is a useful way to plan your literature review.

Step 3: Outline and write it up!

Once you’re satisfied that you have digested and distilled all the relevant literature in your mind, it’s time to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard). There are two steps here – outlining and writing:

3.1 – Draw up your outline

Having spent so much time reading, it might be tempting to just start writing up without a clear structure in mind. However, it’s critically important to decide on your structure and develop a detailed outline before you write anything. Your literature review chapter needs to present a clear, logical and an easy to follow narrative – and that requires some planning. Don’t try to wing it!

Naturally, you won’t always follow the plan to the letter, but without a detailed outline, you’re more than likely going to end up with a disjointed pile of waffle , and then you’re going to spend a far greater amount of time re-writing, hacking and patching. The adage, “measure twice, cut once” is very suitable here.

In terms of structure, the first decision you’ll have to make is whether you’ll lay out your review thematically (into themes) or chronologically (by date/period). The right choice depends on your topic, research objectives and research questions, which we discuss in this article .

Once that’s decided, you need to draw up an outline of your entire chapter in bullet point format. Try to get as detailed as possible, so that you know exactly what you’ll cover where, how each section will connect to the next, and how your entire argument will develop throughout the chapter. Also, at this stage, it’s a good idea to allocate rough word count limits for each section, so that you can identify word count problems before you’ve spent weeks or months writing!

PS – check out our free literature review chapter template…

3.2 – Get writing

With a detailed outline at your side, it’s time to start writing up (finally!). At this stage, it’s common to feel a bit of writer’s block and find yourself procrastinating under the pressure of finally having to put something on paper. To help with this, remember that the objective of the first draft is not perfection – it’s simply to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, after which you can refine them. The structure might change a little, the word count allocations might shift and shuffle, and you might add or remove a section – that’s all okay. Don’t worry about all this on your first draft – just get your thoughts down on paper.

start writing

Once you’ve got a full first draft (however rough it may be), step away from it for a day or two (longer if you can) and then come back at it with fresh eyes. Pay particular attention to the flow and narrative – does it fall fit together and flow from one section to another smoothly? Now’s the time to try to improve the linkage from each section to the next, tighten up the writing to be more concise, trim down word count and sand it down into a more digestible read.

Once you’ve done that, give your writing to a friend or colleague who is not a subject matter expert and ask them if they understand the overall discussion. The best way to assess this is to ask them to explain the chapter back to you. This technique will give you a strong indication of which points were clearly communicated and which weren’t. If you’re working with Grad Coach, this is a good time to have your Research Specialist review your chapter.

Finally, tighten it up and send it off to your supervisor for comment. Some might argue that you should be sending your work to your supervisor sooner than this (indeed your university might formally require this), but in my experience, supervisors are extremely short on time (and often patience), so, the more refined your chapter is, the less time they’ll waste on addressing basic issues (which you know about already) and the more time they’ll spend on valuable feedback that will increase your mark-earning potential.

Literature Review Example

In the video below, we unpack an actual literature review so that you can see how all the core components come together in reality.

Let’s Recap

In this post, we’ve covered how to research and write up a high-quality literature review chapter. Let’s do a quick recap of the key takeaways:

  • It is essential to understand the WHY of the literature review before you read or write anything. Make sure you understand the 4 core functions of the process.
  • The first step is to hunt down the relevant literature . You can do this using Google Scholar, your university database, the snowballing technique and by reviewing other dissertations and theses.
  • Next, you need to log all the articles in your reference manager , build your own catalogue of literature and synthesise all the research.
  • Following that, you need to develop a detailed outline of your entire chapter – the more detail the better. Don’t start writing without a clear outline (on paper, not in your head!)
  • Write up your first draft in rough form – don’t aim for perfection. Remember, done beats perfect.
  • Refine your second draft and get a layman’s perspective on it . Then tighten it up and submit it to your supervisor.

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

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

You Might Also Like:

How To Find a Research Gap (Fast)

38 Comments

Phindile Mpetshwa

Thank you very much. This page is an eye opener and easy to comprehend.

Yinka

This is awesome!

I wish I come across GradCoach earlier enough.

But all the same I’ll make use of this opportunity to the fullest.

Thank you for this good job.

Keep it up!

Derek Jansen

You’re welcome, Yinka. Thank you for the kind words. All the best writing your literature review.

Renee Buerger

Thank you for a very useful literature review session. Although I am doing most of the steps…it being my first masters an Mphil is a self study and one not sure you are on the right track. I have an amazing supervisor but one also knows they are super busy. So not wanting to bother on the minutae. Thank you.

You’re most welcome, Renee. Good luck with your literature review 🙂

Sheemal Prasad

This has been really helpful. Will make full use of it. 🙂

Thank you Gradcoach.

Tahir

Really agreed. Admirable effort

Faturoti Toyin

thank you for this beautiful well explained recap.

Tara

Thank you so much for your guide of video and other instructions for the dissertation writing.

It is instrumental. It encouraged me to write a dissertation now.

Lorraine Hall

Thank you the video was great – from someone that knows nothing thankyou

araz agha

an amazing and very constructive way of presetting a topic, very useful, thanks for the effort,

Suilabayuh Ngah

It is timely

It is very good video of guidance for writing a research proposal and a dissertation. Since I have been watching and reading instructions, I have started my research proposal to write. I appreciate to Mr Jansen hugely.

Nancy Geregl

I learn a lot from your videos. Very comprehensive and detailed.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. As a research student, you learn better with your learning tips in research

Uzma

I was really stuck in reading and gathering information but after watching these things are cleared thanks, it is so helpful.

Xaysukith thorxaitou

Really helpful, Thank you for the effort in showing such information

Sheila Jerome

This is super helpful thank you very much.

Mary

Thank you for this whole literature writing review.You have simplified the process.

Maithe

I’m so glad I found GradCoach. Excellent information, Clear explanation, and Easy to follow, Many thanks Derek!

You’re welcome, Maithe. Good luck writing your literature review 🙂

Anthony

Thank you Coach, you have greatly enriched and improved my knowledge

Eunice

Great piece, so enriching and it is going to help me a great lot in my project and thesis, thanks so much

Stephanie Louw

This is THE BEST site for ANYONE doing a masters or doctorate! Thank you for the sound advice and templates. You rock!

Thanks, Stephanie 🙂

oghenekaro Silas

This is mind blowing, the detailed explanation and simplicity is perfect.

I am doing two papers on my final year thesis, and I must stay I feel very confident to face both headlong after reading this article.

thank you so much.

if anyone is to get a paper done on time and in the best way possible, GRADCOACH is certainly the go to area!

tarandeep singh

This is very good video which is well explained with detailed explanation

uku igeny

Thank you excellent piece of work and great mentoring

Abdul Ahmad Zazay

Thanks, it was useful

Maserialong Dlamini

Thank you very much. the video and the information were very helpful.

Suleiman Abubakar

Good morning scholar. I’m delighted coming to know you even before the commencement of my dissertation which hopefully is expected in not more than six months from now. I would love to engage my study under your guidance from the beginning to the end. I love to know how to do good job

Mthuthuzeli Vongo

Thank you so much Derek for such useful information on writing up a good literature review. I am at a stage where I need to start writing my one. My proposal was accepted late last year but I honestly did not know where to start

SEID YIMAM MOHAMMED (Technic)

Like the name of your YouTube implies you are GRAD (great,resource person, about dissertation). In short you are smart enough in coaching research work.

Richie Buffalo

This is a very well thought out webpage. Very informative and a great read.

Adekoya Opeyemi Jonathan

Very timely.

I appreciate.

Norasyidah Mohd Yusoff

Very comprehensive and eye opener for me as beginner in postgraduate study. Well explained and easy to understand. Appreciate and good reference in guiding me in my research journey. Thank you

Maryellen Elizabeth Hart

Thank you. I requested to download the free literature review template, however, your website wouldn’t allow me to complete the request or complete a download. May I request that you email me the free template? Thank you.

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Dissertation Support: Preparing your literature review

  • Getting Started
  • Research methods
  • Preparing your literature review
  • Where to look (UWS)
  • Looking beyond the Library
  • Managing your project
  • Writing and referencing

What is a literature review?

Scribbr (2020) How to write a literature review: 3 minute step-by-step guide.   Available at: https://youtu.be/zIYC6zG265E (Accessed: 29 June 2021).

A literature review is a formal search and discussion of the literature published on a topic.  Such reviews have different purposes, some providing an overview as a learning exercise.  Most literature reviews are related to research activity, focus on scholarly and research publications and how this evidence relates to a specific research question or hypothesis.

  

Machi and McEvoy (2016, p.23) consider the review process as a critical thinking activity:

  • Select a topic (Recognize and define a problem);
  • Develop tools of argumentation (Create a process for solving the problem);
  • Search the literature (Collect and compile information);
  • Survey the literature (Discover the evidence and build the argument);
  • Critique the literature (Draw conclusions);
  • Write the thesis (Communicate and evaluate the conclusions).

Machi, L.A. and McEvoy, B.T. (2016) The literature review: six steps to success.  London; Corwin.

Cover Art

Leite, D., Padilha, M., and Cecatti, J. G. (2019) 'Approaching literature review for academic purposes: The Literature Review Checklist',  Clinics (Sao Paulo, Brazil) ,  74 , e1403.  https://doi.org/10.6061/clinics/2019/e1403

Are you compiling a literature review or a systematic literature review?

Research Shorts (2017) Conducting a systematic literature review. Available: https://youtu.be/WUErib-fXV0 (Accessed: 13 September 2021).

This video introduces the steps involved in a systematic literature review and demonstrates the differences with a standard literature review.

Systematic literature searching

  • Systematic literature searching You might be an undergraduate who wants to improve the quality of their searches, a postgraduate deciding on a dissertation topic, or a PhD student conducting a systematic literature review as part of your thesis. Or, you might be a member of staff conducting systematic search as part of your academic work, grant application, or Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme. This guide is your practical companion, offering insights and strategies to navigate the intricacies of systematic searching work.

Constructing your search strategy

The exact nature of your research will not be determined until after the literature review.  However, the review should be conducted with a certain degree of structure.  In many cases, your supervisor will expect to see a preliminary search strategy before you proceed with your review. 

So, what does a search strategy involve?

  • Which themes are you including? 
  • Which are the principal key words or search terms for each theme? 
  • Are there obvious alternative search terms that should be included?  For example, 'international' could also be described as 'global' or 'worldwide'.
  • Which types of material are you including in your review?  This will vary according to the level of study and subject but could be restricted to research articles or encompass policy papers, textbooks, reports, conference presentations, blogs and more.  If in doubt, see the listing in Finding Sources
  • Which search resources are you going to use to find the relevant literature?  Options include bibliographic databases and Google Scholar (journal and research papers); the library's OneSearch (books, exemplars and more), Google or other general search engines (policy papers, blogs ...).
  • Does a specific date range for publication apply? 
  • Are you only interested in a specific scenario or environment?
  • Are you focusing on (for example) a specific population, product or genre?

Remember the restricted nature of your assignment and timescale when making such decisions.  Manageability is an acceptable justification for applying restrictions.  

Doing a systematic literature review?

Cover Art

Systematic literature reviews aim to generate a comprehensive overview of the literature published on a topic and relate this knowledge to a specific research question. 

The main principles are to be methodical, consistent and apparent

Usually, 6 steps are taken to complete a review.  The depth of treatment at each stage depends on the nature of the review and level of study.

  • Explore the literature to ensure validity of the research question/topic and confirm your search strategy.
  • Run your search noting numbers of results. 
  • The starting number for the PRISMA flow chart is the combined number of search results, i.e. the no. of results from database 1 + no. from database 2 etc.
  • Next, remove any duplicate entries. Note the number of items remaining.
  • Add entries for the number of items removed as you apply your selection criteria.
  • The final entry is the number of items to be reviewed.
  • Extract the data - assess the quality of research of individual items and note the evidence found.
  • Analyse the data - consider the evidence and themes in relation to your question.
  • Present your findings in a transparent manner.
  • PRISMA - Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses The PRISMA website includes examples of flow diagrams.

Titles to support literature reviews

A small selection of library titles to help with your literature review:

Cover Art

Unsure about your search strategy? Ask a Librarian

The team of Academic Librarians are here to help you with your projects.   

Make an appointment, tell us about your project and past searching experiences and we'll hep you devise the best search strategy to find the research and other materials that you need.

  • Book an appointment with an Academic Librarian

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Guide on How to Write a Literature Review for a Dissertation

scribbr dissertation literature review

If you do not know what the literature review is, we will shortly describe this term. Basically, the literature review is a section in the dissertation where you describe and evaluate the literature that is relevant to the topic of your research. This part should include your opinion regarding the literature included. 

In this article, I will tell you about how to write a literature review. However, we should also provide you with relevant reference, which would lead you to the DissertationTeam website. Here you can order help with the literature review part in case you do not want to spend a lot of time figuring out how to write it. The website has a great reputation and is known for helping hundreds of students to defend their dissertations. Therefore you can visit the literature review and find out more information about the service.

Is Dissertation Literature Review Necessary  

When students proceed to writing the dissertation they may think whether the literature review is really necessary for it. The simple answer is yes, the literature review is necessary because it is considered one of the most important elements of any dissertation and scientific paper.

The student needs to write the literature review because it shows their knowledge and background of the topic and proves that the student understands the issue they will research. The presence of the review of the literature shows the information regarding your research question or hypothesis. Furthermore, it shows what previous research has been done regarding the topic and what gap in the literature you want to fill in with your dissertation. 

Therefore there is no way you can escape writing the dissertation literature review. Additionally, it would be useful personally for you because it would help you to get the knowledge of the previous researchers on this topic and see the ways they conducted their own research. This will inspire you and make your writing process a few times easier.

Intricacies of Writing a Literature Review for a Dissertation

We have outlined that the literature review is important but let’s find out what insights it brings to the dissertation itself. When you writing the literature review you should take care of such important parts:

  • Research: the first step you should do is to find the literature that you will include in your literature review. There is no way the relevant sources will appear in front of your eyes. So there is no simple way to find the literature. You need to review a lot of online libraries to find the literature that is suitable for the topic of your research. Additionally, you need to consider such important factors as the year of publication because some professors prefer the literature of the last 10 or 5 years to be included only. It means that you should not use the old literature of 15 or 20 years and only search for new journals or books. It can be easily done by setting a filter that will provide only the newest sources for you with a specific limit (of 5 or 10 years).
  • Evaluation: you need to evaluate the main literature that you have gathered to support your dissertation. While many students think that the main goal of the literature review is to summarize the main points of the piece of literature, it is not always correct. A dissertation is an extensive scientific paper and you should rather express your opinion regarding the literature and evaluate it. You need to write whether you consider it reliable and think that the research provided there is advanced enough, is valuable for future research and has some implications.
  • Relevance: you need to explain why the sources you have chosen for the literature review are relevant to your specific issue of research. You need to understand how the research in the literature gathered fills in the gap and contributes to the topic being researched. You should also draw connections about how the research in your own methodology and findings can be supported by the literature that you have chosen to include in the literature review.
  • Formatting: you should also remember that the literature review requires formatting your literature in a specific style in which the whole dissertation is written. It means that you should cite the authors in a specific citation style. For example, if your dissertation is written in an APA style you should provide in-text citations of the same style and make sure it did not confuse styles. You can use the manuals if you have forgotten how to use a specific citation style. You can find manuals for different citation styles here .

We have described to you the difficulties you may face when you need to write the literature review for a dissertation and the steps you would need to go through to make the dissertation valid. However, we can give you a little advice on how to make this process easier, namely by using specialized websites that can help you with writing the literature review.

Buy a Dissertation Literature Review Online

At the beginning of the article, we have told you about the Dissertation Team website. It is one of the reliable websites that can help you with writing a literature review section for your dissertation. Furthermore, it can help you to write the whole dissertation with all the parts needed. So, you can decide for yourself: whether you want to get help with one of the parts of the dissertation or do you want to get help with the literature review.

For more articles, visit  OD Blog .

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  • Dissertation
  • How to Write a Results Section | Tips & Examples

How to Write a Results Section | Tips & Examples

Published on 27 October 2016 by Bas Swaen . Revised on 25 October 2022 by Tegan George.

A results section is where you report the main findings of the data collection and analysis you conducted for your thesis or dissertation . You should report all relevant results concisely and objectively, in a logical order. Don’t include subjective interpretations of why you found these results or what they mean – any evaluation should be saved for the discussion section .

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Table of contents

How to write a results section, reporting quantitative research results, reporting qualitative research results, results vs discussion vs conclusion, checklist: research results, frequently asked questions about results sections.

When conducting research, it’s important to report the results of your study prior to discussing your interpretations of it. This gives your reader a clear idea of exactly what you found and keeps the data itself separate from your subjective analysis.

Here are a few best practices:

  • Your results should always be written in the past tense.
  • While the length of this section depends on how much data you collected and analysed, it should be written as concisely as possible.
  • Only include results that are directly relevant to answering your research questions . Avoid speculative or interpretative words like ‘appears’ or ‘implies’.
  • If you have other results you’d like to include, consider adding them to an appendix or footnotes.
  • Always start out with your broadest results first, and then flow into your more granular (but still relevant) ones. Think of it like a shoe shop: first discuss the shoes as a whole, then the trainers, boots, sandals, etc.

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If you conducted quantitative research , you’ll likely be working with the results of some sort of statistical analysis .

Your results section should report the results of any statistical tests you used to compare groups or assess relationships between variables . It should also state whether or not each hypothesis was supported.

The most logical way to structure quantitative results is to frame them around your research questions or hypotheses. For each question or hypothesis, share:

  • A reminder of the type of analysis you used (e.g., a two-sample t test or simple linear regression ). A more detailed description of your analysis should go in your methodology section.
  • A concise summary of each relevant result, both positive and negative. This can include any relevant descriptive statistics (e.g., means and standard deviations ) as well as inferential statistics (e.g., t scores, degrees of freedom , and p values ). Remember, these numbers are often placed in parentheses.
  • A brief statement of how each result relates to the question, or whether the hypothesis was supported. You can briefly mention any results that didn’t fit with your expectations and assumptions, but save any speculation on their meaning or consequences for your discussion  and conclusion.

A note on tables and figures

In quantitative research, it’s often helpful to include visual elements such as graphs, charts, and tables , but only if they are directly relevant to your results. Give these elements clear, descriptive titles and labels so that your reader can easily understand what is being shown. If you want to include any other visual elements that are more tangential in nature, consider adding a figure and table list .

As a rule of thumb:

  • Tables are used to communicate exact values, giving a concise overview of various results
  • Graphs and charts are used to visualise trends and relationships, giving an at-a-glance illustration of key findings

Don’t forget to also mention any tables and figures you used within the text of your results section. Summarise or elaborate on specific aspects you think your reader should know about rather than merely restating the same numbers already shown.

Example of using figures in the results section

Figure 1: Intention to donate to environmental organisations based on social distance from impact of environmental damage.

In qualitative research , your results might not all be directly related to specific hypotheses. In this case, you can structure your results section around key themes or topics that emerged from your analysis of the data.

For each theme, start with general observations about what the data showed. You can mention:

  • Recurring points of agreement or disagreement
  • Patterns and trends
  • Particularly significant snippets from individual responses

Next, clarify and support these points with direct quotations. Be sure to report any relevant demographic information about participants. Further information (such as full transcripts , if appropriate) can be included in an appendix .

‘I think that in role-playing games, there’s more attention to character design, to world design, because the whole story is important and more attention is paid to certain game elements […] so that perhaps you do need bigger teams of creative experts than in an average shooter or something.’

Responses suggest that video game consumers consider some types of games to have more artistic potential than others.

Your results section should objectively report your findings, presenting only brief observations in relation to each question, hypothesis, or theme.

It should not  speculate about the meaning of the results or attempt to answer your main research question . Detailed interpretation of your results is more suitable for your discussion section , while synthesis of your results into an overall answer to your main research question is best left for your conclusion .

I have completed my data collection and analyzed the results.

I have included all results that are relevant to my research questions.

I have concisely and objectively reported each result, including relevant descriptive statistics and inferential statistics .

I have stated whether each hypothesis was supported or refuted.

I have used tables and figures to illustrate my results where appropriate.

All tables and figures are correctly labelled and referred to in the text.

There is no subjective interpretation or speculation on the meaning of the results.

You've finished writing up your results! Use the other checklists to further improve your thesis.

The results chapter of a thesis or dissertation presents your research results concisely and objectively.

In quantitative research , for each question or hypothesis , state:

  • The type of analysis used
  • Relevant results in the form of descriptive and inferential statistics
  • Whether or not the alternative hypothesis was supported

In qualitative research , for each question or theme, describe:

  • Recurring patterns
  • Significant or representative individual responses
  • Relevant quotations from the data

Don’t interpret or speculate in the results chapter.

Results are usually written in the past tense , because they are describing the outcome of completed actions.

The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.

In qualitative research , results and discussion are sometimes combined. But in quantitative research , it’s considered important to separate the objective results from your interpretation of them.

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  1. 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. There are five key steps to writing a literature review: Search for relevant literature. Evaluate sources. Identify themes, debates and gaps.

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    A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program. Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating ...

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  7. What is a literature review?

    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.

  8. 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.. Essentially, you need to be looking for any existing literature ...

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  14. Where does the literature review go in a dissertation?

    A literature review and a theoretical framework are not the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably. While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work, a literature review critically evaluates existing research relating to your topic. You'll likely need both in your dissertation.

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    Overview of the structure. To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough.

  19. What Is a Theoretical Framework?

    A literature review and a theoretical framework are not the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably. While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work, a literature review critically evaluates existing research relating to your topic. You'll likely need both in your dissertation.

  20. How to Write a Results Section

    Here are a few best practices: Your results should always be written in the past tense. While the length of this section depends on how much data you collected and analysed, it should be written as concisely as possible. Only include results that are directly relevant to answering your research questions.