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

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.

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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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graduate school literature review sample

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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graduate school literature review sample

  • Meriam Library

Literature Reviews

  • What's a literature review?

Literature Review Examples

Articles (free for csuc users), additional how-to guides and help.

  • Resources for Educators
  • Evaluating Info
  • Empirical Research This link opens in a new window
  • Annotated Bibliography This link opens in a new window

Books On Literature Reviews in the Meriam Library

  • Conducting Research Literature Reviews : From the Internet to Paper Call Number: Main Collection - Q180.55.M4 F56 2014
  • Literature Reviews Made Easy: A Quick Guide to Success Call Number: Main Collection - PN98.B7 D37 2010
  • Preparing Literature Reviews: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches Call Number: Main Collection - Q180.55.E9 P36 2008
  • Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review Call Number: Main Collection - LB1047.3 .B66 2012
  • The Literature Review: Six Steps to Success Call Number: Main Collection - LB1047.3 .M33 2009
  • Writing Literature Reviews: A Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Call Number: Reference H61.8 .G34 2013

Books on Research Methodology in the Meriam Library

  • Doing Case Study Research : A Practical Guide for Beginning Researchers Call Number: Main Collection - LB1028 .H313 2006
  • Evaluating Research Articles from Start to Finish Call Number: Main Collection - Q180.55.E9 G57 2011
  • How to do a Research Report: A Guide for Undergraduate Students Call Number: Main Collection - LB2369 .R575 2007
  • How to Write a Master's Thesis Call Number: Main Collection - LB2369 .B75 2014
  • Understanding Research Methods: An Overview of the Essentials Call Number: Main Collection - Q180.55.M4 P38 2018
  • Master's Theses Database of master's theses written by CSU, Chico students, from 2009 on. Many of these will contain published examples of literature reviews.
  • Proquest Dissertations and Theses: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection Containes over 2 million dissertations and theses with abstracts, 24 page free previews, and full-text PDF, if available, for dissertations and theses dating back to 1637.
  • Sample APA Paper (lit. review begins page 3) Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)
  • A Commentary on Literature Reviews Rhodes, E.A. (2011). A commentary on literature reviews. Volta Reviews, 111(3), 353-368.
  • A Guide to Writing the Dissertation Literature Review Randolph, J.J. (2009). A guide to writing the dissertation literature review. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 14(13), 1-13.
  • The Value and Purpose of the Traditional Qualitative Literature Review Rozas, L.W. & Klein, W.C. (2010). The value and purpose of the traditional qualitative literature review. Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 7(5), 382-399.
  • Undertaking a Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Approach Cronin, P., Ryan, F., & Coughlan, M. (2008). Undertaking a literature review: a step-by-step approach. British Journal of Nursing, 17(1), 38-43.
  • Undertaking a Structured Literature Review or Structuring a Literature Review: Tales from the Field Armitage, A. & Keeble-Allen, D. (2008). Undertaking a structured literature review or structuring a literature review: tales from the field. Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods, 6(2), 103-114.
  • CSU, Chico Office of Graduate Studies - Thesis Assistance Instructions, policies, and guidelines for graduate studies theses/projects.
  • CSU, Chico Writing Center Make a one-on-one appointment with a writing tutor to help with your writing assignments.
  • Learn How to Write a Review of the Literature University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Literature Review: An Overview for Graduate Students Video overview by North Carolina State University Libraries
  • Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide University of Connecticut University Libraries
  • Social Work Literature Review Guidelines Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)
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  • Last Updated: Sep 2, 2020 12:43 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.csuchico.edu/LiteratureReviews

Meriam Library | CSU, Chico

  • Library Catalogue

Literature reviews for graduate students

On this page, what is a literature review, literature review type definitions, literature review protocols and guidelines, to google scholar, or not to google scholar, subject headings vs. keywords, keeping track of your research, project management software, citation management software, saved searches.

Related guides:

  • Systematic, scoping, and rapid reviews: An overview
  • Academic writing: what is a literature review , a guide that addresses the writing and composition aspect of a literature review
  • Media literature reviews: how to conduct a literature review using news sources
  • Literature reviews in the applied sciences
  • Start your research here , literature review searching, mainly of interest to newer researchers

For more assistance, please contact the Liaison Librarian in your subject area .

Most generally, a literature review is a search within a defined range of information source types, such as, for instance, journals and books, to discover what has been already written about a specific subject or topic.  A literature review is a key component of almost all research papers.  However, the term is often applied loosely to describe a wide range of methodological approaches. A literature review in a first or second year course may involve browsing the library databases to get a sense of the research landscape in your topic and including 3-4 journal articles in your paper. At the other end of the continuum, the review may involve completing a comprehensive search, complete with documented search strategies and a listing of article inclusion and exclusion criteria. In the most rigorous format - a Systematic Review - a team of researchers may compile and review over 100,000 journal articles in a project spanning one to two years! These are out of scope for most graduate students, but it is important to be aware of the range of types of reviews possible.

One of the first steps in conducting a lit review is thus to clarify what kind of review you are doing, and its associated expectations.

Factors determining review approach are varied, including departmental/discipline conventions, granting agency stipulations, evolving standards for evidence-based research (and the corollary need for documented, replicable search strategies), and available time and resources.

The standards are also continually evolving in light of changing technology and evidence-based research about literature review methodology effectiveness. The availability of new tools such as large-scale library search engines and sophisticated citation management software continues to influence the research process.

Some specific types of lit reviews types include systematic reviews , scoping reviews , realist reviews , narrative reviews , mapping reviews, and qualitative systematic reviews , just to name a few. The protocols and distinctions for review types are particularly delineated in health research fields, but we are seeing conventions quickly establishing themselves in other academic fields.

The below definitions are quoted from the very helpful book, Booth, A., Papaioannou, D., & Sutton, A. (2012). Systematic approaches to a successful literature review . London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

For more definitions, try:

  • Grant, M.J. & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of the 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal , 26(2), 91-108. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x
  • Sage Research Methods Online. A database devoted to research methodology. Includes handbooks, encyclopedia entries, and a research concepts map.
  • Research Methods
  • Report Writing
  • Research--Methodology
  • Research--Methodology--Handbooks, manuals, etc.

Note:   There is unfortunately no subject heading specifically for "literature reviews" which brings together all related material.

Mapping Review : "A rapid search of the literature aiming to give a broad overview of the characteristics of a topic area. Mapping of existing research, identification of gaps, and a summary assessment of the quantity and quality of the available evidence helps to decide future areas for research or for systematic reviews." (Booth, Papaioannou & Sutton, 2012, p. 264)

Mixed Method Review : "A literature review that seeks to bring together data from quantitative and qualitative studies integrating them in a way that facilitates subsequent analysis" (Booth et al., p. 265).

Meta-analysis : "The process of combining statistically quantitative studies that have measured the same effect using similar methods and a common outcome measure" (Booth et al., p. 264).

Narrative Review: "A term used to describe a conventional overview of the literature, particularly when contrasted with a systematic review" (Booth et al., p. 265).

Note: this term is often used pejoratively, describing a review that is inadvertently guided by a confirmation bias.

Qualitative Evidence Synthesis : "An umbrella term increasingly used to describe a group of review types that attempt to synthesize and analyze findings from primary qualitative research studies" (Booth et al., p. 267).

Rapid Review : "Assessment of what is already known about a policy or practice issue, by using systematic review methods to search and critically appraise existing research" (Grant & Booth, 2009, p.96).

Note: Rapid reviews are often done when there are insufficient time and/or resources to conduct a systematic review. As stated by Butler et. al, "They aim to be rigorous and explicit in method and thus systematic but make concessions to the breadth or depth of the process by limiting particular aspects of the systematic review process" (as cited in Grant & Booth, 2009, p. 100). 

Scoping Review: "A type of review that has as its primary objective the identification of the size and quality of research in a topic area in order to inform subsequent review" (Booth et al., p. 269).

Systematic Review : "A review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select and critically appraise relevant research and to collect and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review" (Booth et al., p. 271).

Note : a systematic review (SR) is the most extensive and well-documented type of lit review, as well as potentially the most time-consuming. The idea with SRs  is that the search process becomes a replicable scientific study in itself. This level of review will possibly not be necessary (or desirable) for your research project.

Many lit review types are based on organization-driven specific protocols for conducting the reviews. These protocols provide specific frameworks, checklists, and other guidance to the generic literature review sub-types. Here are a few popular examples:

Cochrane Review - known as the "gold standard" of systematic reviews, designed by the Cochrane Collaboration. Primarily used in health research literature reviews.

  • Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions . "The official document that describes in detail the process of preparing and maintaining Cochrane systematic reviews".

Campbell Review - the sister organization of the Cochrane Institute which focuses on systematic reviews in the social sciences.

  • So you want to write a Campbell Systematic review?
  • Campbell Information Retrieval Guide. The details of effective information searching

Literature Reviews in Psychology

A recent article in the  Annual Review of Psychology  provides a very helpful guide to conducting literature reviews specifically in the field of Psychology.

How to Do a Systematic Review: A Best Practice Guide for Conducting and Reporting Narrative Reviews, Meta-Analyses, and Meta-Syntheses. (2019). Annual Review of Psychology, 70 (1), 747-770. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010418-102803

Rapid Reviews have become increasingly common due to their flexibility, as well as the lack of time and resources available to do a comprehensive systematic review. McMaster University's National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools (NCCMT) has created a  Rapid Review Guidebook , which "details each step in the rapid review process, with notes on how to tailor the process given resource limitations."  

Scoping Review

There is no strict protocol for a scoping review (unlike Campbell and Cochrane reviews). The following are some recommended guidelines for scoping reviews:

  • Scoping Reviews  from the JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis
  • Current best practices for the conduct of scoping reviews, from the EQUATOR Network

In addition to protocols which provide holistic guidance for conducting specific kinds of reviews, there are also a vast number of frameworks, checklists, and other tools available to help focus your review and ensure comprehensiveness. Some provide broader-level guidance; others are targeted to specific parts of your reviews such as data extraction or reporting out results.

  • PICO or PICOC A framework for posing a researchable question (population, intervention, comparisons, outcomes, context/environment)
  • PRISMA Minimum items to report upon in a systematic review, as well as its extensions , such as  PRISMA-ScR (for scoping reviews)
  • SALSA framework: frames the literature review into four parts: search (S), appraisal(AL), synthesis(S), analysis(A)
  • STARLITE Minimum requirements for reporting out on literature reviews.
  • Critical Appraisal Skills Program (CASP) Checklists Includes a checklist for evaluating Systematic Reviews.

These are just a sampling of specific guides generated from the ever-growing literature review industry.

Much of the online discussion about the use of Google Scholar in literature reviews seems to focus more on values and ideals, rather than a technical assessment of the search engine's role. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • It's good practice to use both Google Scholar and subject-specific databases (example: PsycINFO) for conducting a lit review of any type. For most graduate-level literature reviews, it is usually recommended to use both.
  • You should search Google Scholar through the library's website when off-campus. This way you can avoid being prompted for payment to access articles that the SFU Library already subscribes to.
  • Search tips for Google and Google Scholar

Google Advantages:

  • Allows you to cast a wide net in your search.
  • The most popular articles are revealed
  • A high volume of articles are retrieved
  • Google's algorithm helps compensate for poorly designed searches
  • Full-text indexing of articles is now being done in Google Scholar
  • A search feature allow you to search within articles citing your key article
  • Excellent for known-item searching or locating a quote/citation
  • Helpful when searching for very unique terminology (e.g., places and people)
  • Times cited tool can help identify relevant articles
  • Extensive searching of non-article, but academic, information items: universities' institutional repositories, US case law, grey literature , academic websites, etc.

Disadvantages:

  • The database is not mapped to a specific discipline
  • Much less search sophistication and manipulation supported
  • Psuedo-Boolean operators
  • Missing deep data (e.g., statistics)
  • Mysterious algorithms and unknown source coverage at odds with the systematic and transparent requirement of a literature review.
  • Searches are optimized (for example, by your location), thwarting the replicability criteria of most literature review types
  • Low level of subject and author collocation - that is, bringing together all works by one author or one sub-topic
  • Challenging to run searches that involve common words. A search for "art AND time", for example, might bring up results on the art of time management when you are looking for the representation of time in art. In contrast, searching by topic is readily facilitated by use of subject headings in discipline-specific databases. Google Scholar has no subject headings.
  • New articles might not be pushed up if the popularity of an article is prioritized
  • Indexes articles from predatory publishers , which may be hard to identify if working outside of your field

Unlike Google Scholar, subject specific databases such as  PsycINFO , Medline , or Criminal Justice Abstracts are mapped to a disciplinary perspective. Article citations contain high-quality and detailed metadata. Metadata can be used to build specific searches and apply search limits relevant to your subject area. These databases also often offer access to specialized material in your area such as grey literature , psychological tests, statistics, books and dissertations.

For most graduate-level literature reviews, it is usually recommended to use both. Build careful searches in the subject/academic databases, and check Google Scholar as well.

For most graduate-level lit reviews, you will want to make use of the subject headings (aka descriptors) found in the various databases.

Subject headings are words or phrases assigned to articles, books, and other info items that describe the subject of their content. They are designed to succinctly capture a document's concepts, allowing the researcher to retrieve all articles/info items about that concept using one term. By identifying the subject headings associated with your research areas, and subsequently searching the database for other articles and materials assigned with that same subject heading, you are taking a significant measure to ensure the comprehensiveness of your literature review.

About subject headings:

  • They are applied systematically : articles and books will usually have about 3-8 subject headings assigned to their bibliographic record.
  • The subject headings come from a finite pool of terms -  one that is updated frequently.
  • They are often organized in a hierarchical taxonomy , with subject headings belonging to broader headings, and/or having narrower headings beneath them. Sometimes there are related terms (lateral) as well.
  • They provide a standardized way to describe a concept. For instance, a subject heading of "physician" may be used to capture many of the natural language words that describe a physician such as doctor, family doctor, GP, and MD.

One way to identify subject headings (SHs) of interest to you is to start with a keyword search in a database, and see which SHs are associated with the articles of interest.

A. In the below example, we start with a keyword search for "type a" personality in PsycINFO .  A more contemporary term to describe this phenomena is then found in the subject heading field:

keyword search in Psycinfo

B. Another way to identify subject headings related to your topic is to go directly to a database's thesaurus or index. For example, if we are researching depression, the PsycINFO entry for major depression suggests some narrower terms we could focus our search by.

using the thesaurus or index

For more in-depth help with using subject headings in a literature review, please contact the Liaison Librarian in your subject area .

  • NEW! Covidence . Covidence is a web-based literature review tool that will help you through the process of screening your references, data extraction, and keeping track of your work. Ideal for streamlining systematic reviews, scoping reviews, meta-analyses, and other related methods of evidence synthesis.
  • NVivo is a robust software package that helps with management and analysis of qualitative information.The Library's Research Commons offers extensive support for NVivo.
  • Research Support Software offered by the Research Commons

Citation management software such as Zotero, Mendeley, or Endnote is essential for completing a substantial lit review. Citation software is a centralized, online location for managing your sources. Specifically, it allows you to:

  • Access and manage your sources online, all in one place
  • Import references from library databases and websites
  • Automatically generate bibliographies and in-text citations within Microsoft Word
  • Share your collection of sources with others, and work collaboratively with references
  • De-duplicate your search results* (*Note: Mendeley is not recommended for deduplication in systematic reviews.)
  • Annotate your citations. Some software allows you to mark up PDFs.
  • Note trends in your research such as which journals or authors you cite from the most.

More information on Citation Management Software

Did you know that many databases allow you to save  your search strategies? The advantages of saving and tracking your search strategies online in a literature review include:

  • Developing your search strategy in a methodological manner, section by section. For instance, you can run searches for all synonyms and subjects headings associated with one concept, then combine them with different concepts in various combinations.
  • Re-running your well-executed search in the future
  • Creating search alerts based on a well-designed search, allowing you to stay notified of new research in your area
  • Tracking and remember all of the searches you have done. Avoid inadvertently re-doing your searches by being well-documented and systematic as you go along - it's worth the extra effort!

Databases housed on the EBSCO plaform (examples: Business Source Complete, PsycINFO, Medline, Academic Search Premier) allow you to create an free account where you might save your searches:

  • Using the EBSCOhost Search History - Tutorial [2:08]
  • Creating a Search Alert in EBSCOhost - Tutorial [1:26]

Grad Coach

Literature Review Example/Sample

Detailed Walkthrough + Free Literature Review Template

If you’re working on a dissertation or thesis and are looking for an example of a strong literature review chapter , you’ve come to the right place.

In this video, we walk you through an A-grade literature review from a dissertation that earned full distinction . We start off by discussing the five core sections of a literature review chapter by unpacking our free literature review template . This includes:

  • The literature review opening/ introduction section
  • The theoretical framework (or foundation of theory)
  • The empirical research
  • The research gap
  • The closing section

We then progress to the sample literature review (from an A-grade Master’s-level dissertation) to show how these concepts are applied in the literature review chapter. You can access the free resources mentioned in this video below.

FAQ: Literature Review Example

Literature review example: frequently asked questions, is the sample literature review real.

Yes. The literature review example is an extract from a Master’s-level dissertation for an MBA program. It has not been edited in any way.

Can I replicate this literature review for my dissertation?

As we discuss in the video, every literature review will be slightly different, depending on the university’s unique requirements, as well as the nature of the research itself. Therefore, you’ll need to tailor your literature review to suit your specific context.

You can learn more about the basics of writing a literature review here .

Where can I find more examples of literature reviews?

The best place to find more examples of literature review chapters would be within dissertation/thesis databases. These databases include dissertations, theses and research projects that have successfully passed the assessment criteria for the respective university, meaning that you have at least some sort of quality assurance. 

The Open Access Thesis Database (OATD) is a good starting point. 

How do I get the literature review template?

You can access our free literature review chapter template here .

Is the template really free?

Yes. There is no cost for the template and you are free to use it as you wish. 

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How to Conduct a Literature Review: A Guide for Graduate Students

  • Let's Get Started!
  • Traditional or Narrative Reviews
  • Systematic Reviews
  • Typology of Reviews
  • Literature Review Resources
  • Developing a Search Strategy
  • What Literature to Search
  • Where to Search: Indexes and Databases
  • Finding articles: Libkey Nomad
  • Finding Dissertations and Theses
  • Extending Your Searching with Citation Chains
  • Forward Citation Chains - Cited Reference Searching
  • Keeping up with the Literature
  • Managing Your References
  • Need More Information?

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https://instr.iastate.libguides.com/gradlitrev

Where to Get Help

The ISU Library has a great staff of librarians (complete with superpowers!) who can answer questions about any aspect of your research that involves searching for information. Each of our liaison librarians is responsible for one or more subject areas and has subject expertise you can tap as you're doing your research.

They can help with advice about research methodologies , database suggestions, data management plans - anything related to how to find use, and evaluate resources. Getting to know your liaison librarian will make your life as a graduate student easier.

Click the icon below to find your librarian!

    Find Your Librarian

“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” - Neil Gaiman

The literature review is an important part of your thesis or dissertation. It is a survey of existing literature that provides context for your research contribution, and demonstrates your subject knowledge. It is also the way to tell the story of how your research extends knowledge in your field.

The first step to writing a successful literature review is knowing how to find and evaluate literature in your field. This guide is designed to introduce you to tools and give you skills you can use to effectively find the resources needed for your literature review.

Before getting started, familiarize yourself with some essential resources provided by the Graduate College:

  • Dissertation and Thesis Information
  • Center for Communication Excellence
  • Graduate College Handbook

Below are some questions that you can discuss with your advisor as you begin your research:

Questions to ask as you think about your literature review:

What is my research question.

Choosing a valid research question is something you will need to discuss with your academic advisor and/or POS committee. Ideas for your topic may come from your coursework, lab rotations, or work as a research assistant. Having a specific research topic allows you to focus your research on a project that is manageable. Beginning work on your literature review can help narrow your topic.

What kind of literature review is appropriate for my research question?

Depending on your area of research, the type of literature review you do for your thesis will vary. Consult with your advisor about the requirements for your discipline. You can view theses and dissertations from your field in the library's Digital Repository can give you ideas about how your literature review should be structured.

What kind of literature should I use?

The kind of literature you use for your thesis will depend on your discipline. The Library has developed a list of Guides by Subject with discipline-specific resources. For a given subject area, look for the guide titles "[Discipline] Research Guide." You may also consult our liaison librarians for information about the literature available your research area.

How will I make sure that I find all the appropriate information that informs my research?

Consulting multiple sources of information is the best way to insure that you have done a comprehensive search of the literature in your area. The What Literature to Search tab has information about the types of resources you may need to search. You may also consult our liaison librarians for assistance with identifying resources..

How will I evaluate the literature to include trustworthy information and eliminate unnecessary or untrustworthy information?

While you are searching for relevant information about your topic you will need to think about the accuracy of the information, whether the information is from a reputable source, whether it is objective and current. Our guides about Evaluating Scholarly Books and Articles and Evaluating Websites will give you criteria to use when evaluating resources.

How should I organize my literature? What citation management program is best for me?

Citation management software can help you organize your references in folders and/or with tags. You can also annotate and highlight the PDFs within the software and usually the notes are searchable. To choose a good citation management software, you need to consider which one can be streamlined with your literature search and writing process. Here is a guide page comparing EndNote, Mendeley & Zotero. The Library also has guides for three of the major citation management tools:

  • EndNote & EndNote Web Guide
  • Mendeley Guide
  • Getting Started with Zotero

What steps should I take to ensure academic integrity?

The best way to ensure academic integrity is to familiarize yourself with different types of intentional and unintentional plagiarism and learn about the University's standards for academic integrity. Start with this guide . The Library also has a guide about your rights and responsibilities regarding copyrighted images and figures that you include in your thesis.

Where can I find writing and editing help?

Writing and editing help is available at the Graduate College's Center for Communication Excellence . The CCE offers individual consultations, peer writing groups, workshops and seminars to help you improve your writing.

Where can I find I find formatting standards? Technical support?

The Graduate College has a Dissertation/ Thesis website with extensive examples and videos about formatting theses and dissertations. The site also has templates and formatting instructions for Word and LaTex .

What citation style should I use?

The Graduate College thesis guidelines require that you "use a consistent, current academic style for your discipline." The Library has a Citation Style Guides resource you can use for guidance on specific citation styles. If you are not sure, please consult your advisor or liaison librarians for help.

Adapted from The Literature Review: For Dissertations, by the University of Michigan Library. Available: https://guides.lib.umich.edu/dissertationlitreview

Center for Communication Excellence/ Library Workshop Slides

Slides from the CCE/ Library Workshop "A Citation Here...A Citation There...Pretty Soon You'll Have a Lit Review" held on April 4, 2023 are below:

  • CCE Workshop Apr 4 2023
  • Next: Types of Literature Reviews >>
  • Last Updated: Jan 4, 2024 2:06 PM
  • URL: https://instr.iastate.libguides.com/gradlitrev

Graduate Student Library Guide

  • Basic Search Strategies
  • Advanced Search Strategies
  • Find Articles
  • Find Theses and Dissertations
  • What is Peer Review?
  • Education and other related databases
  • Statistical Sources

Writing a literature review

Tips, help and tutorials to guide your literature review process.

  • Citation Management

What is a literature review? 

A literature review is a critical evaluation of the research on a particular topic. It is a synthesis of what the existing research on your topic says- your perspective guides how you put that existing research together- the purpose is to identify a gap in in the research in order to identify areas for future research and progress within the topic. 

Check out this short video for a more visual explanation of what a literature review is:

These are links to various sources from around the web with information, strategies and tips for writing a literature review. 

  • Harvard Graduate School of Education - The Literature Review: A Research Journey Excellent online guide that introduces the basics of conducting a literature review in the social sciences, with a focus on education.
  • UNC-Chapel Hill Writing Guide for Literature Reviews This handout from UNC-Chapel Hill Writing Lab offers detailed information and tips for writing a literature review.
  • Literature Reviews -- Beware the List Blog post on writing literature reviews from Pat Thomson, Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham.
  • Beginning the literature review -- The art of scan reading Part of a blog post series on literature reviews from Pat Thomson.
  • Beginning the literature review -- Taking notes Part of a blog post series on literature reviews from Pat Thomson.
  • Literature Review Matrix Examples This page from Walden University gives examples of different types of literature review matrices. A matrix can be very helpful in taking notes and preparing sources for your literature review.

There are also two other short videos from the University of Maryland University College which give an introduction to both what a literature review is and isn't, and how to begin your writing process.

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  • How should I approach writing a literature review at the graduate level?
  • / Resources for Students
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  • / How should I approach writing a literature review at the graduate level?

What is the purpose of a Literature Review? For a graduate student the purpose of academic writing changes from what it was as an undergraduate. Where undergraduates often write to demonstrate a mastery of existing knowledge, graduate students are considered scholars and move toward creating new knowledge. Writing in graduate school, then, focuses on communicating that new knowledge to others in their field. In order to communicate this knowledge to other scholars, however, it also necessary to explain how that knowledge engages ongoing scholarly conversations in the field.

A literature review is a common genre for many types of writing you’ll have to do as a graduate student and scholar. Not only do dissertations contain literature reviews, but most articles and grant proposals have some form of literature review included in them. The reason the literature review is so prevalent in scholarly writing is that it functions as an argument about how your project fits in the ongoing scholarly conversation in your field and justifies your project.

A successful literature review does more than list the research that has preceded your work. A literature review is not simply a summary of research. Your literature review must not only demonstrate that you understand important conversations and debates surrounding your project and your position in regard to the conversations, but it must also create an argument as to why your work is relevant to your field of study. In order to create such an argument you must evaluate the relevant research, describing its strengths and weaknesses in relation to your project. You must then explain how your project will build on the work of other researchers, and fill the scholarly gaps left by other researchers. What is typically included in a Literature Review and how do I start?

To show how your project joins an existing scholarly conversation you need to provide readers with the necessary background to understand your research project and persuade them that your intervention in the scholarly conversation is necessary. The first step is to evaluate and analyze the scholarship that is key to understanding your work. The scholarship you evaluate may include previous research on similar topics, theoretical concepts and perspectives, or methodological approaches. Evaluating existing research means more than just summarizing the scholar’s main point. You will also want to assess the strengths and limits of the writer’s project and approach. Questions to consider as you read include: What problems or issues is the writer exploring? What position does the writer take? How is the writer intervening in an ongoing conversation? Where does the writer leave the issue?

Once you have evaluated the research of others, you need to consider how to integrate ideas from other scholars with your ideas and research project. You will also need to show your readers which research is relevant to understanding your project and explain how you position your work in relationship to what has come before your project. In order to do this, it may be helpful to think about the nature of your research project. Not all research has the same purpose. For example, your research project may focus on extending existing research by applying it in a new context. Or you may be questioning the findings of existing research, or you may be pulling together two or more previously unconnected threads of research. Or your project may be bringing a new theoretical lens or interpretation to existing questions. The focus of your research project will determine the kind of material you need to include in your literature review. What are some approaches for organizing a Literature Review? In the first part of a literature review you typically establish several things. You should define or identify your project and briefly point out overall trends in what has been published about the topic – conflicts, gaps in research, foundational research or theory, etc. You should also establish your position – or argument - for the project and the organization of the review.

In the body of the literature review, consider organizing the research and theory according a particular approach. For example, you could discuss the research chronologically. Or you could organize the research thematically, around key ideas or terms or theoretical approaches. Your literature review may include definitions of key terms and the sources from which they are drawn, descriptions of relevant debates in the field, or a description of the most current thinking on your topic.

You will also want to provide clear transitions and strong organizing sentences at the start of sections or paragraphs. You may find it helpful to divide the body of the review up into individual sections with individual subheadings. As you summarize and evaluate studies or articles keep in mind that each article should not necessarily get the same amount of attention. Some scholarship will be more central to your project and will therefore have to be discussed at more length. There also may be some scholarship that you choose not to include, so you might need to explain those decisions. At every turn, you want to keep in mind how you are making the case for how your research will advance the ongoing scholarly conversation. What can the Writing Center do to help? It can sometimes be difficult, after reading pages and pages of research in your field, to step back from the work and decide how best to approach your literature review. Even before you begin to write you may find a consultation in the Writing Center will help you plan out your literature review. Consultants at the Writing Center are experienced in working with scholars to help them reflect on and organize their work in a literature review so it creates the argument for your project. Make an appointment to work with us on your focus and organization even before you begin to write. We are also able to help you by reading and responding to your drafts or to help with issues of documentation. We can help you understand the genre conventions of the literature review, work through revisions, and help you learn how to edit your own work.  We recommend that you come in early to give yourself enough time to work through any problems that may come up as you write.

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Video:Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students

What is a literature review? What purpose does it serve in research? What should you expect when writing one? Find out here

Writing a literature review is an inevitable part of being a graduate student. So, before spending hours of your time working on a project involving a literature review, it helps to understand what a "literature review" is, and why it is important. 

You may need to do a literature review as a part of a course assignment, a capstone project, or a master's thesis or dissertation. No matter the context, a literature review is an essential part of the research process. 

Some important functions of a literature review are that it helps you to understand a research topic and develop your own perspective on a problem. Not only that, it lets you show your instructor or thesis committee what you know about the topic. 

Your instructor or advisor may assume you know what a literature review is and that you understand what they are expecting from you. You might hear phrases like: "What does the literature show us?" "Connect your ideas to the literature." "Survey the literature on the topic." 

Well, before you can review the literature, you need to make sure you know what is meant by "the literature." A good definition of the literature is that it is a collection of all the scholarly writings on a topic. These writings can be in the form of scholarly, peer reviewed articles, books, and other sources like conference proceedings. These may be called annual meetings or conventions. The literature also includes dissertations written by other graduate students. Collectively, these make up the literature. 

Visually, the literature might look like this. Often there are major works that have been written on a topic, and then other, later, works that build on them. These later works tend to be extending or responding to the original papers in some way. Basically, the literature is a continuously evolving network of scholarly works that interact with each other. 

As you do your own research, you'll begin to understand the relationships in this evolving web and how your own ideas connect to it. 

I'm John Classen, Associate Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State University. Research is about telling a story, kind of like a chain story where each writer starts with a partial story created by others and takes it where the imagination leads. The existing literature is the story so far. You have to know where you are before you can go forward. But research is not just one linear story; many different lines of study contribute to the story you are trying to write. 

Your job in the literature review is to see where all the loose ends are in the various fields that are most closely related to what you want to do and to figure out what needs to be done next. The background to any good story has to be explained carefully or the reader doesn't know why one thing is important and something else is not; the reader has to understand what's going on. 

In the same way, researchers need the background in the literature of their discipline to know what's going on in their field of study. So, how do you turn a network of articles into a cohesive review of the literature? How do you find and tell the "story" behind your research topic? 

Reviewing the literature is like participating in a conversation. As you read and evaluate articles you begin to understand how they are connected and how they form the story that the authors are telling. Then you start to formulate your own response or contribution. 

This process - discovering relationships in the literature and developing and connecting your own ideas to it - is what helps you turn a network of articles into a coherent review of the literature. 

So what does a literature review look like? There are different types of literature reviews that you may encounter, or be required to write, while in graduate school. Literature reviews can range from being selective to comprehensive. They can also be part of a larger work or stand alone. 

A course assignment is an example of a selective review. It focuses on a small segment of the literature on a topic and makes up the entire work. The literature review in a thesis or dissertation is an example of a comprehensive review that is part of a larger work. 

Most research articles begin with a selective literature review to establish the context for the research reported in the paper. Often this is part of the introduction. Other literature reviews are meant to be fairly comprehensive and also to stand alone. This means that the entire article is devoted to reviewing the literature. 

A literature review that introduces an article can look like this. Here is an article about cognitive behavioral therapy. Here is the literature review, in this article it is part of the introduction. You can tell that the introduction includes a literature review because it discusses important research that has already been published on this topic. 

Here is an example of a stand alone literature review article, in this case, about employment. The article's title states that this is a review of the literature on the topic. However, not all review articles will have the term 'literature review' in their title. In-depth review articles like this are an excellent starting place for research on a topic. 

So, at this point, you may be asking yourself just what's involved in writing a literature review? And how do I get started? 

Writing a literature review is a process with several key steps. Let's look at each part of this process in more detail. 

Your first step involves choosing, exploring, and focusing a topic. At this stage you might discover that you need to tweak your topic or the scope of your research as you learn more about the topic in the literature. Then, of course, you'll need to do some research using article databases, the library catalog, Google Scholar, and other sources to find scholarly information. 

All along you'll be using your brain. You'll want to evaluate what you find and select articles, books, and other publications that will be the most useful. Then, you will need to read through these articles and try to understand, analyze, and critique what you read. 

While researching and organizing your paper, you'll collect a lot of information from many different sources. You can use citation management software like RefWorks, EndNote, or Zotero to help you stay organized. Then, of course, you'll need to write and revise your paper and create your final bibliography. 

One more thing: Writing a literature review is a process, but it is not always a linear process. One step does lead to another, but sometimes your research or reading will point you back to earlier steps as you learn more about your topic and the literature. 

At this point you might be wondering how do I actually review the literature I find? Let's look at what it means to review the literature. 

In the most general sense it means that you collect and read all the relevant papers and other literature on your topic. You want to provide an overview but also highlight key concepts and important papers. As you read you may start by describing and summarizing each article. Then you can start to make connections by comparing and contrasting those papers. 

You will also need to evaluate, analyze, and organize the information from your reading. When you work with the literature you will read and critically examine articles and books to see what's important or out of scope and analyze arguments for strengths and weaknesses. 

When working with the literature it is important to look for relationships between publications. Some of the important relationships between publications that you discover might include major themes and important concepts, as well as critical gaps and disagreements. 

But don't fall into the trap of making your review a laundry list of summaries of the works you read. A literature review is not an annotated bibliography. 

Your goal should be to go one step further and integrate and synthesize what you find in the literature into something new. Ideally, you will create your own conceptual map or outline of the literature on your topic. 

For example, let's say as you read you discover three major concepts that are important in the literature and relevant to your research. You should then identify how the literature - that is, the content in individual articles, books, and other publications - relates to the concepts you discovered. Some publications may be relevant to several concepts; others may apply to only one concept. What's important is that you develop and present your own organization and understanding of the literature. 

Then, when you write your literature review you will end up with a document that is organized by the concepts and relationships you found and developed based on your reading and thinking. Your review will not only cover what's been published on your topic, but will include your own thoughts and ideas. You will be telling the specific story that sets the background and shows the significance of your research. 

Researching and writing a good literature review is a challenging and sometimes intimidating process. Don't be afraid to seek assistance, whether from your adviser or instructor, campus writing center, or your librarian. Many librarians have subject specialties and can be especially helpful in identifying valuable resources and showing you how to obtain relevant information.

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Conducting a Literature Review

Additional campus resources.

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A literature review brings together a range of relevant works on a topic, and is intended to:

  • explore compelling questions, problems, concepts, or issues that you would like to address
  • discover relationships between ideas
  • connect your ideas to existing literature on your research topic(s) 
  • demonstrate your knowledge of a topic
  • demonstrate your ability to critique and synthesize various strands of the conversation(s) taking place around your topic
  • identify research gaps, areas for further consideration, and/or disagreements in the literature

The literature review forms the core of your project, serving as the foundation on which you will build your position or thesis, situate your own ideas or findings within a larger context, and develop your contribution to the scholarly conversation around your topic. 

A literature review tells a story, but the research process that goes into that storytelling is nonlinear. There are likely many lines of study/angles/perspectives on your topic. In this vein, a literature review is iterative and ongoing. You may do any or all of the following as you prepare literature reviews for projects, papers, and presentations.

A. You will likely conduct an initial literature review to:

  • explore and better understand the existing research on your topic
  • develop your own perspective on an issue or problem
  • demonstrate what you know about your topic.

You may have an initial thesis or hypothesis that, once you become more informed on your topic, you revise (sometimes multiple times).

B. As you further refine your research questions or interests, a more focused literature review will help you flesh out your ideas and focus on the concepts that are important to your particular area of inquiry.

C. As you conduct your experiment, ethnography, textual analysis, or field experience, other questions may arise, and further literature searching may become important. 

D. Once you've completed your experiment, ethnography, textual analysis, or field experience, you will want to situate your findings in the literature. This may come, in part, from previous research you conducted, and in part from new approaches or themes that emerged during the course of your study that you want to further understand or expand upon.

As you begin:

1. Discuss your research with your advisor, colleagues, classmates, and librarian(s) to figure out which resources might be a good fit, or to identify research strategies you may want to use. Consider a  wide range of resources that may be useful to you, and the various scholarly perspectives it would be important to include.

2. Look at other literature reviews to get a sense of the realm of options that exist. You may want to use one or two as a model, or to stimulate ideas around the organization or thematic approach to your work.

3. Critique each resource you select for your literature review, considering issues of authority, currency, research methodology, novelty, supporting evidence, and perspective/bias.

4. As you read, note major concepts that are important to your research. Abstracts and section headings can help you quickly grasp the primary themes of an article and help you decide how/if the article fits with your research question(s). 

5. I dentify how the resources you have selected relate to concepts you are exploring or have already discovered (some may apply to many or one concept) and/or how they diverge or present new perspectives. An annotated bibliography can help you organize your thoughts and begin to synthesize the literature (note that, ultimately, your literature review will be a coherent synthesis of these concepts rather than a list of items with summary descriptions).

6. Categorize your resources in meaningful ways that help you to organize your thoughts around your topic. Examples include major concepts or themes that emerge in the literature you collect, theoretical approaches, methodological approaches, chronology, or trends. Depending on the complexity of your topic, or how you organize your thoughts, you may want to map your research concepts in order to visualize your topic. One tool you could use is  https://bubbl.us/mindmap .

The following books have sections on literature reviews, some with advice for presenting your research.

Additionally, check out this article  by a professor of creative writing ("7 Ways That List-Making Helps You Produce Scholarly Work") on key approaches to the scholarly writing process.

  • Conducting Your Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Guide by Susanne Hempel
  • The Portable Dissertation Advisor by Miles T. Bryant
  • Presenting Your Research by Lucinda Becker
  • Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review by Andrew Booth; Anthea Sutton; Mark Clowes; Marrissa Martyn-St James
  • Writing for Scholars by Lynn Nygaard
  • Writing the Successful Thesis and Dissertation by Irene L. Clark
  • Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher
  • Where Research Begins: Choosing a Research Project That Matters to You (and the World) by Thomas S. Mullaney; Christopher Rea
  • University of Maine Writing Center The Writing Center offers one-on-one consultations in writing, public speaking, and document design.
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Writing Literature Reviews

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Graduate Writing: Writing Literature Reviews

Literature reviews are commonly written in graduate school, either as a standalone document or as part of a larger text (e.g., scholarship proposal, research project, thesis, dissertation), and provide an overview about what is currently known and not known about a particular research area. Literature refers primarily to the work of other scholars, captured in academic journal articles or monographs, though may include other documents too, such as government reports, white papers, and more.

Most graduate-level literature reviews are likely to be narrative reviews, but some students, especially those in health sciences , may be expected to produce a systematic review or a scoping (or mapping) review. Other literature reviews include critical reviews*, conceptual reviews, empirical reviews, meta-analysis reviews , and rapid reviews, among others.

* Critical review in different contexts may refer to an article or book critique.

While some graduate students will already be comfortable undertaking a narrative review, it is recommended that they work closely with their subject librarian when conducting any type of review for the first time. You can make an appointment with your subject librarian to learn more about how to navigate databases effectively, source grey literature, and more. Keep in mind that certain types of reviews may require academics to follow standardized procedures, both in terms of how research is undertaken and how it is written (e.g., PRISMA for scoping reviews ). Unsure of which review is right for you? Consider completing a questionnaire or reviewing resources to help make the decision-making process a bit easier.

Narrative literature reviews have several purposes. In conducting the review, the writer deepens their understanding of the present research (the literature) and, in doing so, clarifies their own research question or problem statement. A standalone literature review (sometimes referred to as a review article ) can also provide other scholars and professionals a useful overview of current research so that they can stay up to date in their field. However, one of the main purposes of the review is to provide justification for a research project by situating the project in relation to the work of other scholars.

While a narrative literature review should provide a sense of the breadth and depth of what the author has read, it is not necessary to include every single article or book that is tangentially related to the topic at hand. Instead, the text should serve the reader so that they have sufficient context to understand the issue(s) being explored.

Situating Research: Create a Research Space (CARS)

For literature reviews that are integrated into the paper’s introduction, the Create a Research Space (CARS) model , as articulated by John Swales, can be an effective method for helping to justify one’s own project. It involves the following three rhetorical moves that help establish an argument for one’s work by explaining

  • what is already known about a topic (what has already been found)
  • what is not known about a topic (the gap in the literature)
  • what will be/is known about a topic because of one’s project (entering the gap)

This structure is frequently used within academia, echoing a problem-solution structure that establishes an appealing rhetorical situation readers can easily understand.

While CARS provides a broad structure for organizing a narrative literature review, within the “known” section additional thought must be given to overall organization. In general, there are three main options: chronological, thematic, or methodological . Within a chronological structure, the writer follows how the topic has developed over time; within a thematic structure, the writer identifies and develops themes (and sub-themes) around which the research circles; and within a methodological structure, the writer groups studies according to how they were designed (e.g., qualitative vs. quantitative studies). In practice, many writers blend aspects of two of more of these structures when writing their reviews.

Looking to fine-tune your literature review? Select a comparable review from your field and examine how it has been structured. Ask yourself how the authors have organized the text. Do they follow CARS moves?

Looking for more information on writing literature reviews?

  • Hastings, C. (2016, September 27). Get lit: The literature review [Video]. YouTube .  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9la5ytz9MmM 
  • Hillary, A. (2017, December 13). I found a gap in the lit, now what? Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/i-found-gap-lit-now-what
  • Costanza-Robinson, M., Maxwell, A., Wright, C., & Bertollini, M.E. (2021). Gap statements . Write Like a Scientist. https://sites.middlebury.edu/middsciwriting/overview/organization/gap-statements/  
  • Cornell University Library (2022, April 7). What is Evidence Synthesis?  A Guide to Evidence Synthesis.  https://guides.library.cornell.edu/evidence-synthesis/types 
  • Guerin, C. (2013, September 1). Literature reviews – trust yourself! DoctoralWriting SIG. https://doctoralwriting.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/literature-reviews-trust-yourself/
  • Snyder, H. (2019). Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines. Journal of Business Research, 104 , 333 – 339. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2019.07.039
  • Tay, A. (2020, December 4). How to write a superb literature review. Nature.  https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-03422-x
  • Willyard, C. (2012, March). Literature reviews made easy. gradPSYCH, 10 (2). https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2012/03/literature

Keeping the Literature Organized

One of the more challenging aspects of crafting literature reviews is managing the volume of sources that you are expected to read, interrogate, and integrate into the final text.

Citation managers , spreadsheets and annotated bibliographies are all methods by which students can keep track of their sources.

Having a system in place from the start means that it is easier to synthesize and cite the research during the drafting and revising of the review.

Looking for more information on how to keep literature organized?

  • Clarke, K. (2017, October 24). Organizing your literature: Spreadsheet style . Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/organizing-your-literature-spreadsheet-style
  • Perkel, J. (2020). Streamline your writing — and collaborations — with these reference managers. Nature, 585 , 149 – 150. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-02491-2

Synthesis and the Literature Review

Synthesis is a central characteristic of literature reviews, demonstrating a writer’s ability to group sources together based on shared information. Synthesis also creates more readable text by reducing needless repetition.

Consider the examples below. Which do you prefer reading?

Example 1: Baptiste (2001) reviewed 85 instances of elderly women who experienced hip fractures following falls. He determined that in most cases, these falls were preventable. Beyond the physiological impact of these falls, the costs associated with such injuries were significant. Adams (2011) also studied instances of elderly women experiencing hip fractures in her study. According to her research, most of these falls were preventable. In 2018, Statistics Canada released a report on the costs associated with bone fractures in elderly populations, which often result in expensive hospitalizations. These injuries are often caused by falls and are largely preventable.

Example 2: The costs associated with bone fractures among elderly populations are notable as these injuries often result in expensive hospitalizations (Baptiste, 2001; Statistics Canada, 2018). However, some of these injuries may be avoidable. For instance, two studies studying hip fractures experienced by elderly women who had fallen found that most falls were preventable (Baptiste, 2001; Adams, 2011).

Did you prefer the second example? Most readers do as it communicates the same information as the first but in a more concise way. That is the power of synthesis.

Synthesis can also be understood as a form of pattern recognition that involves writers asking themselves how different sources relate to each other. Because of this focus on relationships, the following questions can also be used to generate synthesis:

  • Are researchers asking similar or different questions about the same topic?
  • Do the scholars agree? Or do they contradict each other?
  • What debate(s) are emerging?
  • Do researchers interpret data in similar or different ways?
  • What methodologies have been used to investigate comparable questions?
  • How are scholars responding to previous research?
  • How does the research fit into the current academic conversation?

Graduate students may also wish to use a synthesis matrix . These are useful tools that can be easily tailored to any research project and make visualizing commonalities among studies as simple as glancing at a table.

Looking for more information on how to synthesize effectively?

  • Frederiksen, L., & Phelps, S. F. (n.d.). Synthesizing Sources. In Literature Reviews for Education and Nursing Graduate Students . Pressbooks. https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/literaturereviewsedunursing/chapter/chapter-7-synthesizing-sources/
  • McNeill, J. (2020, March 10). Step-by-step synthesis. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/step-step-synthesis
  • McWhinney, H. (2017). Writing a literature review – Part three: Synthesizing [Presentation slides]. University of Saskatchewan. https://library.usask.ca/studentlearning/documents/grad-writing/Literature_Review_Part_Three_Synthesizing.pdf
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This resource provides on overview of several genres that are common in graduate school settings along with guiding questions and suggestions for writing them.

Literature Reviews

The literature review, whether embedded in an introduction or standing as an independent section, is often one of the most difficult sections to compose in academic writing. 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.

Organizing Literature Reviews

Because literature reviews convey so much information in a condensed space, it is crucial to organize your review in a way that helps readers make sense of the studies you are reporting on. Two common approaches to literature reviews are chronological —ordering studies from oldest to most recent—and topical —grouping studies by subject or theme. Along with deliberately choosing an overarching structure that fits the writer’s topic, the writer should assist readers by using headings, incorporating brief summaries throughout the review, and using language that explicitly names the scope of particular studies within the field of inquiry, the studies under review, and the domain of the writer’s own research. When revising your own literature review, or a peer’s, it may be helpful to ask yourself some of the following questions:

Questions for Revision

  • Is the literature review organized chronologically or by topic? Is the writer clear about which approach is being used in the review?
  • Does the writer use headings or paragraph breaks to show distinctions in the groups of studies under consideration?
  • Does the writer explain why certain groups of studies (or individual studies) are being reviewed by drawing a clear connection to his or her topic?
  • Does the writer make clear which of the studies described are most important?
  • Does the writer cover all important areas of research related to his or her topic?
  • Does the writer use transitions and summaries to move from one study or set of studies to the next?
  • By the end of the literature review, is it clear why the current research is necessary?

Showing the gaps

The primary purpose of the literature review is to demonstrate why the author’s study is necessary. Depending on the writer’s field, it may or may not be clear that research on a particular topic is necessary for advancing knowledge. As the writer composes the literature review, he or she must construct an argument of sorts to establish the necessity of his or her research. Therefore, one of the key tasks for writers is to establish where gaps in current research lie. The writer must show what has been overlooked, understudied, or misjudged by previous studies in order to create space for the new research within an area of academic or scientific inquiry.

  • Does the review mention flaws, gaps, or shortcomings of specific studies or groups of studies?
  • Does the author point out areas that have not yet been researched or have not yet been researched sufficiently?
  • Does the review demonstrate a change over time or recent developments that make the author’s research relevant now?
  • Does the author discuss research methods used to study this topic and/or related topics?
  • Does the author clearly state why his or her research is necessary?

WORKS CONSULTED

Galvan, Jose L. Writing Literature Reviews: A Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Los Angeles: Pyrczak Publishing, 1999. Print.

Seminar Papers

Common in the humanities and social sciences, graduate students are often asked to write seminar papers at the end of the semester as a final project for their courses. They often strike a balance between displaying mastery of the course material and exploring some topic within the scope of the course in more depth. Some professors will provide specific requirements about length, topics, components, audience, and purpose; others may give students almost total freedom. As with any other assignment, check with your professor to make sure you understand their expectations.

If you have some freedom to determine for yourself what your seminar paper will be, you may want to consider ways to use the paper as an opportunity for developing your own work. Here are some questions to help you think through your seminar paper; which ones work for you may vary depending on your professor's expectations.

  • Seminar papers are often an appropriate length for conference presentations. Are there conferences coming up that you could apply to with a topic you could cover in this seminar paper, so that you could get feedback on a draft of your conference presentation from your professor? Have you already been accepted to a conference with a proposal that falls into the scope of this course?
  • You might be thinking about publications, depending on where you are in your grad school career. Seminar papers can often serve as useful seeds for publications; would your professor be amenable to working with you over a longer term to help expand your seminar paper into an eventual publication?
  • If you are working toward a thesis or dissertation whose topic you already know or have an idea of, a seminar paper could be an opportunity to explore that topic further or begin working on the larger research project. Would your professor be open to offering you feedback with that in mind?
  • Would your professor be willing to bend the requirements of the assignment slightly to help you make the paper useful to you in one of the above ways? For instance, you might ask your professor if you could write to a different audience (like conference attendees for a specific organization).

Prospectus (Dissertation Proposal)

Some graduate students will need to write and defend a proposal for their dissertation topic before they pursue the full project. This proposal is sometimes (but not always) called a prospectus. In some fields or at some universities, it is this dissertation proposal defense that marks the graduate student's transition from doctoral student to doctoral candidate. 

Alternatively, some fields and universities use the comprehensive exams (also called comps, quals or qualifying exams, general exams or generals, prelims or preliminary exams) as the transition from student to candidate. Often in these cases the dissertation committee will be the same as or similar to the examination committee.

Expectations for proposing a dissertation topic and getting that proposal approved by your committee will vary across fields and even across particular universities; individual dissertation chairs may, too, have their own particular expectations. As with any major writing task, you should discuss these expectations with your advisor before you start and as you write.

Most dissertation proposals will need to answer similar questions, however, so there are some commonalities among prospectuses that might be helpful to you as you write.

  • Introduction. Your committee will need some context and background for the topic you are working on, particularly if you are dealing with a particular case, example, or topic that is not your committee members' main research area. This section should also summarize your project, its relevance, and its anticipated contributions in a paragraph or two.
  • Literature Review. Your committee will not need a literature review of the size and depth you would include in your dissertation, but you should situate your project among the key scholars you base your work on, and you should demonstrate that you have read enough to understand the existing conversations on your topic. One of the main goals of a dissertation proposal is often to show that your topic has not yet been adequately studied, and your lit review may be one place where you show that.
  • Proposed Methodology. Your committee will want to know how you propose to study your topic, and what those specific methods will help you learn that others won't (i.e., is your methodology appropriate for the questions you are asking). In some fields this may be more contested than others, where standard methods are more established or concrete.
  • Anticipated Contributions. Given that a prospectus is a proposal, rather than a conclusion, most prospectuses end with anticipated contributions. This section often echoes the argument for relevance and value from the introduction, and goes into more detail about why the project is worth pursuing.
  • Anticipated Constraints. You may need to include a section describing potential obstacles or constraints for your research. All research has constraints, and this section is usually more about giving your committee a way to help you address potential problems and set you up for success than it is about discouraging you from pursuing a particular topic or method.

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“A literature review is an assessment of a body of research that addresses a research question.”

Harvard Graduate School of Education.  (2016). The literature review: A research journey: Overview. Retrieved from

       http://guides.library.harvard.edu/c.php?g=310271&p=2071512

Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students

This video was created by North Carolina State University librarians and it is found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2d7y_r65HU

It's Iterative!

Writing a literature review (or any research paper, really) is an iterative process -- meaning a writer repeats steps again and again. They don't select a topic, then research, and then write the paper without giving themselves freedom to jump back to a previous step. Based on your research you may revisit your topic. Or as you are writing, you may realize you need to do more research in an area. It's not a strictly linear process!

Finding Literature Review Articles

It may be helpful for you to look at some literature reviews that have been written. Sometimes you can simply use "literature review" as a search term and some of the articles in the result list will be literature reviews. However, some databases make it easier.

Here are a few databases and ways to find literature reviews indexed within them. When you are simply looking for examples of literature reviews, use a search term that is broader for now, like "bullying."

  • ERIC (Ebscohost Interface) This link opens in a new window World's largest source of education information, containing abstracts of documents and scholarly journal articles on education research and practice. The database covers descriptions and evaluations of programs, research reports and surveys, curriculum and teaching guides, instructional materials, position papers, and resource materials. Many sources available full text. This interface allows researchers to use more limiters than does the public access interface.

In ERIC, type a keyword in the first search box. In the second search box,  type literature reviews and select "SU Descriptors" from the "Select a Field (optional)" dropdown box. Then click "Search."

  • APA PsycINFO This link opens in a new window Abstracts and citations to scholarly literature in the psychological, social, behavioral, and health sciences. Includes scholarly journals, books/chapters, and dissertation abstracts -- much of it available full-text. Helpful source for researching interdisciplinary topics related to these fields. Coverage back to 17th century. Limiters offered include searching by age groups, population group, and methodology.

In PsycINFO, type a keyword in the search box. Then, if you look lower on the page, you'll see ways to limit the search. One option is "Methodology." In this list, select "Literature Review." Then click the orange "Search" box.

  • PubMed This link opens in a new window Provides free access to MEDLINE, the National Library of Medicine database of more than 11 million bibliographic citations and abstracts in the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, health care systems, and preclinical sciences. Includes access to additional selected life sciences journals not in MEDLINE. Links to the full-text of articles at participating publishers web sites.

In PubMed, type your search term and then click "Search." On the result page you'll see the heading "Article types" on the left of the page. One option is "Review." Click this. Now your results should be all literature reviews.

  • Web of Science Core Collection This link opens in a new window Multidisciplinary citation index with a collection of over 21,000 peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Allows citation searching. This includes discovery of how many times a particular author or article has been cited and by whom. Users can also find later works which cite a specific article, allowing tracing the development of a research path.

In Web of Science, type your search term in the search box and click "Search." On the left side of the page you'll see ways to Refine Results. One option is "Document Types." You'll probably see "Review" as one of these document types. Click that box and then the "Refine" button to the bottom right of the document type list. (You'll see Refine boxes up and down the left sidebar. Clicking any one of them should cause Web of Science to update the result list.)

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Literature Review: Assess your Literature Review

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Assess your Literature Review

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  • Use the rubric below to evaluate the quality of your literature review.  If your instructor has provided you with a rubric, you should use the criteria listed in that course or assignment rubric to ensure that your paper will meet the expectations for the course. ( Download a copy of the rubric.)

Adapted from Education 690: Assessment Rubric/Criteria for Literature Review, retrieved September 29,2010 from http://edweb.sdsu.edu/courses/ed690dr/grading/literaturereviewrubrique.html and Boote, D.N. & Biele, P. (2005). Scholars before researchers: On the centrality of the dissertation literature review in research preparation. Educational Researcher. 34(6) p. 8.

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Prospectus writing.

Writing your prospectus is the first step towards completing your dissertation. It represents an opportunity to identify your project goals, create a roadmap for completing your graduate work, and to frame the significance of your work.  Your committee will provide you with feedback on the prospectus.

While different departments and disciplines will have their own requirements, in general, your prospectus will include an abstract, background and significance of research, a literature review, a description of the preliminary work you have completed, an explanation of your method or approaches, potential limitations or issues with the project, a timetable for completion, a conclusion, and a list of references.

The Graduate Writing Lab’s team of writing consultants can help you at any stage of your prospectus drafting, from brainstorming ideas, through early drafts, and polishing a final product. You can make an appointment with a consultant at:  https://poorvucenter.yale.edu/writing/graduate .

  • General Guidelines for Writing a Prospectus

The Graduate Writing Lab has collected sample prospectuses from various disciplines for your reference, which are available here as downloadable resources.

  • East Asian Languages and Literature  
  • Film Studies  
  • History of Art and African American Studies  

Social Sciences

  • African American Studies 
  • Political Science  
  • Cell Biology  
  • Computational Biology and Bioinformatics  
  • Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology  
  • Physiology  

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Writing a Literature Review in the Arts and Humanities

  • 1. Get Started
  • 2.1 Find Review Articles
  • 3.1 Find Scholarly Journals
  • 3.2 Find Theses or Dissertations
  • 3.3 Track Citations
  • 4. Evaluate Literature
  • 5. Take Notes & Manage References
  • 6. Keep Current
  • 7. Prepare First Draft & Revise

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Process of Literature Review

This guide was created to help FSU students in the arts and humanities with writing a literature review.

Whether you are writing a literature review for your term paper, research article, or thesis/dissertation, we hope you will find some helpful tips for completing the task.

Each tab in this guide was designed to correspond to each stage of the literature review process. However, research and writing are iterative processes; they do not necessarily follow a linear process. You may find yourself cycling through stages more than once, perhaps going back to your topic after a first reading of articles and books you have discovered. The outline here is meant only as a guide for thinking about the process.

What is a Literature Review?

A Literature Review IS.. .

  • a selective, integrated analysis and synthesis of what has been researched and published on a particular topic
  • a process, typically starting from selecting a topic to review and concluding with writing a manuscript to report the published works on the topic
  • an iterative process: you may have to keep coming back to previous stage(s) to refine your topic, modify the search statements, and/or revise a working thesis, etc.

A Good Literature Review IS NOT...

  • a mere summary of what you have read on a topic
  • a summary of everything that is reported on a topic
  • an annotated bibliography 

         ...BUT IS

  • a critical summary of relevant and selective literature on the topic
  • written in clear language
  • a piece of research on its own

         ...AND DOES

  • situate and focus your research in context
  • use credible and most relevant sources
  • add value to the existing knowledge on the topic

FSU Reading Writing Center

The Florida State University Reading-Writing Center and Digital Studio offers writing support to all FSU students across all the disciplines.

  • FSU Reading-Writing Center (RWC) an inclusive resource for FSU students of all majors, programs, and backgrounds. Whether you are working on a project, a paper, or any range of writing, the RWC is excited to assist you in any stage of your work process.

Video Tutorials

  •   Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students  (9:38)
  •   From North Carolina State University Libraries
  • Writing the Literature Reviews: Step-by-Step Tutorial for Graduate Students  : Part 1 (5:21)  
  •    From Univ. of Maryland University College

These tutorials are hosted on YouTube and may include advertising. FSU Libraries do not endorse ads promoted by YouTube.

Guide Authors

This guide was authored by Abby Scheel in 2017. Adam Beauchamp maintains the guide and is the point of contact for inquiries.

Except where otherwise noted, the content in this guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License . 

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  1. How to Write a Literature Review

    Step 5 - Write your literature review. Like any other , your literature review should have an introduction, a main body, and a . 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Writing a Literature Review

    Purdue OWL Research and Citation 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 ).

  5. Examples

    Literature Review Examples Master's Theses Database of master's theses written by CSU, Chico students, from 2009 on. Many of these will contain published examples of literature reviews. Proquest Dissertations and Theses: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection

  6. PDF Writing Literature Reviews Graduate Writing Center

    This packet will also suggest a variety of organizational patterns for literature reviews and address some major revision concerns and methods for citing sources appropriately. Goals. 1. To help you understand the functional purpose and requirements of an effective literature review. 2. To help you critically assess research materials. 3.

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

    Demonstrate your knowledge of the research topic. Identify the gaps in the literature and show how your research links to these. Provide the foundation for your conceptual framework (if you have one) Inform your own methodology and research design. To achieve this, your literature review needs a well-thought-out structure.

  8. APA Styling

    A literature review paper normally contains the following: Title page Introduction Main body List of references Some important tips to consider when writing a literature review paper: Divide paper into topics; do not just write about the first article, then second article, etc.

  9. Literature reviews for graduate students

    This guide is designed as a starting point for graduate students conducting a literature review, particularly in the social and behavioral sciences. Related guides: Systematic, scoping, and rapid reviews: An overview Academic writing: what is a literature review, a guide that addresses the writing and composition aspect of a literature review

  10. Literature Review Example (PDF + Template)

    The literature review opening/introduction section; The theoretical framework (or foundation of theory) The empirical research; The research gap; The closing section; We then progress to the sample literature review (from an A-grade Master's-level dissertation) to show how these concepts are applied in the literature review chapter. You can ...

  11. Sample Literature Reviews

    Have an exemplary literature review? Have you written a stellar literature review you care to share for teaching purposes? Are you an instructor who has received an exemplary literature review and have permission from the student to post? Please contact Britt McGowan at [email protected] for inclusion in this guide.

  12. How to Conduct a Literature Review: A Guide for Graduate Students

    Depending on your area of research, the type of literature review you do for your thesis will vary. Consult with your advisor about the requirements for your discipline. You can view theses and dissertations from your field in the library's Digital Repository can give you ideas about how your literature review should be structured.

  13. LibGuides: Graduate Student Library Guide: Literature Review

    Literature Review Matrix Examples This page from Walden University gives examples of different types of literature review matrices. A matrix can be very helpful in taking notes and preparing sources for your literature review.

  14. How should I approach writing a literature review at the graduate level

    What is the purpose of a Literature Review? For a graduate student the purpose of academic writing changes from what it was as an undergraduate. Where undergraduates often write to demonstrate a mastery of existing knowledge, graduate students are considered scholars and move toward creating new knowledge. ... Writing in graduate school, then ...

  15. Video:Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students

    Here is an article about cognitive behavioral therapy. Here is the literature review, in this article it is part of the introduction. You can tell that the introduction includes a literature review because it discusses important research that has already been published on this topic. Here is an example of a stand alone literature review article ...

  16. Literature Reviews

    A literature review brings together a range of relevant works on a topic, and is intended to: explore compelling questions, problems, concepts, or issues that you would like to address. discover relationships between ideas. connect your ideas to existing literature on your research topic (s) demonstrate your knowledge of a topic.

  17. Graduate Writing: Writing Literature Reviews

    Literature reviews are commonly written in graduate school, either as a standalone document or as part of a larger text (e.g., scholarship proposal, research project, thesis, dissertation), and provide an overview about what is currently known and not known about a particular research area.

  18. PDF School of Public Policy and Administration

    at the graduate level for producing a literature review. The subsequent sections outline the various types of literature reviews, as well as the differences in methodology and structure. Expectations: A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers (Taylor, D., n.d).

  19. Graduate School-Specific Genres

    The literature review, whether embedded in an introduction or standing as an independent section, is often one of the most difficult sections to compose in academic writing. 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 ...

  20. Research Guides: Writing a Literature Review: Overview

    Harvard Graduate School of Education. (2016). The literature review: A research journey: Overview. ... Writing a literature review (or any research paper, ... When you are simply looking for examples of literature reviews, use a search term that is broader for now, like "bullying." ERIC ...

  21. Literature Review: Assess your Literature Review

    Assess your Literature Review Use the rubric below to evaluate the quality of your literature review. If your instructor has provided you with a rubric, you should use the criteria listed in that course or assignment rubric to ensure that your paper will meet the expectations for the course.

  22. Prospectus Writing

    Writing your prospectus is the first step towards completing your dissertation. It represents an opportunity to identify your project goals, create a roadmap for completing your graduate work, and to frame the significance of your work. Your committee will provide you with feedback on the prospectus. While different departments and disciplines ...

  23. Writing a Literature Review in the Arts and Humanities

    This guide was created to help FSU students in the arts and humanities with writing a literature review. Whether you are writing a literature review for your term paper, research article, or thesis/dissertation, we hope you will find some helpful tips for completing the task. Each tab in this guide was designed to correspond to each stage of ...