What is a literature review? How to write a good literature review?

Table of Contents

What is a Literature Review?

Before writing any literature review you should be clear about its meaning. A literature review is a scholarly paper that shows the current knowledge (substantive findings, as well as theoretical and methodological contributions to a particular topic) and understanding of the main topic. This paper is normally written before a research paper to:

  • check what has been studied;
  • see in what other research projects the same material can be used;
  • compare data that has been used for other researches;
  • understand what else should or shouldn’t be explored before starting a research paper etc.

But, how I can write a thesis literature review or a literature review for thesis, we will explain in our next section.

How to write a good literature review?

How to write a good literature review for a research paper, thesis or case study? There are many “How?” questions on how to write a good literature review and we prepared some tips that will be useful for any paper.

Make sure you know your topic and audience. There are many ways to choose the topic, for example from the books you are reading or discussion. The most important is not to wait long to choose as it might happen that someone else will take it. However, only a good topic that is interesting is of importance to the field and actually presents the problem that can lead to an outstanding review.
Make proper literature research. When you search for the literature you should:
Don’t forget to take notes. When you read the paper, don’t forget to take notes on what the person said as well as your impression from the paper, as it will allow you to structure your paper afterward.– make notes on the literature you have found;– if you don’t have access to some papers like PDFs, write them down so you can get back to them later with some alternatives;– don’t forget to use previous research on the topic;
– use professional paper management systems like Sente or Papers.

Choose if you are writing a mini- or full-review. When you gather the information, you will know the amount of the information you have for your paper.
Choose the type of review. After you have an idea if it’s a mini- or a full review, you can select between different types of reviews: descriptive, integrative, narrative, systematic, scooping, etc.
The most important is quality, but not the quantity of the materials. It doesn’t matter what type of literature review you are writing be careful with the materials included. Don’t include the ones that are not relevant or not important and always stay focused on the topic. In some interdisciplinary reviews, it might be difficult to do that as they connect the field and fill the gap between them.
Structure properly. Like any paper literature review has 3 main parts: Introduction of the topic, the main body where you explain all the details of your research and the sum up in Conclusion. We prepared a separate paragraph about that with a detailed overview of each part.
Don’t forget to include your own research, but be objective about relevant findings.
Use up-to-date information. It is very important to use the information published in recent years, however, make sure to include some older studies as well. In this case, you will avoid the gap between them.
We believe that all these tips are valuable to those who don’t know how to write a literature review.

How to Write a Good Literature Review for a Thesis?

It is known that a top-quality literature review must be logically structured with ideas arranged accordingly. A dissertation literature review should include:

  • Overview of the subject or theory;
  • Ideas that support or disapprove a particular point of view;
  • Critical evaluation of previous works including your thoughts;
  • Conclusion about the works that are connected to your subject.

Collect, evaluate and select literature

In every literature review collection, evaluation and selection of literature are some of the most important parts. As we mentioned above the recourses used for the review should be up-to-date and relevant to the topic. While selecting literature answer such questions as:

  • What literature is relevant to my research?
  • How different authors saw the problem and what was their opinion on the question?
  • Are there any key works in the field that can be used?
  • Are there any conflicting studies that can be used in the review?

These questions will help you to select the right literature as well as the structure and write your literature review.

Know if there are any gaps in the research

If your review forms a part of a research proposal, identifying the gap will show your dedication and patience while writing. Besides, it demonstrates the originality and freshness of your paper.

Prepare the review. While writing your review consider:
Have some review samples in your field as examples, so you can understand what research has been done so far and what questions were discussed. It’s also a good starting point to structure your paper.
Make sure of the sources. As it’s a scientific paper use only related literature.
Prepare an outline. It’s always easy to write when you know exactly what should and shouldn’t be in the paper. Brainstorm the points you want to cover and write them down. While writing you can expand your ideas, adding information from the sources.
While writing be cautious of the language and academic rules. Don’t use such words as “hate”, “love”, “disguise” while describing someone’s work.
A powerful conclusion is a bridge from your review to the reader.
Proofread and edit your literature review, make sure that all the points are covered and your paper is complete.

How to plan your literature review’s structure?

Like any essay, a literature review has 3 main parts:

Introduction or Opening Clause. While writing an Introduction you should meet some criteria which include:

  • Explain your topic and provide enough information for reviewing the literature;
  • Make a clear definition of the paper and its theme;
  • Brainstorm the reasons for you to review this literature (“why did I choose this literature?”)
  • Draft the outline of your review identifying the information that should and shouldn’t be included.

Make a smooth transition from the Introduction to the Main Body.
The Main Body. In this part, you should include such parts as:

  • List your sources in chronological order or according to their themes;
  • When you write subcategories make sure you explain their relevance to the main topic;

Include to this part such information as:

  • some background on the topic;
  • methods used while writing;
  • some previous studies that have been conducted on the topic;
  • the main idea should be supported with additional information;
  • the arguments support the main idea and answer the principal question;
  • general conclusions of the topic.

When you present the information start from general and move to the main specific or idea of your research.
Conclusion. While writing a Conclusion you should give a summary of:

  • all the important aspects of the literature;
  • what agreements and disagreements were found during the work;
  • possibilities for further research;
  • your overall opinion on the topic;
  • and the most important is to connect your research to existing knowledge.

How to Start a Literature Review?

How should I start writing a literature review for a thesis? How to write a professional literature review? Like any other research a literature review requires 4 main steps that should be followed:

  1. Form the problem based on the field of your study;
  2. conduct literature research finding the materials that are relevant to the subject;
  3. Evaluate the findings to eliminate unnecessary literature that has no value to the review;
  4. analyze the literature and interpret the findings.

These steps will help to prepare you for the writing of a literature review.

Types of Literature reviews

There are various types of reviews, such as:

  • Narrative literature review normally describes what research has been conducted, how it shows the thesis and how can it be included in the research field and it is a chapter in the dissertation or thesis. The main purpose is to give both a reader and a writer an overview of the topic and pinpoint the main areas of the review.
  • Systematic literature review. It is important and relevant to the subjects where data is essential. Unlike a narrative review, it doesn’t leave suggestions of inclination and examines a hypothesis based on the published materials.
  • A Scooping review is close to a systematic review, however, in the first, there are no restrictions on the materials, as the main purpose is to find all possible materials on the topic. It is usually written at the beginning of the paper and it is highlighting the gaps in the literature and explains the necessity of the research.
  • Descriptive reviews focus mostly on methodology, findings, and explanation of each study.
  • Integrative reviews, unlike descriptive, are mainly concentrated on finding common ideas from the materials that were reviewed.

Of course, you can find some other types, but the choice of what type of review to use you should rely on the gathered materials, the selection of the magazines used for reading and the time frame. 

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