Literature review for research paper

How to Write a Literature Review for a Research Paper? A Complete Guide- January-2024

Literature review definition can easily be understood by literally understanding the meaning of the words which constitute it; ‘Literature’ and ‘Review’. Here literature meaning is the sources or all the available materials which have been written and published by the researchers, or writers regarding any particular area or subject matter.

Secondly we need to understand that what is a review? Review means to analyze or evaluate something in a critical way to understand the strengths or shortcomings of something. So, a literature review definition is to analyze or read any published material critically, to evaluate the findings made by the other researchers.

So, literature review in research paper plays a vital role in acknowledging the reader about the evaluations or findings which other researchers have proposed about the researched topic or area. Here the purpose of literature review is to provide the reader in advance, that how this particular research will change or will provide an evidence to the already existing theory or finding.

Writing literature review

The 5 important steps to follow before choosing a literature to review include:

  • Search the most appropriate keywords to find the sources.
  • Choose the sources which provide theory, evidence or support to your research.
  • Critically analyze the articles, and choose the most relevant and appropriate literature
  • Organize the information collected from literature, based on the general to specific approach.
  • Write the critically analyzed information, and also include the counter arguments presented by the critics.

Importance of Literature Review in the Research Paper

Conducting a literature review provides the writer or researcher, a tool to place his/her point of view in context of the background knowledge or practice related to the topic. Here the purpose of literature review is to ensure that the reader knows about the discussion or points raised by the other researchers previously. However, the literature review topic should be limited to the main topic of the research.

Literature review introduction incorporates in it, all the necessary information to create a contextual setting for the reader, as well as for the writer which helps them in getting different aspects related to the topic. An APA literature review acknowledges the views and contributions which others have made in the particular field, which can be extended by other researcher either by favoring the discussion or by negating the theories or points raised by others. A good literature review:

  • Helps the writer in highlighting the previously researched aspects related to the topic.
  • Helps the writer to show relevance and importance of the researched topic to the reader.
  • Research review helps the writer in creating a setting for placing the argument either by following or negating the existing information.
  • Literature review APA, helps the writer in highlighting the gaps or limitations existing within previous thoughts or points.
  • Writing literature also helps the writer in providing evidences from the previous literature, in order to emphasize on the researcher’s own point of view or thought.

How to Conduct a Literature Review?

What is literature search? Literature search is about finding the relevant and needed literature to conduct the research, or to get knowledge about the particular topic. So, there must be a careful effort in searching and selecting the required literature which must be relevant and specific.

Writing literature review is not only about selecting and summarizing the articles to include, but it requires a careful organization and focus-based approach. Literature review outline makes it easy for the researcher to write the articles and make it well organized. 

literature review features

Search for Relevant and Required Data

The answer to how to start a literature review is not about writing the information related to the research topic, but it is about searching for the literature review topics. The procedure starts with searching for the relevant literature which should be highly focused.

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Literature review in research paper follows the pattern of general to more specific approach while searching. This does not mean to select the articles which provide general information about the topic, but it focuses on selecting the literature research articles which provide theoretical or evidential information about the researched topic.

  • Choose keywords to search for relevant literature.
  • Be specific while making choices regarding selection for writing effective and informative literature review APA.
  • Do not just focus on general information.
  • Try to incorporate important theories and evidential data.
  • Do not go beyond the main theme or topic.

Inverted pyramid literature review

Read the Important Points to Select the Papers

After selecting articles related to literature review topic, read the articles thoroughly and analytically to search for the important points discussed. The data to be selected for research literature review should contain the points on which the research is based, so the writer should try to gather important and variety of information from the articles or papers.

This process of collecting data from the dissertation research, or the important points gathered from the academic literature should be read for the purpose of searching the themes presented in the paper. Moreover, the points related to trends shown within the research related to particular topic, or related to any conflicting thoughts presented in the paper should be noted down to extend the argument.

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The reading process for collecting research related data, should be careful in which the introduction, methodology and findings should be analyzed critically.

    • Read analytically and critically.
    • Look for the important points raised within the paper including main themes, theories and thoughts.
    • Read all the important points which can highlight differences or agreements in viewpoints.

Take Notes to Make Literature Review Outline

Purpose of literature review is to present the reader with all important and theoretical knowledge about the topic which may set the stage for further research. For this purpose, while reading the research data the writer should take notes related to every article. The writer of literature research should either take notes on the paper or should write them in the paragraphs form in the word file.

The purpose of taking notes is to collect data to create a sample literature review for research paper. This will help the reader in organizing the data according to the literature review structure.

In order to write the literature review, the writer can make it effectively by following the outline. The following is the literature review outline example:

Literature Review Introduction section:

      • Defining important terms and topics.
      • Trending information and themes about the topic.
      • Importance of studying the particular problem.

Body section:

      • Theories, thoughts or perspectives about the topic.
      • Data gathered through critical analysis of the research papers.
      • Presenting the differing views and conflicting perspectives.
      • Highlighting different aspects related to the topic and research problem.
      • Try to incorporate data from scientific literature which provides a best evidential analysis.

Literature review conclusion:

      • Presenting the agreement or disagreement with the literature.
      • Summary of the important points discussed above.
      • Showing conflict or gaps prevailing in the previous researches.

 Read More to know about Literature Review sections

Write Sample Literature Review for Research Paper

Sample literature review papers are not totally different from the final literature review paper. The sample literature review for research paper will help the writer in setting the paper by including all collected information in paragraphs form. This sample will make a way to writing and organizing the literature review in well organized and patterned way; writing from general to specific topic.

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Write and Organize Literature Review

After following the steps in literature review discussed above, the last step is to write the final literature review section, by organizing the information according to the literature review template. Organizing the text is highly important while writing literature, as it clearly describes about the different parts of the literature review structure.

The written data in literature review should develop an understanding for the reader about the topic in detail, and each paragraph or information should support the previous information. It is also highly important to practice literature synthesis while writing the data from sources, as it is effective to write the information in combined way, except for summarizing single article in single paragraph as a summary.

Purpose of Literature review

Literature review example for research proposal:

Making psychosocial relationships with others is an important part of every human’s development process, however the child labor has become a huge challenge, which badly affects child’s social development process. Elana, S. argues that the time which these children need to spend on making positive relationship with others to gain confidence, they spend that time as labors, which prevents them from positively developing social and emotional development (Elena, S. 2014).

Stay Focused while Writing Research Review

We can get access to huge amount of data related to any particular topic which we want to research, however not necessarily every paper on a single topic will provide us with the same theme. Critical literature review demands staying focused on the same theme, in which the information can differ but theme cannot be changed.

  • Understand your area and boundaries related to the specific topic which you are going to research.
  • Do not search the topic generally, but prefer to search with theme-specific keywords.
  • Do not write too much information from the article or research paper while writing, focus more on scientific literature or important points from the article.
  • Do not repeat the information again and again, try to incorporate interesting and factual based data.


Common Mistakes to avoid while Writing Literature Review in Research Paper

Literature research published by any writer or author can be highly effective and informative and its inclusion while writing literature review can be highly influential. But the way a writer structures his/her literature review, and the way he presents the information is equally crucial in influencing the reader.
Here is the list of common mistakes which the writers should avoid while writing literature review in research paper:

  • Including too much general information about the topic.
  • Misinterpretation or wrong presentation of the data.
  • Use of vague or unimportant phrases or paragraphs.
  • No response to the conflicting or opposing arguments.
  • Focusing on summarizing the papers or articles, except for writing analytical data.
  • Poorly organized or incoherent literature review structure.
  • Discussion of same points in more than one paragraph.



What is literature review definition?

Literature review is the analysis of previously researched data by the researcher, in order to utilize the data from previous literature to conduct current research. The purpose of reviewing previous data is to acknowledge the reader about other researchers’ perspective and pit of view about the particular topic.

How long should a literature review be?

A literature review can be written as long as it is required to provide the essential and enough data to support the research. There is no rule of defining the length of literature review. it depends on the length of the overall paper and also on the extent to which the topic can be explained and discussed.

What is a literature review table?

Some writers provide their readers with the literature review table which, except for writing the data in paragraph form or by combining the data collected from different researches, enables the writer to present the data in form of table. This makes the data available to the reader in a single table, where he/she can read about the data presented by different researchers.

What are main sections of literature review?

The literature review has mainly three sections with sub-sections, including the literature review introduction section which incorporates the general to specific detail regarding the data. Secondly the body section, which talks about the problem in hand, and about the different perspectives and theories presented by other researchers. Thirdly, the literature review conclusion section, which summarizes the above points and also sets the focus of the research again by showing writer’s agreement or disagreement with other researchers.

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