5 tips for writing literature review for your research paper

What is a literature review? A literature review is basically the overview and evaluation of research papers/books that cover a certain topic. In a literature review, the writer briefly covers things like what was the scope of the research, what were the results and outcomes, as well as any gaps and shortcomings in that research.

The purpose of a literature review in a research paper is to show that the author understands the topic and has done their research. It also helps to validate the research question put forward by the author themself.

Now, that we know what a literature review is and what is its purpose, let’s learn how to write one in your own research paper.

1. Search For Related Works


This might be a no-brainer for most of you, but we at APSSB are here to tell you that there is more to it than that. There are several things you need to keep in mind when you are looking for “related works.” Here are a few things you should remember when gathering studies to include in your literature review.

  • The topic should be closely related to your own (it cannot be too broad)
  • The references section of most studies will lead you to other closely related works that you can include in your review
  • You can find out about new literature using keywords, online journals, and databases such as Google Scholar.
  • You can use citation tracking to check out the works that have a high citation rate and include them in your review.

By doing these things, you will be able to locate some high-quality, yet relevant works to include in your literature review. By the way, this is also supposed to include all other works that you have read prior to conducting your own research.

Pro tip: create notes as you read the research materials, not afterwards. This will help you immensely when writing the review.

2. Validate the Selected Sources

Now that you have gathered a sizable number of literature for review, you need to evaluate them. In this evaluation, you need to figure out a few key things that will help you to determine whether or not you should include a certain work in your review or not.


The key things are listed below:

  • Quality of the work. You can gauge the quality by its writing style, the length of the reference list, and citation tracking it.
  • Publication date. In a research paper, the literature review typically only contains works from the last few years.
  • Methodology used in the works. Is the methodology being used relevant to your work? Are you going to use it or point out its flaws? If the methodology used is important then add that work to the review.
  • Based on the results. Maybe your work is set out to disprove or prove something. In that case, adding works whose results contrast, contradict, or align with yours is a good idea.

By evaluating your sources in this way, you can decide if you want to add them to the review or not. The point here is to only include literature that is; high quality, credible, and relevant to your research. That way your literature review will help the rest of your paper as it will add to your results.

3. Figure out the Unaddressed Questions in the Literature

The research essentially thrives on the fact that one person or team cannot humanly research every aspect of a topic and account for every detail. All research that is done has some gaps in it that are either not addressed or simply ignored. Newer research addresses these gaps and that leads the research with respect to that topic one step forward.


This is what you are going to do as well. All the literature that you have gathered will now be evaluated to find out what are the gaps present in them.

To find these gaps, you can do the following:

  • Determine what are the arguments and perspectives in the gathered literature
  • Find out what things authors have acknowledged that need more research
  • Look for patterns with respect to research questions, and answers

This will help you to find out any research gaps that exist. Then you will have to steer your own research in a direction that aims to fill these gaps. And that’s how you will contribute to new research.

And that is the entire purpose of a literature review, providing the background information to your readers. It allows them to understand how your research is contributing.

4. Create an Outline and Write Your Literature Review

Now, you should create an outline that presents your literature review to your readers. Of course, since a literature review section is already part of your paper’s outline, you don’t need to create a real outline. However, you do need to follow an imaginary outline so that your literature review has some order and structure.

Some common ways of structuring a literature review are:

  • Chronologically: discuss all the works in the order they were published
  • By methodologies used: group up works that used similar methodologies
  • By approach: group up works that have similar approaches
  • By themes: group up works that have similar themes

The point is that your readers should be able to understand what you have written without any problems. Your literature review is supposed to lay the groundwork for your audience to understand what gap or question your work is addressing. This can only be done if it is properly structured.

5. Proofread and Edit Your Review as Required

Once you have written the literature review section according to your “outline”, then it’s time to proofread it. During the proofreading you want to look out for the following things:

  • Incorrect citations
  • Missing citations
  • Wordy paragraphs
  • Terribly long sentences

The citations part is necessary because mistakes in citations count as plagiarism which can get your paper rejected. For the wordy passages and long sentences, well those are impediments to reading and can make it difficult for your audience to understand your point.

proof read

That’s where editing comes in. You have to paraphrase such parts to address these problems. An easy way to do this is to utilize an online paraphrase tool to quickly paraphrase the text without affecting its actual intent. It will change difficult words with easy ones and makes your paper more readable.

Using tools to improve the writing of wordy passages is good because it saves time, and is very accurate. Most tools can also correct small grammatical mistakes, so you get multiple benefits out of them.

Once you are satisfied, then you are done. Your literature review is now complete, and you can move on to write the rest of your research paper.


And these are the five steps to writing a good literature review for your research paper. In this article, we learned that you have to do the following things to write a literature review.

Find relevant works by using databases, keywords, and citation tracking. Evaluate the said works by checking their credibility, recency, and how many times they have been cited. Then you have to ascertain the research gaps in the selected works and explain how your research is addressing them. Finally, you create an outline and write your literature review. In the end, you proofread and paraphrase it to remove mistakes and add citations.

Share This Article Facebook Twitter

Similar Articles

Speak Your Mind