How to write a literature review in a research paper

Published 16 October, 2023

A research paper is made up of many parts. One of the most important steps in writing a research paper is to write a literature review. A literature review can be defined as an evaluation and critique of past work on a particular topic or subject, with emphasis on those aspects that are relevant to the current study. In this blog post, we will cover its meaning, types, and how to to write a literature review for a research paper.

Generally, a literature review is a narrative review, in which the students have to include the specific knowledge along with the substantive research findings plus methodological and theoretical contributions on a particular topic. In the thesis, dissertation, and many other academic paper preparations, a literature review is compulsory to consider with excellence.

What is a literature review?

A literature review is a short, concise synthesis of previous research on a particular topic. It summarizes what has been concluded to date in a succinct and critical manner. A researcher conducts a literature review in order to compile previous information related to their research problem to support current ideas. In other words, a literature review will help you know what new questions still need answers–new knowledge that has yet been uncovered by investigators with no direction or guidance for those currently on the ground or underway.

It is common to find that the literature review consists of a summary related to the critical sources. But when it comes to the social sciences, and then a literature review follows an organizational pattern. The college or university students have to combine both the synthesis and summary part along with the conceptual categories for a better understanding of the readers.

Generally, a review is a kind of recap containing vital information about the source discussed. The analytical and best features of the fantastic literature review are the following:

  • The students can provide a new explanation of the old informative material. They can combine the original list of content with the above definition.
  • The college students can trace the intellectual interpretation of the research field done including the major debates.
  • Though it depends on the situation of research, the students can describe the sources and advice the readers on the most effective research.
  • In the ending part of the literature review, the students have to identify where the gaps exist inside the study.

Purpose of including the literature review in a research paper

A literature review is an excellent and exhaustive overview of all the information or knowledge available for the specific topic chosen by the students for their research paper. A literature review is one of the necessary pillars on which the basic idea of the research paper stands. It is a section where students need to provide relevant background. They need to highlight the importance of the problem. The actual purpose of producing an efficient literature review is:

  • The literature review describes the proper relationship between the works done by college students in front of the readers.
  • The students get a chance to identify the new and unique ways for interpreting the prior research and the information.
  • It becomes easy for the students to place each section or informative content in the proper format depending on its contribution.
  • The readers can understand easily and comfortably if the material being studied gets put in the right direction.
  • The college or school students can reveal any of the gaps if they exist in the literature.
  • It becomes easy to resolve the conflicts among the different studies
  • To prevent the involvement of redoubled efforts, the students can quickly identify the areas of prior scholarship through the literature review.
  • The students of graduation or post-graduation can soon point out the importance of a specific method for fulfilling a need for additional research.
  • It becomes quick for the students to locate their research within the context paper by using the existing literature.

Why should write a literature review?

  • The proper literature review offers the students an excellent guide to a specific topic chosen by them for the research paper. If the students have a shortage of time to conduct excellent research on a particular subject, then a literature review can give a perfect overview to the students.
  • A proper literature review acts like a stepping stone for the students to analyze the research studies. They serve as useful reports for the students having professional studies that help them in remaining up to date with the current situation happening around them.
  • For the scholar students, the in-depth knowledge of the literature review emphasizes the capability of the students to become experts in their field. An excellent literature review always provides a solid background for the investigation made by the students.
  • In addition to it, comprehensive knowledge among the students gets increase regarding the literature field, which is essential for creating many of the top research papers. Generally, students have to write literature reviews in the humanities and mostly in the sciences like social science papers.

General types of literature review 

It is essential to first find out the necessary knowledge about the literature review and its brands before starting preparing it. There are three critical sections, which the first one includes that the researchers have to conduct and then publish for the primary studies. The second point involves the reviews of those studies which college students conduct for their research paper in which they have to summarize the essential factors. It becomes necessary for the students to offer new interpretations by using basic or old descriptions and can often extend their primary studies.

The third one requires the proper perceptions, opinions, conclusions, and interpretations that the students can share informally to add it as a part of the field. While composing a literature review, it is essential to consider all three sections because they all include essential information about the content. There are several approaches which the students can adopt depending upon the appropriate analysis of the study done by them.

The common types of the literature review are:

1. Argumentative literature review

The argumentative form of literature review selectively examines the facts and literature which the students use for supporting their research argument. It can be an in-depth embedded assumption, reasoning, or a philosophical problem that the students already have established in the literature review.

The importance behind using argument literature in which the nature of some humanities or social science research argument is given. It is discourse analysis research methodology that can easily be legitimate to make the readers understand the concepts.

However, if the students are using it to make sort of summary claims, then they can also create the problems of bias that can easily get founded in the systematic reviews. As the name suggests the argumentative literature review, examines the statement selectively to support an argument or a problem that the students have already established in the literature review. Proper guidelines can help the students to use the form excellently.

2. Integrative literature review

For producing such a literature review, students have to consider a research form depending upon the reviews, critiques, in addition to which it synthesizes the representative literature. The college students have to choose a research topic in an integrated review method such that the new interpretations as well the frameworks get generated about the specific topic. The central body part of the literature review includes all the studies and informative content which can quickly address the identical or related hypotheses research problems. A well-structured integrated literature review overcomes the primary research is done and the same standards regarding rigor, clarity, and replication.

It is the most common form of literature review used in the social sciences. Though it is the least popular among all the ways of the literature review, the students have to get the proper information about it for content writing. It includes some of the experimental and non-experimental data studies as well as some of the knowledge about the theoretical literature. The college students utilize it to define the concepts plus for analyzing the problems by reviewing several theories.

3. Historical literature review

The main focus of such types of the literature review is to examine the complete research throughout the period and considering the event happened in the past. The college or school students have to start with the first period, including a concept, theory, phenomena, or an issue that extended in the literature review. Along with tracing its evolution period within the scholarship of sincerity and discipline, students have to make proper use of the historical literature review. The primary purpose of such type of literature review is to show the similarity with the state of the developments in the art and to identify the perfect directions for upcoming research.

If the students are writing a literature review in the history or social sciences, then they have to consider a survey of the historical events related to the literature. It is essential to show how the perspectives have changed over time and years through the ancient literature review.

4. Methodological literature review

Such type of literature review does not only focus on the wording or the statement made by a person but in addition to it, they find that from where the concepts get raised. It mainly depends on the method of analysis used by the students for their academic research papers. The reviewing methods of analysis used by college students provide an excellent overview of understanding at different levels in front of the readers. A proper methodological view of the literature shows that how the students research a vast variety of knowledge ranging from the thinking level to useful documents for the appropriate use in academic research.

Along with the quantitative and qualitative research methods integration, ontological consideration, epistemological description, interviewing, sampling, and data collection helps in the proper analysis of the literature review. The methodological approach of the literature review helps in highlighting the ethical issues about which the students must be aware and consider the best points for showing that they have done an excellent study on the research topic.

5. Systematic literature review

A systematic form of literature review uses specified and standardized methods to appraise or identify the appropriate research method critically. Mainly, this form of the literature review is essential to the medical and health care trials plus for all the other subjects where data and research methodology are necessary. The systematic review identifies and compares the solutions through the analysis and rigorous study of literature so that the college students can meet the specific criteria. It becomes easy for the students to compare the answers related to the health care questions.

There are two types of systematic literature review, namely, meta-analysis and meta-synthesis. Meta-analysis is a conventional type of quantitative literature review that includes the statistical analysis of several research studies to analyze the specific relationships, patterns, and to integrate some of the best findings from different studies on the same subject.
Meta-synthesis is a non-statistical literature review that synthesis or analyses qualitative research based on examinations. It helps to locate the themes, common elements, and core similarities to show the theory plus to develop the new conceptualizations.

6. Theoretical literature review

The main focus of the theoritical literature review form is on a group of theories that have been described regarding a concept, issue, phenomena, or theory. Theoretical literature reviews play a crucial or instrumental role in defining what methods exist and the existing relationship between the modes. The students can adopt such a type of literature review to explain the degree of mentioned theories get investigated and how they can develop the new hypothesis to get tested.

Often theoretical literature reviews help the students to establish a lack of specific studies plus theories to explain the new one. The unit of analysis required for solving such type of literature review can highlight the whole framework and a theoretical concept plus the entire theory.

How to write a literature review in a research paper?

A literature review has to get prepared by following some of the proper guidelines and steps which are explained below:

1. Find an appropriate focus for creating

Like the term paper, a literature review also gets organized around specific thoughts and ideas and does not require many sources. It directly means that the students do have not to go with a rough list of the topic or references plus they do not have to go into a required detail for each step. Instead, it requires being specific in the choosing area while considering the topic efficiently. It would be best for the students if they think of particular themes and issues related to the sources or which connect them perfectly.

Some of the disciplines require that the students have to find informative content related to the current issues. The reference section chosen by the students for writing the literature review can put excellent points in the paper.

However, it is necessary to select a narrow topic for producing a literature review. The smaller is the topic, the more comfortable it will be for the students to minimize the number of sources that they want to survey through the discussion. It will become easy for the students to remain on track and focused while preparing for the literature review.

2. Convey excellently to the readers

A literature review may not consider using the thesis statement or a group of quotes. However, the students must tell the readers what they can expect from the study. A simple statement or a line related to the literature review topic can explain what the central organizing principle used by the students in their concept is. When the students start determining which of the literature makes a significant contribution to the review, then they can explain their topic correctly in front of the audience.

However, it is essential to use a specific paper so that the literature review should take a clarification understatement. It becomes essential for college students to consider whether the arguments put by them are having supportive evidence and statistics or not.

It is not about adding the thesis statement to the review paper, but it is about giving a rough idea to the readers that what they can expect from the literature review produced by the students. An overview provided by the students about the literature review can become a crucial reason for a better understanding of the topic or theme.

3. Consider a well-organization before starting the literature review

When the students have succeeded in getting the focus, then they can begin to state the report clearly and directly in front of the readers. The next step of the college students must be to think about how they can present the information and content impressively.

In addition to it, they have to consider what can be the most prestigious titles, topics, sub-topics, and many more related to the literature review. It could be helpful for the students if they develop a specific organization for the examination at both the global as well as the local level.

Any of the standard academic research papers include three specific sections, namely, introduction, body, and conclusion. Like the educational homework essay papers, a literature review also contains three main parts which the students cannot ignore or skip at any cost.

The introduction section, which also refers to the background information section provides a quick and easy description of the topic chosen by the students of the literature review. It can be the central theme or an organizational notion related to the specific pattern required for a better explanation.

The central body part of the literature review is the essential section which contains the discussion about the resources and themes. The students can organize it either by adopting the chronological, idea, or a methodological section. The conclusion part, which refers to the recommendation section required to end the paper, should summarise the entire review entirely. The students have to discuss the things which they have drawn from reviewing the literature part excellently, and the readers can understand it correctly.

4. Organize the main body part

Once the students have collected all the necessary information and categories of the source at the same place, then they have to consider how they can present all such kinds of stuff. It is not simple for the students to organize a pattern that can amaze the readers with the literature review. It requires creating a proper organizational method so that the students can focus on the literature review section excellently. There are several ways to organize the sources correctly into a literature review.

If the events considered by the students while preparing for the literature review follow the chronological method, then they have to write about the things according to their publication date. It becomes easy for the students to develop such an approach if they get succeeded in identifying the apparent path of the research building.

It can help the students to follow the trend of the clear chronological order to achieve the development. Thematic literature review around any of the specific themes or topics requires organizing it entirely rather than the increment of time.

5. Start composing the literature review

When the students have selected a proper organizing pattern for the literature review, it is essential to figure out which of the sections they want to consider in their paper. In short, a chronological literature review includes a subsection for each crucial period, and on the other hand, a thematic literature review has to include the subtopics mainly based on the factors related to the review theme or issue.

However, sometimes, it becomes necessary for college students to add additional facts or pieces of evidence that are necessary for the study conducted by them. If the students are using some of the additional sources or sections, then they have to make sure that the things are getting fit in the organizational pattern chosen by them.

What other parts, students include in their literature review depends on their thinking capability, but they have to consider the things which are perfect to relate with the report. It can be any of the literature review patterns organized by the students, but the sections should get clear to the readers with proper statements and references.

6. Be selective for the facts and pieces of evidence

When the students are writing the literature review, then they have to keep in mind specific issues like selectivity, confirmations, and ways of composing. Like any academic research paper, the literature review also includes the section of proper pieces of evidence.

The addition of simple proofs or evidence helps in a better understanding of the statements for the readers. The interpretation made by the students for the available sources gets backed with the proper choice of references or evidence. It helps the students to demonstrate that what they are saying is valid or not for the audience.

However, it is crucial to select only those points which are necessary to summarise in the literature review. The type of source of information chosen by the students should directly relate to the research problem by explaining that whether it is methodological, thematic, or chronological. Along with all such kinds of stuff, related things providing suitable information can get included as a key to understand the research problem efficiently by involving it in the further readings of the literature review.

7. Proper summarise and then synthesize

Using short quotes is fine if the students are trying to emphasize a point or if they are trying to say do not get adequately paraphrased. Sometimes using the proper terminology is beneficial for the students for which they do not have the proper knowledge to constitute.

The students have to keep in mind that they have to summarise and synthesize the sources within each section of the thematic literature review as well as throughout the entire article. The point of the students must get explicit in front of the audience if they want to organize an active pattern among them.

It could be useful if the students are following the well-planned methodology and terminology for organizing the literature review. The students have to focus on efficient and straightforward questions while producing the literature review so that they can systematically clear the objectives.

Usually, a specific inclusion or a planned criterion can help the students to explain the data clearly to the readers in the form of a literature review. When the students are preparing for the paraphrased information, then they have to be sure about the opinions and original ideas so that the readers could get the point.


Producing a literature review is a quite different procedure from the regular academic research paper assigned to a college or school student. There are some of the proper guidelines and steps which help the students to prepare for the best literature review. However, if the students are not getting the way of producing the expert literature review, then they can seek professional assistance.

It is one of the well-known companies that provide the students with My Research Topics at any time whenever they feel needed.

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