Guidelines For Writing A Literature Review


A literature review is a common genre for many types of writing you’ll have to do as a graduate student and scholar. Many a time, students find it very difficult to develop a good literature review. This post is intended to lessen your burden and fear.

What is Literature Review?

You cannot carry out a research successfully without a review of some related studies which helps you to understand what has been done before and scholars that had in the past undertaking related studies. This is because there is nothing you will research on that an individual somewhere have not done a work on or a related topic.

To get a wilder knowledge of your research, you need to look at what they have done. There are two basic importance of reviewing related literature, first it gives you more knowledge about your research topic, and secondly, if you don’t review literature, you will end up duplicating someone else’s work without filling any gap in study. This act is a serious one and can be labelled “academic theft

Literature review is not copying people’s work and pasting it in chapter two of your research report. Literature review simply provide an overview of sources you have explored while researching a particular topic and to show your readers how your research fits within a larger field of study.

Importance Of A Good Literature Review

A literature review is simply reshuffling of information in a way that informs how you are planning to investigate a research problem.
While reviewing your literature, you must give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretation.
There is always an intellectual progression of the field and major debates too, you must trace them.

It is very important to note here that you need to identify where gaps exist, how a problem has been researched to date in the concluding part of your literature review. This can come in the sub-heading “Summary of the Reviewed Literature” or “Summary of Review of Related Study”

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What is the purpose of a Literature Review

While reviewing related literature, you will actually be placing each work in the context of it contribution to the understanding of the research problem being studied.
In literature review, you look at the relationship between works by different scholars. One of the relevances of literature review is that it

  1. Describe the relationship of each work to the others under consideration.
  2. Reveal gaps that exist in the literature.
  3. Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous studies.

Types of Literature Review

There are different types of literature review, you can choose to use any of them depending on what you intend finding out.

There are:

  • Argumentative Review: You use this when you want to selectively examine literature in order to support or refute an argument.
  • Integrative Review: This is when you want to review or critique literature on a topic in an integrative way in order to generate new perspective on the topic. This is commonly used in the social sciences. You simply review related literature in an integrative manner in such away that you generate a brand new topic from those integrated literatures.
  • Historical Review: One thing you need to understand as a researcher is that few things rest in isolation from historical precedent. If you intend doing a historical literature review, it means you will focus on examining research throughout a period of time, often starting with the first time an issue, concept, theory, phenomena emerged in the literature, you then trace its evolution just to know the direction of previous researchers.

Other Types of Literature Review  include:

  • Methodological Review
  • Systematic Review
  • Theoretical Review.


Structure and Writing Style in Literature Review

You don’t just pick your pen and start writing a review of literature. Literature Review has a structure and writing style which you as a researcher must follow if you want do a good, valid and reliable findings.

I. Thinking About Your Literature Review

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The first thing you do when developing your literature review is to think. I mean think critically, think about the topic, the structure and the writing style.

A good literature review should have the following:

  • An overview of the subject you are studying and the objectives
  • Division: works that support a particular position, those against and those offering alternative approach should be grouped differently
  • Explanation: explain the similarities and differences in the findings of the literatures you reviewed.
  • Conclusions as to which pieces are best considered in their argument, are most convincing of their opinions, and make the greatest contribution to the understanding and development of their area of research.

Please consider the following while doing your review (this is very important)

  • Provenance — are the author’s authority in those areas? what are the author’s credentials? Do they have evidence for their claims?.
  • Methodology –Is the methodology they used in data generation, analysis and so on appropriate?
  • Persuasiveness — which of the author’s theses are most convincing or least convincing?
  • Value — are the author’s arguments and conclusions convincing? Does the work ultimately contribute in any significant way to an understanding of the subject?

Guidelines for writing a literature review – How to develop a good Literature Review

You as a researcher or a prospective researcher must follow these four stages of developing a literature review.

  1. Problem formulation — which topic or field is being examined and what are its component issues?
  2. Literature search — finding materials relevant to the subject being explored.
  3. Data evaluation — determining which literature makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the topic.
  4. Analysis and interpretation — discussing the findings and conclusions of pertinent literature.

When writing your literature review, there are a lot of things you must consider.

They are as follows

  • Clarify: always ask your supervisor question for clarifications.
  • Find Models: as you read through your related literature, look at how authors in their respective discipline compose the literature review sections from there you are able to develop a model.
  • Narrow the Topic: when you narrow your topic it will limit the number of sources you need for your work.
  • How Current is your source: you must review current literatures, this is particularly true in disciplines in medicine and the sciences.
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Guidelines for writing a literature review -Writing Your Literature Review

Once you’ve settled on how to organize your literature review, you’re ready to write each section. When writing your review, keep in mind these issues.

  • Use Evidence: A literature review section is, in this sense, just like any other academic research paper. Your interpretation of the available sources must be backed up with evidence [citations] that demonstrates that what you are saying is valid.
  • Be Selective: Select only the most important points in each source to highlight in the review.
  • Use Quotes Sparingly: Some short quotes are okay if you want to emphasize a point, or if what an author stated cannot be easily paraphrased.
  • Summarize and Synthesize: Remember to summarize and synthesize your sources within each thematic paragraph as well as throughout the review
  • Keep Your Own Voice: While the literature review presents others’ ideas, your voice should remain front and center. For example, weave references to other sources into what you are writing but maintain your own voice by starting and ending the paragraph with your own ideas and wording. (Very important)
  • Use Caution When Paraphrasing: When paraphrasing a source that is not your own, be sure to represent the author’s information or opinions accurately and in your own words. Even when paraphrasing an author’s work, you still must provide a citation to that work.


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