The literature review is the study and survey of a specific topic from various academic and scholarly sources. It offers you a synopsis of the existing knowledge so that you could recognize gaps, relevant theories, and techniques of the current search. Today, we’ll discuss how to write a literature review in detail.
When we talk about writing a literature review, then it requires you to search and select a relevant book, article, or publication. You should critically analyze it, and then explain what you have found. Some of the main five steps of the process are as follows;
- Search pertinent literature to your field of studies
- Evaluate various sources
- Identify gaps, debates, and theme
- Draw the structure
- Write the literature review
Well-written literature isn’t just a summary of different sources. It offers you a critical evaluation, synthesis, and comprehensive analysis in order to present a better picture of the existing knowledge.
Importance of Writing a Literature Review
When it comes to writing a research paper, thesis, or dissertation, then you have to write a literature review in order to locate your research of the current knowledge. The literature review provides you an opportunity to do the following things;
- Show your knowledge and familiarity of the context on the topic
- Develop a technique and theoretical framework of the research
- Build relations with other theorists and researchers
- Show that your researches have discovered the gaps
It’s probable that your assignment would require you to write only the literature review. Here you have to analyze the existing state of research and show your knowledge on the topic. However, the technique and methodology would be different in each case, but the process of carrying out the literature is the same.
How to Write a Literature Review
It’s time to discuss how to write a literature review; some of the main steps of writing the literature review are as follows;
Find the Relevant Literature
First of all, you should choose the topic of the literature review. If you’re writing a literature review and it is a part of the research paper or dissertation, then your literature search should be relevant to the research questions and problems.
If your literature review is a part of the assignment, then your focus should be on the main questions to lead the research. Unlike the question of the dissertation research, you can answer the question of the literature review without conducting research and gathering any data. Or the answer could be relevant to the review of the existing research.
List of Keywords
You should launch the research by creating a list of keywords relevant to the research question. The list should consist of relevant terms, variables, synonyms, and main concepts. Some of the main examples of the keywords are as follows;
- Youth, adolescent, teenagers, generation z, boomers,
- Mental health, self-esteem, self-perception, body image
- Tik Tok, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Social media, etc
Searching Pertinent Sources
You should start using the keywords in your research at different sources. Some of the sources to find articles and journals are as follows;
- Inspec (computer sciences, engineering, and physics)
- Econlit (economics)
- Medline (biomedicine and life sciences)
- Project Muse (social sciences and humanities)
- Google Scholar
The boolean operator is a very good source to narrow down your research;
- NOT (restricting certain keywords not to be shown in the searches)
- OR (looking for some keywords that have a variety of synonyms)
- AND (finding sources that have more than one keyword)
You should study the abstract to know whether the article is pertinent to your research or not. When you have the article or the book, then you should check the bibliography section to look for other relevant sources. If some articles, books, and authors are repeating in your research, then it’s better to reach them out.
Select & Evaluate Sources
While researching, you should keep one thing in mind that you can’t read everything on your topic. You should narrow down your search and study only those sources that are relevant to your question. While checking out each publication, you should ask yourself these questions;
- Strengths and weaknesses of your research
- What are the main arguments and insights and how would they contribute to the comprehension of your topic?
- Is the publication relevant to the other studies in the field? Is it challenging, adding, or confirming the current knowledge?
- Conclusions and outcomes of the study
- What are the main methods, techniques, models, and theories?
- Is the research using the creative approach or already established work?
- The main concepts and how they’re defining them.
- Is the author addressing any question or answer?
You should make sure to study the main theories in your field from credible sources. You can also check that the number of views/citations of an article. An article is influential if it has more citations, then you should consider using it in your literature review.
The scope of the review depends on your field and the topic. For instance, one most recent review from the literature is sufficient in science. You have to give various historical perspectives in the humanities.
Check Sources & Make Notes
You should start writing while conducting research and reading, don’t forget to make notes that you can add later. It’s significant to keep tracking the sources that you’re citing in order to avoid plagiarism. It’s useful to create a bibliography, where you should collect the information of citation and write a summary of every source. it would help you to remember whatever you’ve studied.
Look for Gaps/Themes/Debates
It’s time to structure the literature review and organize your argument and comprehend the connection among various sources that you’ve read. You should look for the following things in your notes;
- Gaps: weaknesses, flaws, and the missing links in the literature
- Pivotal Publications: any influential study that could change the direction of the field
- Contradiction/Conflict/Debate: disagreement among sources
- Themes: repetitively recurring concepts and ideas in the literature
- Pattern & Trends: popularity scope of methods, results, and theories over time
This step would assist you that how your research would add something to the current knowledge and how to structure your literature review.
Structure of Literature Review
There are many ways to manage and structure the body of the literature review. You should be familiar with the structuring techniques before writing it. You can integrate different strategies depending upon the literature review.
Chronological is the simplest technique where you write periodical development of the subject over time. If you’re using this strategy, then you shouldn’t summarize various sources. Your focus should be on the main elements, turning points, and patterns that are shaping the direction of the field. You should offer development occurring explanations that why and how they are happening.
If any of the central themes are recurring, then you should manage the subsections level of the literature review that would focus on various areas of the topic. For instance, if the topic under review is the inequality among migrant health outcomes, then your main theme revolves around the economic crisis, legal status, cultural attitudes, language barrier, and healthcare policy.
If you’re collecting data from various sources of different fields of studies that are using different research methods; you would like to draw some conclusions from various approaches. For instance,
- You should categorize the literature into cultural, historical, sociological sources
- How you have approached the topics from a theoretical and empirical approach
- Results that you have drowns from quantitative and qualitative research
The literature review offers the foundation of a theoretical framework that you can utilize to debate concepts, definitions, models, and theories. You can debate the relevance of the theoretical approach and integrate different concepts and ideas in order to develop a framework for your research.
Writing the Literature Review
When it comes to writing a literature review, then it has a specific introduction, body, and conclusion. You add various arguments in various sections depending on the goals of your literature review.
The focus of the introduction section of the literature review is on the goals and purpose of the review.
If your body section is length, then you should sub-categorize it into various sections relevant to the ideas. Like you can start writing from summary and synthesis, analyze and interpret, critically evaluate, and structured paragraphs.
Here in the conclusion section, you put emphasis on the significance of the literature and main findings. After completing the writing process, then don’t forget to edit and proofread the document.
Conclusion: How to Write a Literature Review
After an in-depth study of how to write a literature review, we’ve concluded that a literature review is a very important document in terms of analytical study from various sources. If you are writing a literature review, then you should keep in mind the above-mentioned steps and follow them in your research.
Ahsan Ali Shaw is an accomplished Business Writer, Analyst, and Public Speaker. Other than that, he’s a fun loving person.