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Writing A Literature Review: General Guidelines

What Is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a survey of key scholarly sources to do with a particular topic. It lists a number of important and relevant pieces of writing and, in doing so, gives the reader a summary of the topic’s current knowledge and debates. When writing a literature review, a student should do more than just summarise each individual source. They should analyse them closely and compare them with one another.

A key part of academic writing involves understanding what has been said and debated about the chosen topic. Once a student has done their research, they’re in a better place to write their research paper and put their point across. A good literature review should let the reader know what the salient points from the student’s research are.

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What Is the Purpose of a Literature Review?

The purpose of a literature review is to show the reader what research has been carried out on the chosen topic in the past. When writing one, you’re aiming to bring the reader up to speed with other people’s research before sharing your own findings. You should summarise where the topic’s at right now before building on it with your research.

Another important purpose is to give more weight to a student’s key arguments. By listing and comparing some of the key sources, a student can give context to the main points in their research paper; they can even fill any gaps in certain areas that others haven’t yet managed to fill.

If you want to know how to write literature review in research paper, carry on reading. We’ll run you through the process of putting one together, and we’ll talk about some of the different approaches you can take in writing one.

Steps in the Literature Review Process

A literature review can make a PhD, dissertation or any other kind of research paper more convincing. For a review to be effective, it should be detailed and have substance but without overdoing it; in other words, it should be concise.

If you’re not sure how to write a literature review for a research paper, we’ll show you how in this section. Here are the main steps to take:

  • Decide on your topic
    Your topic is the base on which you build your research. It also determines what research you carry out.
  • Search for sources to include
    The sources you look at for your research paper should be authoritative and relevant. They should be scholarly in nature, though not all of them will be.
  • Determine which ones are the most useful
    Look through your sources and think about how much each one adds to both the topic you’re exploring and the research you’re carrying out. Including all sources isn’t practical, so only choose the most appropriate and fitting ones.
  • Identify where the research is currently at
    By reading other people’s research, you can get an idea of what the current thoughts and debates relating to your chosen topic are.
  • Come up with a structure
    Literature reviews have quite simple structures. More information on these is given below. Think about how you want to present yours and how you’re going to arrange your findings.
  • Write your literature review
    A well-written literature review gives the reader all the necessary information about each of the sources. It clearly explains how the sources are connected and what they contribute to the chosen topic.

It’s a good idea to come up with headings and subheadings and go from there. These are both important, and we’ll talk about them in more detail later on. During the planning process, they can help you come up with a definitive structure for your literature review and consolidate your thoughts.

You may want to pay someone to write a literature review for you. Many people who are struggling with literature reviews do this. They don’t hand in the work that someone else has done for them. Instead, they read through the other person’s work to get ideas and inspiration. Doing this can help people write their own literature review much more effectively.

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Structure of a Literature Review

For this section, we’ll look at how to write a literature review. We’ll focus on the different approaches you can take according to the type of research you’re doing and how you wish to present it.

Chronological

Listing your sources in chronological order is perhaps the simplest approach to take. However, make sure you don’t just list the sources and summarise them. You should still try to establish some sort of connection between them. Highlight movements, patterns and new ideas. Show the reader how scholarship on the topic has changed over time. You could even organise your sources into broad historical periods and have these as subheadings in literature review, for example.

Thematic

When writing a thematic literature review, you should organise your sources by theme. You should consider this approach if you’ve found multiple themes during your research. Create literature review subheadings for each theme that stands out to you. If you go for a thematic style, think about what your RRL subtopics are and what themes you would use to organise them.

Methodological

A methodological literature review is one whose sources involve the use of different research methods. You could have one source that’s numerical and involves graphs and statistics, for example, and another that’s entirely made up of written text. The subheadings in a literature review that’s methodological could focus on different types of research, focusing not so much on what has been researched but how it’s been researched. As a literature review subheadings example, you could therefore have one subheading for literary sources, another for numerical/graph-based data and so on.

Theoretical

With a theoretical approach, the focus is on the body of theories relating to the topic that’s being discussed. The aim is to determine what theories there currently are, how they relate to one another, and how much they’ve been looked into.

These are just some of the different ways you can go about writing a literature review. The approach you take will depend on the nature of your review and the topic you’re looking at.

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Writing Process of a Literature Review

Some students aren’t sure how to write literature review for research paper. Thankfully, the process of putting one together isn’t complicated at all. A typical literature review outline template has three distinct sections: an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion. 

The literature review headings will be things like the introduction, key points in the body paragraphs section and the conclusion. You’ll also have a heading for the references section. The subheadings for literature review can be secondary points you want to make in the bulk of the writing, i.e., the body paragraphs section.

The headings for literature review should be succinct and to the point. They should give the reader a clear indication of what the focus of the upcoming section will be, but without revealing what the section concludes. Each heading and subheading in literature review should organise the work into sections and subsections that are distinct yet still linked together in a logical way.

Here’s a summary of the three main components of a literature review:

Introduction

  • Here you explain to the reader what your topic of research is but without going into too much detail
  • You should also give a preview of some of your literature review’s key points

Body Paragraphs

  • This is where your literature review subtopics are. Each one should cover an individual source or a collection of sources
  • For each source, you should summarise what it says and mention some key points. You should add some thoughts, ideas and interpretations of your own
  • You should also highlight what your sources’ strengths are and point out some weaknesses if there are any
  • Whatever structure you use, your subtopics in literature review should be well-connected, and your writing should flow well. You should be making connections and comparisons wherever possible

Conclusion

  • This is where you summarise the findings that you’ve outlined in the body paragraphs
  • You should also link your findings back to the question/title of your research project

Take an organised approach to writing your literature review, and you shouldn’t find it hard at all. If you’re still having problems with it, consider using the best literature review writing service for some extra help.

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As well as learning how to write a literature review in a research paper, you’ll learn to be more productive and use your time more wisely. Writing services help you put together literature reviews more efficiently. They give you the opportunity to work with an experienced writer who can offer tips in writing RRL, help you with literature review formatting and more. You can even get things like a literature review headings and subheadings example, so you can see how best to write your headings.

Remember that while the literature review isn’t the main part of a research assignment, it’s still significant. It’s important that you write it as best you can so that your research has more backing and will be taken more seriously.

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