Literature Review: Definitive Guides

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is an integrated examination of academic papers that are directly connected to your research issue, not merely a synopsis. In other words, it reflects the literature that gives background information on your issue and demonstrates a relationship between those publications and your research question.

Other definitions of Literature Review:

A literature review is a critical, impartial overview of published research literature related to a study issue under discussion. Its objective is to increase familiarity with current thought and research on a particular issue, and may justify further study into a previously neglected or understudied area.

Depending on the task, a literature review may be a stand-alone piece or the start of a longer research article. Rely mainly on the directions provided by your instructor.

What makes a literature review so important?

A literature review is useful since it:

  • Explains the context of a topic’s research.
  • Shows why a topic is important to a subject area.
  • Finds connections between research studies/ideas.
  • Identifies important themes, concepts, and scholars on a certain issue.
  • Identifies major gaps and grounds of contention.
  • Discusses additional research issues that logically arise from past findings.

Misconception about literature review

  • only a compilation of sources
  • a collection of diverse, unconnected sources
  • a collection of everything published about a specific topic, such as literature criticism (think English) or a book review

How to conduct a literature review

These are the steps to conduct a literature review:

  1. Choosing a topic through defining research question

    A key research topic should lead your literature review. Remember that it is not a collection of loosely connected studies in a topic, but rather comprises background and research advancements relevant to a single research issue, which you have summarized and interpreted.
    Useful Tips:
    1. Make certain that your study question is neither too wide nor too restricted. Is it feasible?
    2. Begin by making a list of terms connected to your query. These will come in handy for future searches.
    3. Discuss your topic with your lecturer if you have the opportunity.

  2. Limiting the scope of your review

    How many studies should you look at? How extensive should it be? How many years should it be valid for?
    This may vary depending on your task. How many sources are required for the assignment?

  3. Collecting database for you research

    Make a list of the databases that you intend to search. If necessary, incorporate extensive databases such as WorldCat and Dissertations & Theses.

  4. Keeping your search tracks while searching and adding more literature sources

    1. Examine the abstracts of research studies thoroughly. You will save time as a result of this.
    2. Make a note of the searches you run in each database so you can replicate them if necessary (or avoid dead-end searches you’d forgotten you’d previously performed).
    3. To find others, consult the bibliographies and references of the research studies you find.
    4. Inquire with your lecturer or a scholar in the subject if there are any essential works in the topic that you are missing.
    5. Keep track of your research citations using RefWorks. If you need assistance, go to the RefWorks Tutorial.

  5. Reviewing your literature

    Here are some questions to consider when you assess the research:
    1. What was the research topic of the study under consideration? What did the writers hope to discover?
    2. Was the research supported by a source that may sway the results?
    3. What research methods were used? Examine the review of literature, the samples and factors utilized, the results, and the conclusions. Is the research appear to be finished? Could it have been handled more carefully? What further questions does it raise?
    4. Why do you believe there are contradicting studies?
    5. What is the writers’ reputation in the field? Is this study mentioned, and if so, how is it analyzed?

    Actionable Tips:
    1. Examine the abstractions once again.
    2. Take meticulous notes so that you can monitor your mental processes while you conduct your investigation.

Literature Review Template

The followings are some literature review templates from prominent universities.

Literature Review Outline

Writing a literature review will be so much easier when using Literature Review Outline. Here are some samples of Literature Review Outline that you can utilize:

Literature Review Example

Now that you have observed some literature review templates and outlines, it is important for you to see it yourself some real literature review examples. By reading a literature review example thoroughly, you can expect to have better comprehension on how to write your own literature review. Here are the literature review examples:

Literature Review Example APA Format

If you are looking specifically to the APA Format Literature Review Example, here are some examples that may help you get robust and comprehensive example for your easier literature writing job.

Literature Review Types

Beginner researchers need to be aware of different types of Literature Review. The followings are some literature review types and the definition.

Traditional or Narrative Literature Review

Traditional or narrative literature reviews examine and summarize a corpus of literature on the thesis issue. The literature is sourced from relevant resources and is typically highly selective in its content. The criteria for selecting books for a narrative review are not always made available to the reader.

These evaluations are quite helpful in accumulating and synthesizing the available literature. The primary goal of a narrative review is to provide the author and reader with a full overview of the issue as well as to highlight major areas of investigation.

Narrative reviews may also assist in identifying gaps in the research as well as in refining and defining research objectives. Where a narrative approach varies from a systematic approach is in the notation of search techniques criteria for selection, which might leave narrative reviews subject to bias accusations.

Systematic Qualitative Literature Review

Catherine Pickering, a Griffith University academic staff member, has been influential in establishing and promoting the Systematic Quantitative Literature Review.

Pickering Quantitative Systematic Literature Review

The Pickering method web page offers a comprehensive explanation to the systematic literature review process, including connections to films and examples of:

  • How to Conduct a Systematic Review of the Quantitative Literature
  • How to Create Categories for Review Criteria
  • How to Use Spreadsheets to Record Criteria Data
  • How to Conduct a Literature Analysis


The authors of this handbook appreciate Catherine Pickering’s contribution.

Cochrane Literature Review

Cochrane Assessments are systematic reviews of primary research in human health care and health policy that are globally regarded as the gold standard in evidence-based medicine. They look into the outcomes of initiatives for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation. They also evaluate the precision of a diagnostic test for a specific patient group and scenario.

Scoping Literature Review

A scoping review is quite similar to a systematic review of the literature. The main distinction is that there are no constraints on the materials that can be used. The scoping review’s goal is to locate ALL information on the issue. When conducting a scoping review, it is critical to systematize your search strategies so that you can replicate your searches and address any gaps in results.

Apply some of the metrics used in a systematic review while reviewing and sorting the results so that your search results are grouped by major topics and neatly organized.

Campbell Literature Review

The Campbell Collaboration is a global research network that conducts systematic studies of the effectiveness of social interventions in the areas of crime and justice, education, international development, and social welfare.

Literature Review Structure

Format your literature review by following the commonly used format or structure. Generally, it covers:

Literature Review Introduction

What Should Be Included in the Introduction Section’s Literature Review?
The literature discussed in the beginning should include the following:

  • Introduce the subject.
  • Determine the study’s importance.
  • Give a synopsis of the relevant literature.
  • Using the literature, provide a context for the investigation.
  • Determine knowledge gaps
  • Show how the research will help to enhance understanding about the subject.

As you can see, the literature review is important in the introductory part. There are, however, several things you should avoid doing in this area. These are some examples:

  • Extensive discussion of the research included in the literature review
  • Using papers from the review of literature to aggressively support your research
  • Using direct quotations from the literature review

It is critical to understand how to effectively include the literature review into the introduction. Other studies may be mentioned, but they should not be the center. Instead, concentrate on using the literature review to help you lay the groundwork for your book.

Body of Literature Review

The center of your work is the body of your literature review. This is the section in which you will present, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize current research. In other words, this is where you will get (or lose) the most points. As a result, it is critical to carefully consider how you will organize your conversation in order to convey it in a straightforward manner.

The content of your literature review should do exactly what the chapter description indicates. It should “review” the literature, which means it should be identified, analyzed, and synthesized. So, while considering how to structure your literature review, consider which structural method would produce the greatest “review” for your unique sort of study and aims (we’ll get to that momentarily).

The body of your literature review is meant to provide your readers with an overview of existing research on your issue. This may be used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Developing your credibility as a knowledgeable researcher
  • demonstrating the significance of a specific problem in a field
  • Identifying a knowledge gap in a certain subject
  • Defining important terminology and concepts utilized in a certain subject
  • Explaining typical research methods utilized in a discipline
  • Identifying potential issues with research methodologies
  • directing the reader’s attention to the research question

The body of a literature review, unlike the body of an essay or research paper, is not intended to explicitly support a thesis unless this technique is specifically given. Instead, it supplies the reader with the necessary background knowledge before proceeding with more study or investigation. In general, the goal of a literature review is to create a foundation for subsequent debate. Use a claim, evidence, and discussion to present each piece of literature, but explain broad facts rather than arguing particularly in favor of your argument.

  • The claim must be related to the main goal of the literature study. This may be related to a way of cognition, such as comparison and contrast or cause and effect.
  • The proof must be properly cited information from credible sources that are relevant to the issue and comprises of the information provided in the sources that you are evaluating.
  • The discussion must demonstrate how the sources back up the specific assertion being made. The conversation should also place the material in the context of your desired aim.

A literature review should not merely list the relevant sources; an annotated bibliography serves that goal. Structure coherence is essential. The broad knowledge must contribute to some overarching structure. Outlining the sources you will present might help to offer a framework that will draw your audience’s attention to the study issue.

Conclusion of Literature Review

Your conclusion may include the following, depending on the purpose(s) of your literature review:

  • Introduction to more research: Your planned research topic can be explained at the end of your literature review.
  • Theories summarized: Your conclusion might outline key theories and concepts that will help your reader grasp the issue better.
  • Discussion of the gap: If your literature research identified a gap in general knowledge, your conclusion can explain why that gap is significant.

Whatever your literature review contains, it will always describe what you learnt and how it influences your knowledge of the many challenges or topics in the subject. A conclusion should not waste time rehashing previously stated sources; instead, it should spend most of its time summarizing the overall consensus gained from the sources supplied.

Literature Review Methodology

Before learning more about literature review methodology, it is essential for you to briefly review the following approach to literature review:

ApproachSystematicSemi-systematicIntegrative
Typical purposeSynthesize and compare evidenceOverview research area and track development over timeCritique and synthesize
Research questionsSpecificBroadNarrow or broad
Search strategySystematicMay or may not be systematicUsually not systematic
Sample characteristicsQuantitative articlesResearch articlesResearch articles, books, and other published texts
Analysis and evaluationQuantitativeQualitative/quantitativeQualitative
Examples of contributionEvidence of effect
Inform policy and practice
State of knowledge
Themes in literature
Historical overview
Research agenda
Theoretical model
Taxonomy or classification
Theoretical model or framework

Methodology for Literature Review

Developing research questions and objectives:

As a first stage, members of the review team must justify the need for the review, establish the major purpose of the review, and specify the ideas or variables at the core of their synthesis. They must also explain the research questions they intend to study. In this regard, we agree that clearly articulated research questions are critical components that guide the entire review methodology; they highlight the type of information required, inform the search for and selection of relevant literature, and guide or orient the subsequent analysis.

Examining the existing literature:

The next step is to conduct a literature search and make decisions about which materials should be included in the review. There are three primary coverage strategies. To begin, extensive coverage entails making every effort to be as complete as possible in order to guarantee that all relevant research, whether published and unpublished, are included in the review and, as a result, conclusions are founded on this all-inclusive knowledge base. The second sort of coverage is presenting materials that are indicative of the majority of other works in a certain topic or region.

Authors that use this method will frequently look for relevant papers in a small number of top-tier publications in a topic. In the third technique, the review team focuses on previous works that were vital or pivotal to a certain issue. This might include empirical investigations or conceptual articles that started a path of study, altered how issues or questions were framed, introduced new methodologies or concepts, or sparked significant discussion.

Inclusion screening:

The next stage is to assess the applicability of the material discovered in the previous phase. After identifying a collection of potential research, members of the review committee must evaluate them to determine their relevance. A set of established guidelines serves as the foundation for adding or rejecting certain research. This process necessitates a major effort on the part of researchers, who must maintain neutrality while avoiding biases or blunders. As explained later in this chapter, certain types of reviews require at least two independent reviewers to be involved in the screening process, as well as a system for resolving differences.

Evaluating the quality of primary research:

Members of the review team may be required to assess the scientific quality of the selected studies, that is, the rigour of the study design and methodology, in addition to screening material for inclusion. Such formal assessment, which is typically carried out independently by at least two coders, assists members of the review team in refining which studies to include in the final sample, determining whether or not differences in quality may affect their conclusions, or guiding how they analyze the data and interpret the findings.

Data extraction:

The next step is to collect or extract relevant information from each primary study included in the sample and decide what is relevant to the problem of interest. Indeed, the sort of data that should be collected is mostly determined by the initial study questions. Important information, such as how, when, where, and by whom the main study was done, the research design and techniques, or qualitative/quantitative outcomes, may be acquired.

Data analysis and synthesis:

Members of the review team must next compile, summarize, aggregate, arrange, and compare the evidence retrieved from the included research. The gathered data must be presented in a meaningful manner that implies a novel addition to the existing literature. Literature reviews should be more than just lists of publications; they should provide a logical prism through which to make sense of existing knowledge on a specific topic.