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How to Write a Strong Literature Review

As a university student, there will be times when you will have to write a literature review for a dissertation or a thesis or as a standalone assignment. A literature review is generally a critical analysis of published literature, scholarly journal articles, reports, and books in a particular subject area. Basically, it is a written overview of significant writings and various sources on a selected topic. It provides a brief description, evaluation, and summary of each source. Our below guide will provide you with some expert tips on how to write a strong literature review.  

Purpose of writing a literature review:

The main purpose behind why universities ask students to write a literature review is to assess their comprehensive understanding of a particular subject or a topic. Students can demonstrate their understanding by analysing and reviewing the already existing information. Through a literature review, students can not only make an overview of the key concepts but also identify the major patterns, relationships, strengths and weaknesses in the existing content. It also helps students to identify the gaps in the previous research and find conflicting evidence which is useful in establishing a solid background towards one’s research paper investigation.  

Structure of a literature review

A literature review usually consists of three major parts:

Introduction

It should give an outline of the purpose behind writing a literature review and should highlight the importance of the chosen topic. An introduction should also include the scope of the review and the aspects of the topic which will be discussed. Students can even mention the time period and sources used in the study while stressing the organisational pattern of the review.

Main Body

Maintain a steady connection between all the paragraphs and try to establish a consistent flow of the ideas reviewed. Your main body may include historical backgrounds, methodologies, results of previous studies on a similar topic, alternative viewpoints, major queries surrounding the topic and a general conclusion drawn from these discussions. The main body is often divided into sub-sections by themes or into theoretical and empirical parts of the literature review. The theoretical part discusses the competing theories on the subject whereas the empirical part provides a discussion of evidence that supports or refutes specific theories.

Conclusion

Give a brief summary of all the major agreements and disagreements mentioned in the review. Critically address any gaps and areas of future research while mentioning your overall perspective on the topic.  

The content of a literature review

An ideal literature review is usually organised around ideas and is different than an annotated bibliography. This means students should not simply list their sources and give details about each of them. A good way of creating the content of a literature review would be to selectively choose sources from your subject area and connect these sources together following a specific theme and adding your critical evaluation of the information. Make sure to use predominantly recent references from high-quality sources such as academic journals and books.