How to write a literature review introduction (+ examples)

how to structure a literature review introduction

The introduction to a literature review serves as your reader’s guide through your academic work and thought process. Explore the significance of literature review introductions in review papers, academic papers, essays, theses, and dissertations. We delve into the purpose and necessity of these introductions, explore the essential components of literature review introductions, and provide step-by-step guidance on how to craft your own, along with examples.

Why you need an introduction for a literature review

In academic writing , the introduction for a literature review is an indispensable component. Effective academic writing requires proper paragraph structuring to guide your reader through your argumentation. This includes providing an introduction to your literature review.

It is imperative to remember that you should never start sharing your findings abruptly. Even if there isn’t a dedicated introduction section .

When you need an introduction for a literature review

There are three main scenarios in which you need an introduction for a literature review:

What to include in a literature review introduction

It is crucial to customize the content and depth of your literature review introduction according to the specific format of your academic work.

In practical terms, this implies, for instance, that the introduction in an academic literature review paper, especially one derived from a systematic literature review , is quite comprehensive. Particularly compared to the rather brief one or two introductory sentences that are often found at the beginning of a literature review section in a standard academic paper. The introduction to the literature review chapter in a thesis or dissertation again adheres to different standards.

Academic literature review paper

The introduction of an academic literature review paper, which does not rely on empirical data, often necessitates a more extensive introduction than the brief literature review introductions typically found in empirical papers. It should encompass:

Regular literature review section in an academic article or essay

In a standard 8000-word journal article, the literature review section typically spans between 750 and 1250 words. The first few sentences or the first paragraph within this section often serve as an introduction. It should encompass:

In some cases, you might include:

Introduction to a literature review chapter in thesis or dissertation

Some students choose to incorporate a brief introductory section at the beginning of each chapter, including the literature review chapter. Alternatively, others opt to seamlessly integrate the introduction into the initial sentences of the literature review itself. Both approaches are acceptable, provided that you incorporate the following elements:

Examples of literature review introductions

Example 1: an effective introduction for an academic literature review paper.

To begin, let’s delve into the introduction of an academic literature review paper. We will examine the paper “How does culture influence innovation? A systematic literature review”, which was published in 2018 in the journal Management Decision.

Example 2: An effective introduction to a literature review section in an academic paper

The second example represents a typical academic paper, encompassing not only a literature review section but also empirical data, a case study, and other elements. We will closely examine the introduction to the literature review section in the paper “The environmentalism of the subalterns: a case study of environmental activism in Eastern Kurdistan/Rojhelat”, which was published in 2021 in the journal Local Environment.

Thus, the author successfully introduces the literature review, from which point onward it dives into the main concept (‘subalternity’) of the research, and reviews the literature on socio-economic justice and environmental degradation.

Examples 3-5: Effective introductions to literature review chapters

Numerous universities offer online repositories where you can access theses and dissertations from previous years, serving as valuable sources of reference. Many of these repositories, however, may require you to log in through your university account. Nevertheless, a few open-access repositories are accessible to anyone, such as the one by the University of Manchester . It’s important to note though that copyright restrictions apply to these resources, just as they would with published papers.

Master’s thesis literature review introduction

Phd thesis literature review chapter introduction, phd thesis literature review introduction.

The last example is the doctoral thesis Metacognitive strategies and beliefs: Child correlates and early experiences Chan, K. Y. M. (Author). 31 Dec 2020 . The author clearly conducted a systematic literature review, commencing the review section with a discussion of the methodology and approach employed in locating and analyzing the selected records.

Steps to write your own literature review introduction

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  • How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

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Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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See an example

how to structure a literature review introduction

Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods?
  • Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

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To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources

Theoretical

A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

  • Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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how to structure a literature review introduction

How To Structure Your Literature Review

3 options to help structure your chapter.

By: Amy Rommelspacher (PhD) | Reviewer: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | November 2020 (Updated May 2023)

Writing the literature review chapter can seem pretty daunting when you’re piecing together your dissertation or thesis. As  we’ve discussed before , a good literature review needs to achieve a few very important objectives – it should:

  • Demonstrate your knowledge of the research topic
  • Identify the gaps in the literature and show how your research links to these
  • Provide the foundation for your conceptual framework (if you have one)
  • Inform your own  methodology and research design

To achieve this, your literature review needs a well-thought-out structure . Get the structure of your literature review chapter wrong and you’ll struggle to achieve these objectives. Don’t worry though – in this post, we’ll look at how to structure your literature review for maximum impact (and marks!).

The function of the lit review

But wait – is this the right time?

Deciding on the structure of your literature review should come towards the end of the literature review process – after you have collected and digested the literature, but before you start writing the chapter. 

In other words, you need to first develop a rich understanding of the literature before you even attempt to map out a structure. There’s no use trying to develop a structure before you’ve fully wrapped your head around the existing research.

Equally importantly, you need to have a structure in place before you start writing , or your literature review will most likely end up a rambling, disjointed mess. 

Importantly, don’t feel that once you’ve defined a structure you can’t iterate on it. It’s perfectly natural to adjust as you engage in the writing process. As we’ve discussed before , writing is a way of developing your thinking, so it’s quite common for your thinking to change – and therefore, for your chapter structure to change – as you write. 

Need a helping hand?

how to structure a literature review introduction

Like any other chapter in your thesis or dissertation, your literature review needs to have a clear, logical structure. At a minimum, it should have three essential components – an  introduction , a  body   and a  conclusion . 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

1: The Introduction Section

Just like any good introduction, the introduction section of your literature review should introduce the purpose and layout (organisation) of the chapter. In other words, your introduction needs to give the reader a taste of what’s to come, and how you’re going to lay that out. Essentially, you should provide the reader with a high-level roadmap of your chapter to give them a taste of the journey that lies ahead.

Here’s an example of the layout visualised in a literature review introduction:

Example of literature review outline structure

Your introduction should also outline your topic (including any tricky terminology or jargon) and provide an explanation of the scope of your literature review – in other words, what you  will   and  won’t   be covering (the delimitations ). This helps ringfence your review and achieve a clear focus . The clearer and narrower your focus, the deeper you can dive into the topic (which is typically where the magic lies). 

Depending on the nature of your project, you could also present your stance or point of view at this stage. In other words, after grappling with the literature you’ll have an opinion about what the trends and concerns are in the field as well as what’s lacking. The introduction section can then present these ideas so that it is clear to examiners that you’re aware of how your research connects with existing knowledge .

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2: The Body Section

The body of your literature review is the centre of your work. This is where you’ll present, analyse, evaluate and synthesise the existing research. In other words, this is where you’re going to earn (or lose) the most marks. Therefore, it’s important to carefully think about how you will organise your discussion to present it in a clear way. 

The body of your literature review should do just as the description of this chapter suggests. It should “review” the literature – in other words, identify, analyse, and synthesise it. So, when thinking about structuring your literature review, you need to think about which structural approach will provide the best “review” for your specific type of research and objectives (we’ll get to this shortly).

There are (broadly speaking)  three options  for organising your literature review.

The body section of your literature review is the where you'll present, analyse, evaluate and synthesise the existing research.

Option 1: Chronological (according to date)

Organising the literature chronologically is one of the simplest ways to structure your literature review. You start with what was published first and work your way through the literature until you reach the work published most recently. Pretty straightforward.

The benefit of this option is that it makes it easy to discuss the developments and debates in the field as they emerged over time. Organising your literature chronologically also allows you to highlight how specific articles or pieces of work might have changed the course of the field – in other words, which research has had the most impact . Therefore, this approach is very useful when your research is aimed at understanding how the topic has unfolded over time and is often used by scholars in the field of history. That said, this approach can be utilised by anyone that wants to explore change over time .

Adopting the chronological structure allows you to discuss the developments and debates in the field as they emerged over time.

For example , if a student of politics is investigating how the understanding of democracy has evolved over time, they could use the chronological approach to provide a narrative that demonstrates how this understanding has changed through the ages.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you structure your literature review chronologically.

  • What is the earliest literature published relating to this topic?
  • How has the field changed over time? Why?
  • What are the most recent discoveries/theories?

In some ways, chronology plays a part whichever way you decide to structure your literature review, because you will always, to a certain extent, be analysing how the literature has developed. However, with the chronological approach, the emphasis is very firmly on how the discussion has evolved over time , as opposed to how all the literature links together (which we’ll discuss next ).

Option 2: Thematic (grouped by theme)

The thematic approach to structuring a literature review means organising your literature by theme or category – for example, by independent variables (i.e. factors that have an impact on a specific outcome).

As you’ve been collecting and synthesising literature , you’ll likely have started seeing some themes or patterns emerging. You can then use these themes or patterns as a structure for your body discussion. The thematic approach is the most common approach and is useful for structuring literature reviews in most fields.

For example, if you were researching which factors contributed towards people trusting an organisation, you might find themes such as consumers’ perceptions of an organisation’s competence, benevolence and integrity. Structuring your literature review thematically would mean structuring your literature review’s body section to discuss each of these themes, one section at a time.

The thematic structure allows you to organise your literature by theme or category  – e.g. by independent variables.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when structuring your literature review by themes:

  • Are there any patterns that have come to light in the literature?
  • What are the central themes and categories used by the researchers?
  • Do I have enough evidence of these themes?

PS – you can see an example of a thematically structured literature review in our literature review sample walkthrough video here.

Option 3: Methodological

The methodological option is a way of structuring your literature review by the research methodologies used . In other words, organising your discussion based on the angle from which each piece of research was approached – for example, qualitative , quantitative or mixed  methodologies.

Structuring your literature review by methodology can be useful if you are drawing research from a variety of disciplines and are critiquing different methodologies. The point of this approach is to question  how  existing research has been conducted, as opposed to  what  the conclusions and/or findings the research were.

The methodological structure allows you to organise your chapter by the analysis method  used - e.g. qual, quant or mixed.

For example, a sociologist might centre their research around critiquing specific fieldwork practices. Their literature review will then be a summary of the fieldwork methodologies used by different studies.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when structuring your literature review according to methodology:

  • Which methodologies have been utilised in this field?
  • Which methodology is the most popular (and why)?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the various methodologies?
  • How can the existing methodologies inform my own methodology?

3: The Conclusion Section

Once you’ve completed the body section of your literature review using one of the structural approaches we discussed above, you’ll need to “wrap up” your literature review and pull all the pieces together to set the direction for the rest of your dissertation or thesis.

The conclusion is where you’ll present the key findings of your literature review. In this section, you should emphasise the research that is especially important to your research questions and highlight the gaps that exist in the literature. Based on this, you need to make it clear what you will add to the literature – in other words, justify your own research by showing how it will help fill one or more of the gaps you just identified.

Last but not least, if it’s your intention to develop a conceptual framework for your dissertation or thesis, the conclusion section is a good place to present this.

In the conclusion section, you’ll need to present the key findings of your literature review and highlight the gaps that exist in the literature. Based on this, you'll  need to make it clear what your study will add  to the literature.

Example: Thematically Structured Review

In the video below, we unpack a literature review chapter so that you can see an example of a thematically structure review in practice.

Let’s Recap

In this article, we’ve  discussed how to structure your literature review for maximum impact. Here’s a quick recap of what  you need to keep in mind when deciding on your literature review structure:

  • Just like other chapters, your literature review needs a clear introduction , body and conclusion .
  • The introduction section should provide an overview of what you will discuss in your literature review.
  • The body section of your literature review can be organised by chronology , theme or methodology . The right structural approach depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your research.
  • The conclusion section should draw together the key findings of your literature review and link them to your research questions.

If you’re ready to get started, be sure to download our free literature review template to fast-track your chapter outline.

Literature Review Course

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This post is an extract from our bestselling short course, Literature Review Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

27 Comments

Marin

Great work. This is exactly what I was looking for and helps a lot together with your previous post on literature review. One last thing is missing: a link to a great literature chapter of an journal article (maybe with comments of the different sections in this review chapter). Do you know any great literature review chapters?

ISHAYA JEREMIAH AYOCK

I agree with you Marin… A great piece

Qaiser

I agree with Marin. This would be quite helpful if you annotate a nicely structured literature from previously published research articles.

Maurice Kagwi

Awesome article for my research.

Ache Roland Ndifor

I thank you immensely for this wonderful guide

Malik Imtiaz Ahmad

It is indeed thought and supportive work for the futurist researcher and students

Franklin Zon

Very educative and good time to get guide. Thank you

Dozie

Great work, very insightful. Thank you.

KAWU ALHASSAN

Thanks for this wonderful presentation. My question is that do I put all the variables into a single conceptual framework or each hypothesis will have it own conceptual framework?

CYRUS ODUAH

Thank you very much, very helpful

Michael Sanya Oluyede

This is very educative and precise . Thank you very much for dropping this kind of write up .

Karla Buchanan

Pheeww, so damn helpful, thank you for this informative piece.

Enang Lazarus

I’m doing a research project topic ; stool analysis for parasitic worm (enteric) worm, how do I structure it, thanks.

Biswadeb Dasgupta

comprehensive explanation. Help us by pasting the URL of some good “literature review” for better understanding.

Vik

great piece. thanks for the awesome explanation. it is really worth sharing. I have a little question, if anyone can help me out, which of the options in the body of literature can be best fit if you are writing an architectural thesis that deals with design?

S Dlamini

I am doing a research on nanofluids how can l structure it?

PATRICK MACKARNESS

Beautifully clear.nThank you!

Lucid! Thankyou!

Abraham

Brilliant work, well understood, many thanks

Nour

I like how this was so clear with simple language 😊😊 thank you so much 😊 for these information 😊

Lindiey

Insightful. I was struggling to come up with a sensible literature review but this has been really helpful. Thank you!

NAGARAJU K

You have given thought-provoking information about the review of the literature.

Vakaloloma

Thank you. It has made my own research better and to impart your work to students I teach

Alphonse NSHIMIYIMANA

I learnt a lot from this teaching. It’s a great piece.

Resa

I am doing research on EFL teacher motivation for his/her job. How Can I structure it? Is there any detailed template, additional to this?

Gerald Gormanous

You are so cool! I do not think I’ve read through something like this before. So nice to find somebody with some genuine thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This site is one thing that is required on the internet, someone with a little originality!

kan

I’m asked to do conceptual, theoretical and empirical literature, and i just don’t know how to structure it

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A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research ( scholarship ) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably.

Where, when, and why would I write a lit review?

There are a number of different situations where you might write a literature review, each with slightly different expectations; different disciplines, too, have field-specific expectations for what a literature review is and does. For instance, in the humanities, authors might include more overt argumentation and interpretation of source material in their literature reviews, whereas in the sciences, authors are more likely to report study designs and results in their literature reviews; these differences reflect these disciplines’ purposes and conventions in scholarship. You should always look at examples from your own discipline and talk to professors or mentors in your field to be sure you understand your discipline’s conventions, for literature reviews as well as for any other genre.

A literature review can be a part of a research paper or scholarly article, usually falling after the introduction and before the research methods sections. In these cases, the lit review just needs to cover scholarship that is important to the issue you are writing about; sometimes it will also cover key sources that informed your research methodology.

Lit reviews can also be standalone pieces, either as assignments in a class or as publications. In a class, a lit review may be assigned to help students familiarize themselves with a topic and with scholarship in their field, get an idea of the other researchers working on the topic they’re interested in, find gaps in existing research in order to propose new projects, and/or develop a theoretical framework and methodology for later research. As a publication, a lit review usually is meant to help make other scholars’ lives easier by collecting and summarizing, synthesizing, and analyzing existing research on a topic. This can be especially helpful for students or scholars getting into a new research area, or for directing an entire community of scholars toward questions that have not yet been answered.

What are the parts of a lit review?

Most lit reviews use a basic introduction-body-conclusion structure; if your lit review is part of a larger paper, the introduction and conclusion pieces may be just a few sentences while you focus most of your attention on the body. If your lit review is a standalone piece, the introduction and conclusion take up more space and give you a place to discuss your goals, research methods, and conclusions separately from where you discuss the literature itself.

Introduction:

  • An introductory paragraph that explains what your working topic and thesis is
  • A forecast of key topics or texts that will appear in the review
  • Potentially, a description of how you found sources and how you analyzed them for inclusion and discussion in the review (more often found in published, standalone literature reviews than in lit review sections in an article or research paper)
  • Summarize and synthesize: Give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: Don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically Evaluate: Mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: Use transition words and topic sentence to draw connections, comparisons, and contrasts.

Conclusion:

  • Summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance
  • Connect it back to your primary research question

How should I organize my lit review?

Lit reviews can take many different organizational patterns depending on what you are trying to accomplish with the review. Here are some examples:

  • Chronological : The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time, which helps familiarize the audience with the topic (for instance if you are introducing something that is not commonly known in your field). If you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze the patterns, turning points, and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred (as mentioned previously, this may not be appropriate in your discipline — check with a teacher or mentor if you’re unsure).
  • Thematic : If you have found some recurring central themes that you will continue working with throughout your piece, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic. For example, if you are reviewing literature about women and religion, key themes can include the role of women in churches and the religious attitude towards women.
  • Qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the research by sociological, historical, or cultural sources
  • Theoretical : In many humanities articles, the literature review is the foundation for the theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. You can argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach or combine various theorical concepts to create a framework for your research.

What are some strategies or tips I can use while writing my lit review?

Any lit review is only as good as the research it discusses; make sure your sources are well-chosen and your research is thorough. Don’t be afraid to do more research if you discover a new thread as you’re writing. More info on the research process is available in our "Conducting Research" resources .

As you’re doing your research, create an annotated bibliography ( see our page on the this type of document ). Much of the information used in an annotated bibliography can be used also in a literature review, so you’ll be not only partially drafting your lit review as you research, but also developing your sense of the larger conversation going on among scholars, professionals, and any other stakeholders in your topic.

Usually you will need to synthesize research rather than just summarizing it. This means drawing connections between sources to create a picture of the scholarly conversation on a topic over time. Many student writers struggle to synthesize because they feel they don’t have anything to add to the scholars they are citing; here are some strategies to help you:

  • It often helps to remember that the point of these kinds of syntheses is to show your readers how you understand your research, to help them read the rest of your paper.
  • Writing teachers often say synthesis is like hosting a dinner party: imagine all your sources are together in a room, discussing your topic. What are they saying to each other?
  • Look at the in-text citations in each paragraph. Are you citing just one source for each paragraph? This usually indicates summary only. When you have multiple sources cited in a paragraph, you are more likely to be synthesizing them (not always, but often
  • Read more about synthesis here.

The most interesting literature reviews are often written as arguments (again, as mentioned at the beginning of the page, this is discipline-specific and doesn’t work for all situations). Often, the literature review is where you can establish your research as filling a particular gap or as relevant in a particular way. You have some chance to do this in your introduction in an article, but the literature review section gives a more extended opportunity to establish the conversation in the way you would like your readers to see it. You can choose the intellectual lineage you would like to be part of and whose definitions matter most to your thinking (mostly humanities-specific, but this goes for sciences as well). In addressing these points, you argue for your place in the conversation, which tends to make the lit review more compelling than a simple reporting of other sources.

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  • Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide
  • Introduction

Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide — Introduction

  • Getting Started
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What are Literature Reviews?

So, what is a literature review? "A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries." Taylor, D.  The literature review: A few tips on conducting it . University of Toronto Health Sciences Writing Centre.

Goals of Literature Reviews

What are the goals of creating a Literature Review?  A literature could be written to accomplish different aims:

  • To develop a theory or evaluate an existing theory
  • To summarize the historical or existing state of a research topic
  • Identify a problem in a field of research 

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1997). Writing narrative literature reviews .  Review of General Psychology , 1 (3), 311-320.

What kinds of sources require a Literature Review?

  • A research paper assigned in a course
  • A thesis or dissertation
  • A grant proposal
  • An article intended for publication in a journal

All these instances require you to collect what has been written about your research topic so that you can demonstrate how your own research sheds new light on the topic.

Types of Literature Reviews

What kinds of literature reviews are written?

Narrative review: The purpose of this type of review is to describe the current state of the research on a specific topic/research and to offer a critical analysis of the literature reviewed. Studies are grouped by research/theoretical categories, and themes and trends, strengths and weakness, and gaps are identified. The review ends with a conclusion section which summarizes the findings regarding the state of the research of the specific study, the gaps identify and if applicable, explains how the author's research will address gaps identify in the review and expand the knowledge on the topic reviewed.

  • Example : Predictors and Outcomes of U.S. Quality Maternity Leave: A Review and Conceptual Framework:  10.1177/08948453211037398  

Systematic review : "The authors of a systematic review use a specific procedure to search the research literature, select the studies to include in their review, and critically evaluate the studies they find." (p. 139). Nelson, L. K. (2013). Research in Communication Sciences and Disorders . Plural Publishing.

  • Example : The effect of leave policies on increasing fertility: a systematic review:  10.1057/s41599-022-01270-w

Meta-analysis : "Meta-analysis is a method of reviewing research findings in a quantitative fashion by transforming the data from individual studies into what is called an effect size and then pooling and analyzing this information. The basic goal in meta-analysis is to explain why different outcomes have occurred in different studies." (p. 197). Roberts, M. C., & Ilardi, S. S. (2003). Handbook of Research Methods in Clinical Psychology . Blackwell Publishing.

  • Example : Employment Instability and Fertility in Europe: A Meta-Analysis:  10.1215/00703370-9164737

Meta-synthesis : "Qualitative meta-synthesis is a type of qualitative study that uses as data the findings from other qualitative studies linked by the same or related topic." (p.312). Zimmer, L. (2006). Qualitative meta-synthesis: A question of dialoguing with texts .  Journal of Advanced Nursing , 53 (3), 311-318.

  • Example : Women’s perspectives on career successes and barriers: A qualitative meta-synthesis:  10.1177/05390184221113735

Literature Reviews in the Health Sciences

  • UConn Health subject guide on systematic reviews Explanation of the different review types used in health sciences literature as well as tools to help you find the right review type
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Introduction

Literature reviews take time. here is some general information to know before you start.  .

  •  VIDEO -- This video is a great overview of the entire process.  (2020; North Carolina State University Libraries) --The transcript is included --This is for everyone; ignore the mention of "graduate students" --9.5 minutes, and every second is important  
  • OVERVIEW -- Read this page from Purdue's OWL. It's not long, and gives some tips to fill in what you just learned from the video.  
  • NOT A RESEARCH ARTICLE -- A literature review follows a different style, format, and structure from a research article.  
 
Reports on the work of others. Reports on original research.
To examine and evaluate previous literature.

To test a hypothesis and/or make an argument.

May include a short literature review to introduce the subject.

Steps to Completing a Literature Review

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The structure of a literature review

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A literature review should be structured like any other essay: it should have an introduction, a middle or main body, and a conclusion.

The introduction should:

  • define your topic and provide an appropriate context for reviewing the literature;
  • establish your reasons – i.e. point of view – for
  • reviewing the literature;
  • explain the organisation – i.e. sequence – of the review;
  • state the scope of the review – i.e. what is included and what isn’t included. For example, if you were reviewing the literature on obesity in children you might say something like: There are a large number of studies of obesity trends in the general population. However, since the focus of this research is on obesity in children, these will not be reviewed in detail and will only be referred to as appropriate.

The middle or main body should:

  • organise the literature according to common themes;
  • provide insight into the relation between your chosen topic and the wider subject area e.g. between obesity in children and obesity in general;
  • move from a general, wider view of the literature being reviewed to the specific focus of your research.

The conclusion should:

  • summarise the important aspects of the existing body of literature;
  • evaluate the current state of the literature reviewed;
  • identify significant flaws or gaps in existing knowledge;
  • outline areas for future study;
  • link your research to existing knowledge.

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Writing Literature Reviews: 4. Structure Your Lit Review

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How to Structure Your Lit Review

A literature review, even when it is within a larger paper, should include an introduction, a main body section, and a conclusion.

In the Introduction Section :

  • define your topic and scope
  • explain the organization of your lit review

In the Main Section :

  • Present the literature you found related to your topic in a clear, organized way
  • Compare and contrast the literature
  • Identify problems, issues, and debates among scholars on the topic

There are many ways to organize the main section of a literature review. Here are a few ways you could organize this section:

  • Chronological - Present a condensed history of the major ideas and developments of a topic over time.
  • Thematic - Present the major theories relevant to your topic and how they agree or contrast.
  • Methodological - If there are different methods of research on your topic, you can organize your review by grouping the findings of different methodologies. Be sure to compare and contrast these methods (you are setting up an argument for your own methods.)
  • Theoretical - Organize your review by the various theories others have developed relevant to the topic, comparing and contrasting the strengths and weaknesses of each.

In the Conclusion Section :

  • Summarize your findings in the scholarly literature
  • Identify any gaps and explain briefly how you are filling that gap with your own research (if appropriate)
  • Explain how your paper/ideas/research relates to the greater scholarly literature and create a transition to the rest of your paper

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Structure of a literature review

Determine your purpose.

Work out what you need to address in the literature review. What are you being asked to do in your literature review? What are you searching the literature to discover? Check your assignment question and your criteria sheet to know what to focus on.

Do an extensive search of the literature

Find out what has been written on the topic.

What kind of literature?

Select appropriate source material: Use a variety of academic or scholarly sources that are relevant, current and authoritative. An extensive review of relevant material will include — books, journal articles, reports, government documents, conference proceedings and web resources. The Library would be the best place to search for your sources.

How many resources?

The number of sources that you will be required to review will depend on what the literature review is for and how advanced you are in your studies. It could be from five sources at first year undergraduate level to more than fifty for a thesis. Your lecturer will advise you on these details.

Note the bibliographical details of your sources

Keep a note of the publication title, date, authors’ names, page numbers and publishers. These details will save you time later.

Read the literature

  • Critically read each source, look for the arguments presented rather than for facts.
  • Take notes as you read and start to organise your review around themes and ideas.
  • Consider using a table, matrix or concept map to identify how the different sources relate to each other.

Analyse the literature you have found

In order for your writing to reflect strong critical analysis, you need to evaluate the sources. For each source you are reviewing ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the key terms and concepts?
  • How relevant is this article to my specific topic?
  • What are the major relationships, trends and patterns?
  • How has the author structured the arguments?
  • How authoritative and credible is this source?
  • What are the differences and similarities between the sources?
  • Are there any gaps in the literature that require further study?

Write the review

  • Start by writing your thesis statement. This is an important introductory sentence that will tell your reader what the topic is and the overall perspective or argument you will be presenting.
  • Like essays, a literature review must have an introduction, a body and a conclusion.

Introduction

Your introduction should give an outline of:

  • why you are writing a review, and why the topic is important
  • the scope of the review — what aspects of the topic will be discussed
  • the criteria used for your literature selection (e.g. type of sources used, date range)
  • the organisational pattern of the review.

Body paragraphs

Each body paragraph should deal with a different theme that is relevant to your topic. You will need to synthesise several of your reviewed readings into each paragraph, so that there is a clear connection between the various sources. You will need to critically analyse each source for how they contribute to the themes you are researching.

The body could include paragraphs on:

  • historical background
  • methodologies
  • previous studies on the topic
  • mainstream versus alternative viewpoints
  • principal questions being asked
  • general conclusions that are being drawn.

Your conclusion should give a summary of:

  • the main agreements and disagreements in the literature
  • any gaps or areas for further research
  • your overall perspective on the topic.
  • outlined the purpose and scope?
  • identified appropriate and credible (academic/scholarly) literature?
  • recorded the bibliographical details of the sources?
  • analysed and critiqued your readings?
  • identified gaps in the literature and research?
  • explored methodologies / theories / hypotheses / models?
  • discussed the varying viewpoints?
  • written an introduction, body and conclusion?
  • checked punctuation and spelling?

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How to Structure Your Literature Review - Quick Guide with Examples

Sumalatha G

Table of Contents

A literature review is a process of reviewing the existing scholarly literature based on a specific topic. It is one of the critical components of your own research paper. By conducting a thorough literature review, you will get a synopsis of the relevant methods, theories, and research gaps of the existing research on the related topic.

However, writing a good literature review is not as easy as it sounds. It requires rigorous research and extensive exploration of hundreds of journal articles to land on the pertinent information. So, it’s essential to learn the components of a literature review structure before you start writing one.

That’s why this article exists — to help you understand how to structure a literature review in a research paper. Read through the article to get the gist of the components used and how to structure them.

Role of literature review structure in research

Why do you think structuring your literature review is crucial in your research? It plays a significant role in organizing and presenting the research evidence and information effectively to the readers.

A well-structured literature review ensures clarity and coherence in the research which enables readers to follow the logical flow of ideas. It helps researchers to logically present their arguments and findings, making it easier for readers to comprehend the research's context and contribution.

Furthermore, it aids in identifying relationships between diverse studies, identifying key themes, and highlighting any research gaps. In fact, one of the prominent reasons why the proper format of a literature review is important is that it provides a framework for the researchers to present their ideas in a systematic and organized sequence.

Overall, a well structured literature review provides a roadmap for readers to navigate through the existing research or existing knowledge. By clearly indicating the main sections and sub-sections of the research, readers can easily locate the information they are interested in.

It is essential for researchers who are conducting a literature review to gain an overview of a specific topic or to find relevant studies and build a concrete framework for their research.

When should I structure my literature review?

Writing and structuring a literature review imparts the required knowledge to the readers only when you do it at the right time. So, be sure to map out the structure after you conduct a thorough literature review of the existing sources.

You should structure the review once you’re done with reading and digesting the research papers and before you start writing your thesis, dissertation, or research paper. It bridges the gap between reviewing literature and writing a research paper.

In simpler words, once you’ve comprehended the existing literature and gained enough knowledge of the theories, key concepts, and research gaps of your study or topic, you will be in a position to map out a literature review structure. It gives you a boost to set the stage for your research paper writing. Once the structure is ready, you can reiterate or restructure it based on the flow of your research work.

Tip: Use SciSpace Literature Review to compare and contrast multiple research papers on a single screen, saving a significant amount of time. And to comprehend the research papers easily, utilize Copilot which explains even the most complicated nomenclature and context in the simplest way possible. Above all, these tools support 75+ languages making your literature review and research paper reading a breeze.

How to structure a literature review?

A literature review is also one of the chapters or sections in your research paper. The structure varies from one study to another depending on diverse factors. However, a typical structure of a literature review has 3 main parts — an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Let's get into them in detail.

a) Introduction of the literature review

The literature review introduction should give the readers an overview of what will you cover in the study and how the study is correlated. Ideally, it should provide the outline of your research and also explain the scope of your literature review. The introduction section is the most suitable segment to share your stance or perspective about the research topic and gently convey your contributions to the field through this study.

Since it happens to be the first paragraph, you must include and define its purpose, organization, and critical aspects of your research project.

Your introduction should give the following relevant background information to the readers:

  • The “why” of the review? — should provide a reason for why you’re writing the review
  • The “takeaway” of the review? — should portray the importance of the research
  • Articulate the topics covered in the research in a sequential manner
  • “What” of the review? — scope of the review
  • How or where your topic is aligned with the niche or subject area

b) Body of the literature reviews

The format and structure of the central body part are of utmost importance in writing a good literature review.. This is the section where you summarize, synthesize, analyze, and critically evaluate your research work. Therefore, you must use sections and subsections to divide the body for each methodological approach or theme aspect of further research.

In this part, you will have to organize and present your discussion in a clear and coherent manner. There are different types of structural approaches to adhere to while organizing the main body part of the literature review. Let’s explore the types based on the length and format of your review.

i) Chronological literature reviews

The chronological approach to building literature review format has been described as one of the most straightforward approaches. It helps you articulate the growth and development of the research topic over time in chronological order.

However, do not restrict yourself to just making a list or summarizing the reference resources. Instead, write a brief discussion and analysis of the critical arguments, research, and trends that have shaped the current status of your research topic.

Additionally, you must provide an interpretation of these events in your curated version. This approach gives you a space to discuss the latest developments, key debates, trends, and gaps focused on your research topic.

Example: Locoregional Management of Breast Cancer: A Chronological Review This chronological review discusses the evolution of locoregional management through some key clinical trials and aims to highlight important points in the time period in which the evidence was generated and emphasize the 10-year outcomes for the comparability of results. Source: SciSpace

ii) Thematic literature review

The thematic literature review is the best way to structure your literature review based on the theme or category of your research. The format of a literature review is structured in sections and sub-sections based on the observed themes or patterns in your review.

Every part stays dedicated to presenting a different aspect of your chosen topic. For example, if you’re working on a topic of climatic conditions in Nigeria, you might find themes such as monsoon climate, tropical savannah climate, and so on. Unlike the chronological approach, the primary focus here is on different aspects of a particular topic, or issue instead of the progression of certain events. Example: A Thematic Review of Current Literature Examining Evidence-Based Practices and Inclusion

This paper provides a thematic summary of current literature combining the topics of evidence-based practices (EBPs) and inclusive settings and summarizes key findings from 27 peer-reviewed articles written in English and published between 2012-2022.

Source: SciSpace

iii) Methodological literature review

The methodological approach helps you formulate the structure of a literature review based on the research methodologies used. These methodologies could be qualitative, quantitative, or mixed. You can present your literature review structure in a form by showing a comparison between crucial findings, gatherings, and outcomes from different research methods.

If you’re working on research derived from different disciplines and methodologies, this approach would be more suitable to structure your literature review. This method majorly focuses on the type of analysis method used in the research (quantitative, qualitative, and mixed).

Example: Methodological review to develop a list of bias items used to assess reviews incorporating network meta-analysis: protocol and rationale

The methodological review aims to develop a list of items relating to biases in reviews with NMA, which will inform a new tool to assess the risk of bias in NMAs, and potentially other reporting or quality checklists for NMAs that are being updated.

iv) Theoretical literature review

Theoretical literature reviews are often used to discuss and analyze vital concepts and theories. Adopting this approach such a way that, you can significantly put forth the relevance and critical findings of a particular field or theoretical method. Proceeding in the same way, you can also outline an entirely new research framework.

Example: Theoretical Review Study: Peran Dan Fungsi Mutu Pelayanan Kesehatan Di Rumah Sakit

This paper analyzes various theories on the role and function of quality management in hospitals, where the authors investigate how the role and functions of the quality of health services in hospitals.

c) Conclusion of the literature review

The conclusion of your literature review must be focused on your key findings, and their results, and an elaborate emphasis on the significance of all aspects. Describing the research gaps and your contributions can be helpful in case you are writing a dissertation or thesis.

Moreover, you must specify the procedure and research methodology for developing the framework of your research topic. Additionally, if the relevant literature review is a standalone assignment for you, present the conclusion centered on the implications and suggestions for future references.

Lastly, you must ensure that your research paper does not lack any critical aspects and must not contain any grammatical or spelling mistakes. For this, you must proofread and edit it to perfection.

Overall, your conclusion should provide the reader with the following information:

  • Provide an overview of the literature review.
  • Highlight key areas for future research on the topic.
  • Establish a connection between the review and your research.

Tip: Keep this checklist handy before writing your literature review!

  • Outline the purpose and scope of the study
  • Identify relevant and credible scholarly sources (research papers/literature)
  • Use AI tools to streamline the literature review process
  • Capture the bibliographical details of the sources
  • Analyze and interpret the findings
  • Identify research gaps in the literature
  • Investigate methodologies/theories/hypotheses
  • Brainstorm and research multiple standpoints
  • Craft an introduction, a body, and a conclusion
  • Final proofreading and all set!!

Wrapping up!

If you are working on your thesis, ensure to emphasize structuring your literature reviews and be keen in presenting it in a clear, coherent, and organized manner. The structure of a literature review is critical as it assists researchers in building upon existing knowledge, creating a theoretical framework, identifying relationships between studies, highlighting key concepts, and guiding readers through the research.

Scientific research can be made more accessible, informative, and impactful by structuring the literature review according to the different types of approaches discussed in this blog.

Frequently Asked Questions

When conducting a literature review, it's important to avoid:

1.Disorganization: Keep your review structured and coherent.

2.Lack of alignment: Ensure that your review aligns with your research objectives and questions.

3.Lack of synthesis: Connect and integrate the findings from different sources rather than presenting them in isolation.

Common challenges we encounter while organizing a literature review include:

1.Managing an exhaustive volume of scientific publications.

2.Ensuring coherence and flow between different sections.

3.Striving to maintain objectivity and relevance to your research topic.

When structuring a literature review, you should avoid including irrelevant or outdated sources, biased information, and repetitive content.

No, a literature review is typically not arranged in alphabetical order. Instead, it's usually organized thematically, chronologically, or by relevance to the research topic.

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How to write a literature review in 6 steps

Literature review for thesis

What is a literature review?

How to write a literature review, 1. determine the purpose of your literature review, 2. do an extensive search, 3. evaluate and select literature, 4. analyze the literature, 5. plan the structure of your literature review, 6. write your literature review, other resources to help you write a successful literature review, frequently asked questions about writing a literature review, related articles.

A literature review is an assessment of the sources in a chosen topic of research.

A good literature review does not just summarize sources. It analyzes the state of the field on a given topic and creates a scholarly foundation for you to make your own intervention. It demonstrates to your readers how your research fits within a larger field of study.

In a thesis, a literature review is part of the introduction, but it can also be a separate section. In research papers, a literature review may have its own section or it may be integrated into the introduction, depending on the field.

➡️ Our guide on what is a literature review covers additional basics about literature reviews.

  • Identify the main purpose of the literature review.
  • Do extensive research.
  • Evaluate and select relevant sources.
  • Analyze the sources.
  • Plan a structure.
  • Write the review.

In this section, we review each step of the process of creating a literature review.

In the first step, make sure you know specifically what the assignment is and what form your literature review should take. Read your assignment carefully and seek clarification from your professor or instructor if needed. You should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How many sources do I need to include?
  • What types of sources should I review?
  • Should I evaluate the sources?
  • Should I summarize, synthesize or critique sources?
  • Do I need to provide any definitions or background information?

In addition to that, be aware that the narrower your topic, the easier it will be to limit the number of sources you need to read in order to get a good overview of the topic.

Now you need to find out what has been written on the topic and search for literature related to your research topic. Make sure to select appropriate source material, which means using academic or scholarly sources , including books, reports, journal articles , government documents and web resources.

➡️ If you’re unsure about how to tell if a source is scholarly, take a look at our guide on how to identify a scholarly source .

Come up with a list of relevant keywords and then start your search with your institution's library catalog, and extend it to other useful databases and academic search engines like:

  • Google Scholar
  • Science.gov

➡️ Our guide on how to collect data for your thesis might be helpful at this stage of your research as well as the top list of academic search engines .

Once you find a useful article, check out the reference list. It should provide you with even more relevant sources. Also, keep a note of the:

  • authors' names
  • page numbers

Keeping track of the bibliographic information for each source will save you time when you’re ready to create citations. You could also use a reference manager like Paperpile to automatically save, manage, and cite your references.

Paperpile reference manager

Read the literature. You will most likely not be able to read absolutely everything that is out there on the topic. Therefore, read the abstract first to determine whether the rest of the source is worth your time. If the source is relevant for your topic:

  • Read it critically.
  • Look for the main arguments.
  • Take notes as you read.
  • Organize your notes using a table, mind map, or other technique.

Now you are ready to analyze the literature you have gathered. While your are working on your analysis, you should ask the following questions:

  • What are the key terms, concepts and problems addressed by the author?
  • How is this source relevant for my specific topic?
  • How is the article structured? What are the major trends and findings?
  • What are the conclusions of the study?
  • How are the results presented? Is the source credible?
  • When comparing different sources, how do they relate to each other? What are the similarities, what are the differences?
  • Does the study help me understand the topic better?
  • Are there any gaps in the research that need to be filled? How can I further my research as a result of the review?

Tip: Decide on the structure of your literature review before you start writing.

There are various ways to organize your literature review:

  • Chronological method : Writing in the chronological method means you are presenting the materials according to when they were published. Follow this approach only if a clear path of research can be identified.
  • Thematic review : A thematic review of literature is organized around a topic or issue, rather than the progression of time.
  • Publication-based : You can order your sources by publication, if the way you present the order of your sources demonstrates a more important trend. This is the case when a progression revealed from study to study and the practices of researchers have changed and adapted due to the new revelations.
  • Methodological approach : A methodological approach focuses on the methods used by the researcher. If you have used sources from different disciplines that use a variety of research methods, you might want to compare the results in light of the different methods and discuss how the topic has been approached from different sides.

Regardless of the structure you chose, a review should always include the following three sections:

  • An introduction, which should give the reader an outline of why you are writing the review and explain the relevance of the topic.
  • A body, which divides your literature review into different sections. Write in well-structured paragraphs, use transitions and topic sentences and critically analyze each source for how it contributes to the themes you are researching.
  • A conclusion , which summarizes the key findings, the main agreements and disagreements in the literature, your overall perspective, and any gaps or areas for further research.

➡️ If your literature review is part of a longer paper, visit our guide on what is a research paper for additional tips.

➡️ UNC writing center: Literature reviews

➡️ How to write a literature review in 3 steps

➡️ How to write a literature review in 30 minutes or less

The goal of a literature review is to asses the state of the field on a given topic in preparation for making an intervention.

A literature review should have its own independent section. You should indicate clearly in the table of contents where it can be found, and address this section as “Literature Review.”

There is no set amount of words for a literature review; the length depends on the research. If you are working with a large amount of sources, then it will be long. If your paper does not depend entirely on references, then it will be short.

Most research papers include a literature review. By assessing the available sources in your field of research, you will be able to make a more confident argument about the topic.

Literature reviews are most commonly found in theses and dissertations. However, you find them in research papers as well.

how to structure a literature review introduction

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Structuring a literature review

To decide how to structure your literature review, it's helpful to first of all consider its purpose and what it is that you want to argue about the strengths and weaknesses of existing research. Having an argument about the literature is vital; the absence of an argument means that you'll simply be summarising what others have said about your research topic uncritically. Make it clear to readers how your research fits within the literature and the nature of your contribution to furthering knowledge (whether it builds on what others have already done or challenges exisiting understandings and approaches).

Considering the purpose and argument / key message of your literature review helps you to focus your review on what's relevant and needs to be covered, what's unnecessary and therefore can be excluded, and it can help you to decide how to sequence your ideas. If your purpose is to persuade your readers of your project's value and contribution to the field, and your argument is that there is a gap in the field that your research fills, then your structure should lead the readers logically to this conclusion. 

Like any other chapter, a literature review chapter or section should have an introduction that tells the reader what your argument is. Knowing your argument upfront can help your reader to understand why you are leading them through your selected bodies of literature and concepts.

After the introduction, a literature review often moves broadly from what is well known in the field and narrows down to what is less well known, which is where your research gap or issue is located. Your literature review may draw on different bodies of literature and show how they are relevant and are connected. To work out how best to order your discussion, consider the following questions.

  • Which bodies of literature have the broadest or most narrow scope?
  • Which bodies of literature are most commonly used in the field/s?
  • Which concepts are most widely agreed upon?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the commonly used literature, and which of these does my study build on?
  • What is the less well known literature that my study relates to?
  • Are there studies / aspects of the literature that are minor or tangential within the field/s, but are important to my study?
  • How can I convince my readers that this is a worthwhile area to investigate?
  • If drawing on literature from different fields, how are they connected? Why am I connecting them?
  • What are the studies that are the closest to mine? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these studies?
  • What are the common themes in the literature? Can I sequence them from the most common themes down to the themes that are closely connected to my study?

One useful way to plan the structure of your literature review is to brainstorm, draw, and / or do a mind-map. Identify how the different concepts and bodies of literature fit together and how your study builds on them. This can show you logical ways to put your literature review together, as well as give you some ideas about how you can explain to your readers how the various parts fit together. You can also try to explain your literature review structure to someone who knows little about the field, to test whether it is clear and logical.

Language of literature reviews>>

Literature reviews

Purpose of traditional literature reviews

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Language of the literature review

Systematic literature reviews

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how to structure a literature review introduction

Explore different methods on how to structure your literature review.

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There is no single, conventional way to structure a literature review. However, there are a range of standard approaches that you can choose from to give your literature review an overall shape. The structure you select will depend on the aims and purpose of your literature review as well as the literature that exists.

The function of your literature review

Every literature review needs to show how the research problem you’re investigating arose, and give a critical overview of how it, or aspects of it, have been addressed by other researchers to date. However, within that overall purpose, the particular function of your literature review may vary, depending on your own research aim, the current state of knowledge in the field, and the amount and breadth of literature that currently exists. For example:

  • If there is a large, longstanding body of research already in your field, the function of your might be to give an overview of how it evolved, to show how you build on it and sit within it.
  • If there is very little research on your topic or it’s cutting edge, the function of your literature review might be to look at why it’s been overlooked til now, and piece together a useful basis out of comparable work in related fields.
  • If your research is interdisciplinary, drawing on and bringing together different strands of the literature in new ways, the function of your literature review might be to identify and connect these previously unrelated strands.
  • If your own research takes a clear stance on a contested topic, the function of your literature review might be to outline why the issue is problematic and the different sides of a debate
  • If there are various ways you might approach your research or your approach is new, then an overview of the different ways other people have addressed similar research problems might help justify your method.

General approaches

There are four general approaches to structuring a literature review, depending on the main relationship you are creating between the texts you are reviewing, and how they serve your research aims.

This approach is useful if your central aim is to:

  • Chart the developments in your chosen field in a way that highlights causality and consequence (for instance, how one piece of research informed or gave rise to another and so on)
  • Use a chronological sequence to demonstrate how an issue or research area has evolved over time

Sometimes, your literature review might aim to bring together previously unrelated areas of research, and there is no linear structure to that relationship – you simply identify the different themes under which you want to organise it, depending on which texts you want to talk about as a group. You might choose to arrange your review into different themes, contexts, schools of thought, subject disciplines, or by methods, theories and approaches.

The funnel structure moves from the broad to the detailed, the general to the specific, or from the abstract to the concrete. So you start with the broader aspects of your topic (the contextual background, for instance) and then gradually narrow your focus until you reach the specific aspect of the topic that you will be addressing. You might equally be looking at the more abstract, theoretical work on your subject before moving to more concrete case studies in which those approaches have been applied, or more general treatments to more detailed and smaller scale studies. That way, you are guiding your reader and helping them build their understanding of your topic: providing them with the background information and context they need in order to grasp your main ideas.

Often, your literature review has more than one function and there is more than one key point you want to convey. For instance, you may need to define your theoretical framework, evaluate how other researchers have approached your topic more generally, then outline your specific area of focus and how it relates to the existing literature. Your finished literature review will then comprise different sub-sections that each achieve a particular aim.

Deciding on a structure

When deciding on a structure, you might find it useful to consider the following questions:

  • What is the function of my literature review?
  • What do I want my literature review to demonstrate to the reader? What do I want them to take away from it?
  • What structure would best allow me to achieve my purpose and get my key points across, talking about the texts I want to bring together without circling around in my writing?

Whichever of these strucutural principles you decide on as a way to organise the whole literature review, you may well be using others of them as a way to structure subsections or even paragraphs. For example, you might be using a thematic approach overall, but each section could be structured chronologically.

Checking in

Each structural approach or option has its own strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to check in with yourself and review your literature review drafts periodically to see if your structure is working for you. Is it helping you convey your main ideas, bring together the texts you want to talk about together, or is it leading you to be descriptive, repetitive or lose sight of the literature’s relevance to your own research? If not, is there another option that might work better for you? Sometimes, our main ideas and key points don’t become clear to us until we start writing. So it may be that you are better placed to make a more informed idea about your structure once you have begun trying it out.

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Writing: Literature Review Basics

  • What is Synthesis?
  • Organizing Your Research
  • Paraphrasing, Summary, or Direct Quotation?
  • Introductions
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The Most Important Thing

The best time to write an introduction is AFTER you write the body of your paper.

Well, how do you know what to introduce until after you've figured out what you want to say?

The best time to write an introduction is as one of the last things you do.

Basic Introduction Template

For any other sort of scholarly writing, the following basic structure works well for an introduction:

  • What has been said or done on this topic?  
  • What is the problem with what has been said or done?
  • What will you offer to solve the problem?  (The answer to this is your thesis statement.)
  • How does your solution address necessary change?

Writing an Introduction

The job of an introduction is to preview what you are going to say so the audience knows what is coming.  A good introduction starts out generally and works towards a specific statement of what you intend to discuss in your writing. 

The introduction explains the focus and establishes the importance of the subject. It discusses what kind of work has been done on the topic and identifies any controversies within the field or any recent research which has raised questions about earlier assumptions. It may provide background or history, and it indicates why the topic is important, interesting, problematic, or relevant in some way.  It concludes with a purpose or thesis statement. In a stand-alone literature review, this statement will sum up and evaluate the state of the art in this field of research; in a review that is an introduction or preparatory to a larger work, such as the Culminating Project, it will suggest how the review findings will lead to the research the writer proposes to undertake.

In a literature review, an introduction may contain the following:

  • A concise definition of a topic under consideration (this may be a descriptive or argumentative thesis, or proposal), as well as the scope of the related literature being investigated. (Example: If the topic under consideration is ‘women’s wartime diaries’, the scope of the review may be limited to published or unpublished works, works in English, works from a particular location, time period, or conflict, etc.)  
  • The introduction should also note what topics are being included and what are intentional exclusions. (Example: “This review will not explore the diaries of adolescent girls.”)
  • A final sentence should signal the list of key topics that will be used to discuss the selected sources.

Many theories have been proposed to explain what motivates human behavior. Although the literature covers a wide variety of such theories, this review will focus on five major themes which emerge repeatedly throughout the literature reviewed. These themes are incorporation of the self-concept into traditional theories of motivation, the influence of rewards on motivation, the increasing importance of internal forces of motivation, autonomy and self-control as sources of motivation, and narcissism as an essential component of motivation. Although the literature presents these themes in a variety of contexts, this paper will primarily focus on their application to self-motivation.

Let's break that apart.

Many theories have been proposed to explain what motivates human behavior. Although the literature covers a wide variety of such theories, this review will focus on five major themes which emerge repeatedly throughout the literature reviewed. Topic sentence -- identifies five major themes as the scope of the review.
These themes are incorporation of the self-concept into traditional theories of motivation, the influence of rewards on motivation, the increasing importance of internal forces of motivation, autonomy and self-control as sources of motivation, and narcissism as an essential component of motivation. Lists the five major themes so the reader knows what to expect
 Although the literature presents these themes in a variety of contexts, this paper will primarily focus on their application to self-motivation. Concludes with the specific focus of the review.
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Literature review outline [Write a literature review with these structures]

Welcome to our comprehensive blog on crafting a perfect literature review for your research paper or dissertation.

The ability to write a literature review with a concise and structured outline is pivotal in academic writing.

You’ll get an overview of how to structure your review effectively, address your research question, and demonstrate your understanding of existing knowledge.

We’ll delve into different approaches to literature reviews, discuss the importance of a theoretical approach, and show you how to handle turning points in your narrative.

You’ll learn how to integrate key concepts from your research field and weave them into your paragraphs to highlight their importance.

Moreover, we’ll guide you through the nuances of APA citation style and how to compile a comprehensive bibliography. Lastly, we’ll walk you through the proofreading process to ensure your work is error-free.

As a bonus, this blog will provide useful tips for both seasoned researchers and first-time writers to produce a literature review that’s clear, informative, and engaging. Enjoy the writing process with us!

Structure of a Literature Review – Outline

When you write a literature review outline, you are laying the foundations of great work. Many people rush this part and struggle later on. Take your time and slowly draft the outline for a literature review.

Literature review outline

The structure of a literature review consists of five main components:

  • Introduction: Provide a brief overview of the chapter, along with the topic and research aims to set the context for the reader.
  • Foundation of Theory or Theoretical Framework: Present and discuss the key theories, concepts, and models related to your research topic. Explain how they apply to your study and their significance.
  • Empirical Research: Review and analyze relevant empirical related to your research question. Highlight their findings, methodologies, and any limitations they possess.
  • Research Gap: Identify any gaps, inconsistencies, or ambiguities in the existing literature. This will help establish the need for your research and justify its relevance.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the main findings from the literature review, emphasizing the importance of your research question and the identified research gap. Suggest potential avenues for future research in the field.

Sentence starters for each section of your literature review:

SECTIONSENTENCE STARTERS
1. Introductiona) The aim of this literature review is to…
b) This chapter focuses on analyzing the key findings related to…
c) The purpose of this review is to critically assess the research concerning…
d) The central question guiding this literature review is…
e) By exploring relevant literature, this review intends to bridge the gap between…
2. Foundation of Theorya) A critical theory in this field is…
(Theoretical Framework)b) The concept of…plays an essential role in understanding the topic.
c) This section delves into the main theories and models that shape understanding of…
d) Building on the work of…, this review employs the framework of…
e) The literature identifies several key theories, including…
3. Empirical Researcha) Numerous studies have investigated the relationship between…
b) In a seminal study conducted by…, the findings indicate that…
c) The empirical evidence on…has been growing over the past years, with studies such as…
d) Researchers have used various methods to examine…, such as…
e) A significant contribution to this area comes from the work of…, who found that…
4. Research Gapa) Despite the extensive research on…, a noticeable gap remains in…
b) The current literature lacks a consensus on…
c) A notable limitation of the existing studies is…
d) There is a need for further research to address the inconsistencies found in…
e) Future studies should investigate the impact of…on…
5. Conclusiona) In summary, this literature review has identified key trends and findings related to…
b) The analysis of the literature has revealed several research gaps, particularly in the area of…
c) Building on the insights gained from this review, future research should prioritize…
d) The main findings of this review support the notion that…
e) Conclusively, this comprehensive examination of the existing literature lays the foundation for…

Literature Review Examples and Types

Based on the typology of literature reviews from Paré et al. (2015), the following list outlines various types of literature reviews and examples of when you’d use each type:

1. Conceptual Review: Analyzes and synthesizes the theoretical and conceptual aspects of a topic. It focuses on understanding key concepts, models, and theories.

Example use: When aiming to clarify the conceptual foundations and explore existing theories in a field, such as investigating the dimensions of job satisfaction.

2. Methodological Review: Evaluates and synthesizes the research approaches, methods, and techniques used in existing literature. It aims to identify methodological strengths and weaknesses in a research area.

Example use: When assessing data collection methods for researching user experiences with a new software application.

3. Descriptive Review: Provides a broad overview of studies in a research area. It aims to describe the existing literature on a topic and document its evolution over time.

Example use: When investigating the history of research on employee motivation and documenting its progress over the years.

4. Integrative Review: Combines and synthesizes findings from different studies to produce a comprehensive understanding of a research topic. It may identify trends, patterns, or common themes among various studies.

Example use: When exploring the links between work-life balance and job satisfaction, aggregating evidence from multiple studies to develop a comprehensive understanding.

5. Theory-driven Review: Examines a research topic through the lens of a specific theoretical framework. It focuses on understanding how the chosen theory explains or predicts phenomena in the literature.

Example use: When studying the impact of leadership styles on team performance, specifically using the transformational leadership theory as a basis for the analysis.

6. Evidence-driven Review: Aims to determine the effectiveness of interventions or practices based on the available research evidence. It can inform the decision-making process in practice or policy by providing evidence-based recommendations.

Example use: When assessing the effectiveness of telemedicine interventions for managing chronic disease outcomes, providing recommendations for healthcare providers and policymakers.

By understanding these types of literature reviews and their appropriate usage, researchers can choose the most suitable approach for their research question and contribute valuable insights to their field.

How to Write a Good Literature Review

To write a good literature review, follow these six steps to help you create relevant and actionable content for a young researcher.

1. Define the review’s purpose: Before starting, establish a clear understanding of your research question or hypothesis. This helps focus the review and prevents unnecessary information from being included.

2. Set inclusion and exclusion criteria: Use predefined criteria for including or excluding sources in your review. Establish these criteria based on aspects such as publication date, language, type of study, and subject relevance. This ensures your review remains focused and meets your objectives.

3. Search for relevant literature: Conduct a comprehensive search for literature relevant to your research question. Use databases, online catalogs, and search engines that focus on academic literature, such as Google Scholar, Scopus, or Web of Science. Consider using multiple search terms and synonyms to cover all related topics.

4. Organize and analyze information: Develop a system for organizing and analyzing the information you find. You can use spreadsheets, note-taking applications, or reference management tools like Mendeley, Zotero, or EndNote. Categorize your sources based on themes, author’s conclusions, methodology, or other relevant criteria.

5. Write a critique of the literature: Evaluate and synthesize the information from your sources. Discuss their strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in knowledge or understanding. Point out any inconsistencies in the findings and explain any varying theories or viewpoints. Provide a balanced critique that highlights the most significant contributions, trends, or patterns.

6. Structure the review: Organize your literature review into sections that present the main themes or findings. Start with an introduction that outlines your research question, the scope of the review, and any limitations you may have encountered. Write clear, concise, and coherent summaries of your literature for each section, and end with a conclusion that synthesizes the main findings, suggests areas for further research, and reinforces your research question or hypothesis.

Incorporating these steps will assist you in crafting a well-structured, focused, and informative literature review for your research project.

Here are some examples of each step in the process. 

STEPACTIONEXAMPLES
1. Define the review’s purposeFormulate your research question or hypothesisResearch question: “What are the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems?”
2. Set inclusion and exclusion criteriaDetermine which sources to include/exclude based on specific criteriaInclude: peer-reviewed articles published in the last 10 years; Exclude: non-English articles, non-empirical studies
3. Search for relevant literatureConduct a systematic search on academic databasesGoogle Scholar, Scopus, Web of Science, library catalogs, elicit.org
4. Organize and analyze informationCreate a system for organizing and categorizing sourcesSpreadsheets, Mendeley, Zotero, EndNote, note-taking apps
5. Write a critique of the literatureEvaluate, synthesize, and discuss information from your sourcesStrengths, weaknesses, and gaps in the studies; Discuss any inconsistencies in the findings
6. Structure the reviewOrganize your review into sections to present the main themesIntroduction, Theme 1, Theme 2, Conclusion

Top Tips on How to Write Your Literature Review

Here are the top tips on how to write your literature review, based on the Grad Coach TV video and advice from trusted coach Amy:

1. Develop a rough outline or framework before you start writing your literature review. This helps you avoid creating a jumbled mess and allows you to organize your thoughts coherently and effectively.

2. Use previous literature reviews as a guide to understand the norms and expectations in your field. Look for recently published literature reviews in academic journals or online databases, such as Google Scholar, EBSCO, or ProQuest.

3. Write first and edit later. Avoid perfectionism and don’t be afraid to create messy drafts. This helps you overcome writer’s block and ensures progress in your work.

4. Insert citations as you write to avoid losing track of references. Make sure to follow the appropriate formatting style (e.g. APA or MLA) and use reference management tools like Mendeley to easily keep track of your sources.

5. Organize your literature review logically, whether it’s chronologically, thematically, or methodologically. Identify gaps in the literature and explain how your study addresses them. Keep in mind that the structure isn’t set in stone and can change as you read and write.

Remember that writing your literature review is an iterative process, so give yourself room to improve and make changes as needed. Keep these actionable tips in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a compelling and well-organized literature review.

Wrapping up – Your literature review outline

As we conclude this extensive guide, we hope that you now feel equipped to craft a stellar literature review.

We’ve navigated the intricacies of an effective literature review outline, given you examples of each section, provided sentence starters to ignite your writing process, and explored the diverse types of literature reviews.

This guide has also illustrated how to structure a literature review and organize the research process, which should help you tackle any topic over time.

Emphasizing key themes, we’ve shown you how to identify gaps in existing research and underscore the relevance of your work.

Remember, writing a literature review isn’t just about summarizing existing studies; it’s about adding your own interpretations, arguing for the relevance of specific theoretical concepts, and demonstrating your grasp of the academic field.

Keep the key debates that have shaped your research area in mind, and use the strategies we’ve outlined to add depth to your paper.

So, start writing, and remember, the journey of writing is iterative and a pivotal part of your larger research process.

how to structure a literature review introduction

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how to structure a literature review introduction

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how to structure a literature review introduction

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How to Write a Systematic Review Introduction

how to structure a literature review introduction

Automate every stage of your literature review to produce evidence-based research faster and more accurately.

How to write an introduction of a systematic review.

For anyone who has experience working on any sort of study, be it a review, thesis, or even just an academic paper – writing an introduction shouldn’t be a foreign concept. It generally follows the same rules, requiring it to give the readers the context of the study explaining what the review is all about: the topic it tackles, why the study was performed and the goals of its findings.

That said, most systematic reviews are governed by two guidelines that help improve the reporting of the research. These are the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) statement and the Cochrane handbook. Both have specifications on how to write the report, including the introduction. Look at a systematic review example , and you’ll find that it uses either one of these frameworks.

PRISMA Statement vs. Cochrane Guidelines

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how to structure a literature review introduction

What Is The Right Length Of A Systematic Review Introduction?

There’s no hard and fast rule about the length of a systematic review introduction. However, it’s best to keep it concise. Limit it to just two to four paragraphs, not exceeding one full page. Don’t worry, you’ll have the rest of the paper to fill with data!

What To Include In A Systematic Review Introduction

Whether or not you’re following writing guidelines, here are some pieces of information that you should include in your systematic review introduction:

Give background information about the review, including what’s already known about the topic and what you’re attempting to discover with your findings.

Definitions

This is optional, but if your review is dealing with important terms and concepts that require defining beforehand for better understanding on the readers’ part, add them to your introduction.

Delve a little into why the study topic is important, and why a systematic review must be done for it. This prompts a discussion about the knowledge gaps, a lack of cohesion in existing studies, and the potential implications of the review.

Research Question

Introduce your topic, specifically the research question that’s driving the study. Be sure that it’s new, focused, specific, and answerable, and that it ties together with your conclusion later on.

3 Reasons to Connect

how to structure a literature review introduction

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Literature Reviews in the Social Sciences

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  • Search tips
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  • Organize your sources
  • Evaluate your sources
  • Structure your literature review

The basic organization

Introduction:  layout the general structure of your lit review & how it will be organized

Body:  The body needs to be well-organized (see box below)

Conclusion:   Sum up the 'state of the literature'.  Expose what is lacking and how your research can contribute.  How will you move the conversation forward?

Structuring the body

There are a couple different ways to structure the body of your literature review.  Here are some ideas:

  • Thematic:  organize by themes or sub-topics within your general topic
  • Methodological:  by different methodologies or approaches to the subject
  • Argumentative:  organize by the different arguments surrounding and composing your topic
  • Theoretical:  organize by the different theories that have been used to explain a topic

Things to keep in mind...

  • Use your sources to support your argument and make a point, but don't forget to keep your own voice.  This is your research paper and your argument.  
  • That said, it's also important to see how your sources play off of and are in conversation with each other.  
  • Don't take what the authors say at face value--this is your opportunity to be critical of their research design & conclusions.
  • Don't rely too much on secondary sources--make sure to include primary research and data when appropriate.
  • << Previous: Evaluate your sources
  • Last Updated: Jul 9, 2024 9:51 AM
  • URL: https://guides.nyu.edu/litreviews

ON YOUR 1ST ORDER

How to Structure a Literature Review for a Dissertation

By Laura Brown on 26th February 2019

A literature review structure typically contains three essential parts,

  • Introduction: It provides an overview of the topic or research question being addressed, and explain the purpose and scope of the literature review.
  • Main Body: This section includes the methodology, themes/sections, and discussion/analysis. It provides a comprehensive analysis of the literature on a particular topic, synthesizes the findings, and identifies gaps or limitations in the literature.
  • Conclusion: Here, the researcher summarises the main findings, highlights the implications of the findings, addresses the limitations and provides recommendations for future research.

Basically, literature review is the assessment of the selected readings. You are often asked to write it for three purposes:

  • To review a book or an article, also known as a critical review.
  • To review a bunch of readings and summarise the key points that are termed as an annotated bibliography .
  • The last and main purpose is reviewing available literature chosen for a dissertation. This is called a literature review of a dissertation.

We have observed that students face numerous challenges when they structure a literature review paper and are left with no option but to buy literature review online. This blog will solve your problems, and we will briefly tell you how to structure a dissertation literature review .

Get Help For Your Dissertation Literature Review

What Is Included In Literature Review Structure

If you think that the structure of a literature review is impossible to prepare, then you might be wrong. If you know how to write an essay, then you can structure a literature review efficiently without any barriers. You may know that an essay has three parts: introduction, main body and conclusion. Similarly, the dissertation literature review structure is just like other essay structures, which contains:

  • Introduction
  • Discussion (main body)

To structure a good literature review, you should create a complete concept in your mind. It includes where you need to start and how you will conclude the whole review. Below is the complete outline that you can take as a guide to structure your good literature review.

Structure A Literature Review In An Easy Way

How To Structure A Literature Review For A Dissertation in easy way

Get Your Dissertation Literature Review by Professionals

To make a good structure of a literature review in your dissertation that can get you distinction in your career, you have to focus on the main aspects of the research. Usually, researchers forget some crucial points and readings while structuring a literature review. If you do not want to leave any point unaddressed, then you should keep in mind below:

You need to brainstorm ideas of how you will carry your research. For example, what type of databases you will use and where you will get your concern research literature.

After making up your mind about the sources, go for reading different literature on the concerned research subject area.

After reading different literatures, draft the main body and closely relate research parts.

Then compare and evaluate those readings. Like, finding out the gaps in already available research and current knowledge.

Finally, to come up with the finest literature review structure, arrange your whole literature in the standard format of dissertation writing services . It will increase the readability score as well as the reader’s eagerness.

Literature Review Format For Dissertation

Format For Structuring A Literature Review

Get Assistance by Experts in Literature Review

According to a survey, almost 50% of the students face difficulties with it and often look for the structure of literature review examples . Well, here is how you can do it. Let’s understand how to structure a literature review of dissertation.

Introduction:

  • Briefly define the research statement based on the previous studies on selected topic.
  • Mention the reasons and aims of the review.
  • Demonstrate concisely how your selected research will lead to the actual dissertation question.
  • Mention inclusion and exclusion of the literature, like what is included and what is not included in the research.
  • Mention gaps in the research and how your research will fill those gaps.

Discussion:

  • Discuss the selected research in paragraph format. You need to be careful about the literature review paragraph structure. Here, you can also use headings and subheadings.
  • Start your evaluation from the general subject area and move on to specify it to your research question. For example, ‘education’ in general and ‘early childhood education’ in specific.
  • Select a wide range of sources to strengthen your structure for literature review. However, it is better to use sources which are up-to-date and recent, like not older than 5 to 7 years.
  • Mention the literature gap that is still left to be filled. Like future work on the literature review of the selected research area.

Conclusion:

  • Conclude your overall perception of the topic with preferred models.
  • Summarise the key points evaluated in the discussion section.
  • Outline the associations of the identified issues and recommendations for future review work .

This is simply how should a literature review be structured. Once you are familiar with the dissertation literature review structure, it’s time to delve into some tips for a literature review dissertation.

Things Which Makes A Literature Review Good

Good Quality Bad Quality
Concise and clear Descriptive
Contain a wide range of sources Contain fewer and limited sources
Contain clear comparison and evaluation of the literature Contain summaries of literature with no analysis
Relevant headings and topics Irrelevant headings
Structured in the standard format Lacks proper format

How To Write A Good Dissertation Literature Review

Writing a literature review can be a daunting task, but it is an essential part of any research project. A well-written literature review provides a thorough understanding of the research field, identifies gaps in the existing literature, and helps to establish the importance of proposed research project. Here are some tips to help you structure your literature review effectively:

A. Start with a clear introduction

In a proper structure for literature review, you should begin by providing a brief overview of the research area and the scope of your review. State the research questions or objectives that you aim to address through your literature review.

B. Identify the relevant literature

Conduct a comprehensive search of the literature using academic databases , such as Google Scholar , PubMed , and JSTOR . Identify the most relevant and recent studies, including theoretical and empirical research, to provide a comprehensive understanding of the research field.

C. Organise the literature

This is the most crucial part while you prepare the structure of literature review dissertation. Organise the literature based on themes, theories, or chronology. A thematic literature review groups the literature based on the key themes or key concepts that emerge from the literature.

A theoretical literature review evaluates the existing theories and frameworks in the research field. A chronological literature review presents the literature in form of publication, highlighting the historical perspective of the research field.

D. Critically evaluate the literature

Analyse the literature critically by comparing and contrasting different studies, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses, and identifying significant flaws, themes or gaps in existing knowledge. This will help you to establish the relevance and importance of your proposed research project.

E. Summarise the literature

Summarise the key findings by highlighting the main trends and themes that emerge from the literature. This will help you to provide a comprehensive overview of the research field and to establish the relevance of your proposed research project.

F. Write in a clear and concise style

Write your literature review in succinct manner, using appropriate academic language and referencing conventions. Ensure that your writing is well-structured and flows logically, with each paragraph focusing on a specific theme or aspect of the literature.

G. Conclude with a summary and future study

The final tip to structure a literature review of dissertation is to conclude your literature review by summarising the key findings and conclusions of the literature, highlighting any gaps or inconsistencies, and identifying the future directions for research in the field.

Tips In One Go

  • Introduction to the literature
  • Identification of relevancy
  • Organisation based on themes & theories
  • Critical evaluation of the literature
  • Summarising the key findings
  • Writing in a clear style
  • Conclusion along with the future direction

Summing Up On How To Structure A Literature Review Of Dissertation

In conclusion, writing a literature review for a dissertation can be a challenging task, but by following these tips, you can come up comfortably with an astonishing structure of literature review dissertation and provide a thorough understanding of the research field. Remember to critically evaluate the literature, summarise the key findings, and follow concise style of writing.

Still, if you face any challenges with the literature review structure, we are always open to assist you. You can buy literature review paper with just a single click.

Source & References:

  • https://www.monash.edu/learnhq/excel-at-writing/how-to-write…/literature-review/structuring-a-literature-review
  • https://www.rlf.org.uk/resources/the-structure-of-a-literature-review/
  • https://www.citewrite.qut.edu.au/write/writing-well/litreview.html
  • https://libguides.westminster.ac.uk/literature-reviews/structure
  • https://www.anu.edu.au/students/academic-skills/research-writing/literature-reviews/structuring-a-literature-review
  • https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/literature-reviews/
  • https://guides.lib.uoguelph.ca/c.php?g=130964&p=5000948
  • https://research.library.gsu.edu/c.php?g=115595&p=754162
  • https://www.otago.ac.nz/hedc/otago615355.pdf

Laura Brown

Laura Brown, a senior content writer who writes actionable blogs at Crowd Writer.

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Research investigating the influence of the digital economy on the high-quality advancement of new urbanization in the yellow river basin.

how to structure a literature review introduction

1. Introduction

2. literature review, 3. theoretical analysis and research hypotheses, 3.1. analysis of direct action mechanisms, 3.1.1. advancement of digital infrastructure, 3.1.2. promoting a thriving digital industry, 3.1.3. promotion of digital ecological sustainability, 3.2. analysis of the indirect mechanism of action, 3.2.1. the digital economy contributes to the advancement of the primary industry, 3.2.2. digital economy boosts the secondary sector, 3.2.3. the digital economy fosters the growth of the tertiary industry, 3.3. analysis of non-linear effects, 4. research design, 4.1. measuring the development level of the digital economy in the yellow river basin, 4.1.1. construction of the measurement indicator system, 4.1.2. data sources and processing, 4.1.3. measurement results and analysis, 4.2. evaluation of high-quality development of new urbanization, 4.2.1. evaluation index system construction, 4.2.2. data sources and processing, 4.2.3. evaluation results and analysis, 5. empirical testing, 5.1. variable design, 5.1.1. explanatory variable, 5.1.2. core explanatory variables, 5.1.3. intermediary variable, 5.1.4. control variable, 5.2. analysis of baseline regression results, 5.3. intermediary mechanism test, 5.4. analysis of non-linear effects, 5.5. endogeneity test, 5.6. robustness check, 6. conclusions and recommendations, 6.1. findings, 6.2. policy recommendations, 6.2.1. hastening infrastructure development is imperative, 6.2.2. promoting green and low-carbon development, 6.2.3. optimize industrial structure upgrading, author contributions, institutional review board statement, informed consent statement, data availability statement, conflicts of interest.

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Click here to enlarge figure

Objective ADimension Indicator
B
Characterization Indicator
C
Unit of
Measure
Indicator PropertiesWeight %
Digital
Economy
Digital
Foundations
B1
C1 Number of websitesten thousandforward17.730
C2 Internet broadband access portten thousandforward11.571
C3 Cell phone penetration ratedepartments/100 personsforward2.230
C4 Length of long-distance fiber optic cable lineskilometerforward6.453
Digital
Industry
B2
C5 Total telecommunication servicesbillionsforward18.416
C6 Total postal operationsbillionsforward20.310
C7 Percentage of people employed in digital industries%forward4.937
Digital
Applications
B5
C8 Digital Life Index-forward2.428
C9 Number of digital TV subscribersducal title meaning lord of 10,000 householdsforward12.413
C10 Digital Inclusive Finance Index/forward3.512
Provinces20122013201420152016201720182019202020212012–2021
Average Value
Qinghai0.0480.0600.0680.0750.0820.0930.1090.1140.1230.1070.088
Sichuan0.1750.2590.3070.3670.4000.4790.5720.6660.7510.5800.455
Gansu0.0420.0650.0700.0860.0900.1130.1380.1690.1880.1440.111
Ningxia0.0280.0440.0570.0640.0760.0850.1030.1080.1160.1090.079
Neimenggu0.1070.1310.1380.1540.1630.1780.2010.2200.2360.1930.172
Shaanxi0.1330.1540.1690.1980.2280.2630.3210.3680.4090.3200.256
Shanxi0.0900.1220.1310.1590.1650.1860.2140.2470.2820.2220.182
Henan0.1140.1800.2130.2950.3600.4320.5320.6210.7220.5180.399
Shandong0.2600.3210.3760.4580.5190.5950.6810.7740.8680.6630.551
Objective
A
Dimension Indicator
B
Characterization Indicator
C
Unit of MeasureIndicator PropertiesWeight
%
New Urbanizationeconomic
urbanization
B1
C1 GDP per capitaCNY/personforward2.155
C2 Fixed asset investment per capitaCNY ten thousandPositive2.474
C3 Local fiscal revenue per capitaCNYPositive2.108
C4 E-commerce salesBillionPositive10.140
C5 Technology market turnoverBillionPositive12.339
New Urbanizationurbanization of population
B2
C6 Urban registered unemployment rate%Negative0.983
C7 Share of urban population in resident population%Positive1.356
social
urbanization
B3
C8 Public Transportation Vehicles per 10,000 personsVisualizerPositive1.532
C9 Health technicians per 10,000 peoplePersonPositive1.906
C10 Public toilets per 10,000 peopleSeatPositive4.68
C11 Public libraries per capitaBook/personPositive2.834
C12 Share of expenditure on social security and employment%Positive1.621
C13 Participation rate of urban basic pension insurance%Positive2.1
C14 Participation rate of basic medical insurance in cities and towns%Positive4.747
spatial
urbanization
B4
C15 Urban construction land area per capitaSquare meters/personPositive3.244
C16 Urban built-up area as a share of total area%Positive2.464
C17 Housing floor space per capitaSquare metersPositive1.556
C18 Urban road area per capitaSquare metersPositive3.208
C19 Density of road networkKilometers per square kilometerPositive2.23
ecological
urbanization
B5
C20 SO emissionsMillion tonsNegative6.185
C21 Wastewater emissionMillion tonsNegative6.426
C22 Green space per capitaSquare meters/personPositive3.087
C23 Greening coverage rate of built-up areas%Positive1.52
C24 Comprehensive utilization rate of solid waste%Positive2.351
C25 Harmless treatment rate of domestic garbage%Positive1.054
integration of
urban and rural areas
B6
C26 Per capita disposable income ratio of urban and rural residents-Negative1.866
C27 Ratio of per capita consumption level in urban and rural areas-Negative1.266
C28 Engel’s coefficient ratio of urban and rural areas-Negative0.768
C29 Ratio of the number of urban and rural residents covered by the minimum subsistence guarantee-Negative9.33
C30 Ratio of the number of beds in medical institutions per 10,000 people in urban and rural areas-Negative2.469
Provinces20122013201420152016201720182019202020212012–2021
Average Value
Qinghai0.1920.2060.2020.2200.2230.3580.2690.2750.2790.2880.251
Sichuan0.2350.2450.2610.2710.2910.3590.3710.4040.4150.4360.329
Gansu0.1690.1770.2010.2070.2050.3010.2690.2880.3000.3230.244
Ningxia0.2700.2890.3090.3050.3070.3470.3190.3560.3560.3660.322
Neimenggu0.2960.3080.3370.3420.3400.4120.3780.3850.3890.4050.359
Shaanxi0.2760.2990.3260.3240.3210.3640.3900.4210.4350.4760.363
Shanxi0.2320.2470.2590.2570.2450.2920.2770.2890.3010.3230.272
Henan0.2570.2590.2910.2930.2850.3980.3560.3580.3850.4010.328
Shandong0.3610.3740.4030.4480.4470.4960.4980.5000.5480.6130.469
Control VariablesVariablesMeaning of the Indicator
Level of scientific and technological developmentLocal finance expenditure on science and technology/local finance general budget expenditureReflects the degree of scientific and technological development in a country or region.
Level of human capitalNumber of college students enrolled in general colleges and universities/number of resident populationsReflects the quality of a country’s or region’s labor force
Level of government interventionGovernment Network Transparency IndexReflects the economic functions of a country’s government, especially the central government.
Level of opennessTotal import and export of foreign-Invested enterprisesReflects the total size of a country’s foreign trade.
Level of financial developmentAdded value of financial industry/regional GDPReflects the economic strength of a country or region
New Urbanization Quality Development Index (Urban)
VariantModel (1)Model (2)Model (3)Model (4)Model (5)Model (6)
Dige0.3695 ***
(11.56)
0.2435 ***
(7.60)
0.3308 ***
(9.85)
0.3676 ***
(12.45)
0.3023 ***
(9.34)
0.3252 ***
(8.54)
Science 0.0394 ***
(6.63)
Study 2.2499 ***
(2.83)
Government −0.4275 ***
(−3.83)
InOpen 0.1949 ***
(4.49)
Fiscal −0.5258 **
(−2.05)
Constant term0.2323 ***
(25.98)
−0.1179 ***
(−2.21)
0.1983 ***
(13.44)
0.3682 ***
(10.10)
0.2258 ***
(27.67)
0.2776 ***
(11.67)
City fixedYESYESYESYESYESYES
Year fixedYESYESYESYESYESYES
Number of periods101010101010
Number of cities999999
R 0.52550.48220.52820.56320.55250.5180
VariantUrban (1)InIndus (2)Urban (3)Urban (4)
Dige0.3695 ***
(11.56)
0.0634 ***
(17.29)
0.3501 ***
(5.00)
InIndus 4.6627 ***
(9.08)
0.3052(0.31)
Constant term0.2323 ***
(25.98)
0.4462 ***
(435.15)
−1.8294 ***
(−7.70)
0.0961
(0.22)
City fixedYESYESYESYES
Year fixedYESYESYESYES
Number of periods10101010
Number of cities9999
R 0.52550.93030.36020.4211
InspectF-Statistics Valuep-ValueNumber of BSModerator Variable
10%5%1%
Single
Threshold Test
18.19 ***0.0060100010.993813.252216.8786
Double Threshold Test6.660.258010009.616611.874119.7747
Triple
Threshold Test
4.040.480010008.507811.960718.6790
VariantModerator Variable
Dige·I (Th ≤ 0.0821)−0.4289 **
(−2.76)
Dige·I (Th > 0.0821)0.3564 ***
(7.91)
City FixedYES
Year FixedYES
Number of periods10
VariantCities‘ 1984 Fixed Telephones per 100 Inhabitants × National Internet Investment in the Previous YearLag Terms for Lag 1 of the Digital Economy Index (Dige)
Model (1)Model (2)Model (3)Model (4)
DigeUrbanDige
IV-10.0232 ***
(7.76)
Dige 0.0132 ***
(11.91)
IV-2 0.7863 ***
(16.70)
Dige 0.3540 ***
(12.81)
Constant term (math.)−0.1261 **
(−2.52)
0.1092 **
(5.87)
0.0759 ***
(5.87)
0.2467 ***
(32.50)
Urban fixedYESYESYESYES
Year fixedYESYESYESYES
Number of periods10101010
Number of cities9999
New Urbanization Quality Development Index (Urban)
VariantModel (1)Model (2)Model (3)Model (4)Model (5)Model (6)
LnDige0.0669 ***
(7.84)
0.0851 ***
(3.52)
0.0673 ***
(7.83)
0.0431 ***
(3.02)
0.0653 ***
(7.92)
0.0669 ***
(7.82)
Science −0.0094
(−0.81)
Study −1.1387
(−0.59)
Government −0.1286 **
(−2.05)
InOpen 0.3424 **
(2.62)
Fiscal 0.4094
(0.79)
Constant term0.4376 ***
(28.57)
0.5592 ***
(3.69)
0.4605 ***
(11.11)
0.4389 ***
(29.21)
0.3935 ***
(17.58)
0.4111 ***
(11.10)
City fixedYESYESYESYESYESYES
Year fixedYESYESYESYESYESYES
Number of periods101010101010
Number of cities999999
R 0.82380.77690.81790.88620.82590.7995
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Share and Cite

Yang, P.; Zhang, Y.; Yin, Y. Research Investigating the Influence of the Digital Economy on the High-Quality Advancement of New Urbanization in the Yellow River Basin. Sustainability 2024 , 16 , 5887. https://doi.org/10.3390/su16145887

Yang P, Zhang Y, Yin Y. Research Investigating the Influence of the Digital Economy on the High-Quality Advancement of New Urbanization in the Yellow River Basin. Sustainability . 2024; 16(14):5887. https://doi.org/10.3390/su16145887

Yang, Peiqing, Yingjun Zhang, and Yaxin Yin. 2024. "Research Investigating the Influence of the Digital Economy on the High-Quality Advancement of New Urbanization in the Yellow River Basin" Sustainability 16, no. 14: 5887. https://doi.org/10.3390/su16145887

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  1. Sam Young: Structuring a Literature Review

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  1. How to write a literature review introduction (+ examples)

    The introduction to a literature review serves as your reader's guide through your academic work and thought process. Explore the significance of literature review introductions in review papers, academic papers, essays, theses, and dissertations. ... Preview of the literature review's structure: Offer a glimpse into the organization of the ...

  2. How to Write a Literature Review

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  3. How To Structure A Literature Review (Free Template)

    Demonstrate your knowledge of the research topic. Identify the gaps in the literature and show how your research links to these. Provide the foundation for your conceptual framework (if you have one) Inform your own methodology and research design. To achieve this, your literature review needs a well-thought-out structure.

  4. Writing a Literature Review

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  5. Structuring a literature review

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    Example: Predictors and Outcomes of U.S. Quality Maternity Leave: A Review and Conceptual Framework: 10.1177/08948453211037398 ; Systematic review: "The authors of a systematic review use a specific procedure to search the research literature, select the studies to include in their review, and critically evaluate the studies they find." (p. 139).

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