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How to Write a Literature Review and Examples – Complete Guide

For your research paper to be impeccable, you need to make sure that all aspects of it are refined and well thought out, including the sections that you don’t like in particular because it calls for a lot of work. Yes, we’re talking about none other than the literature review. If you share the sentiments, then allow us to guide you how to write a literature review that’ll be a perfect addition to your research paper.

Writing a research paper or a dissertation requires a lot of effort and study on your part. You need to carry out extensive research to gather all the necessary material in order to write a research paper or dissertation worthy of getting a good grade putting a conclusive end to your entire year of study. Let us take you on a tour of how to write a literature review for dummies to make an expert out of you in no time.

Despite your dislike for the literature review section, you cannot ignore the fact that it is of immense importance. It’s the backbone for your research paper or dissertation. It can serve as proof that you went to extreme lengths to gather evidence and form your arguments in an articulate manner. Not only that, but it also proves the authenticity of your research. Now, a literature review example can be studied to get a rough idea of what it’s all about.

But the thing is, the entire process of looking up content for a literature review can be quite time consuming, so you have to be smart about how you go about this. That’s why we’ll be letting you know how to start a literature review for a research paper. But first, let’s get the hang of the basics.

Literature Review Definition

Let’s talk about what a literature review is all about. It is more or less a collection of works done by various authors on the topic or related to the topic you’re writing about. These authors would most likely be scholars or researchers who are more knowledgeable and experienced on the aforementioned topics; hence, the information written by them will benefit you hugely.   

A literature review requires you to search about the topic you’re writing; for instance, you’re doing a study on social media and how it has been affecting people’s lives. So, you’ll look up any material that might aid you in supporting your stance or even any points that oppose your argument so that you may present your counter-arguments as well with sufficient evidence.

Furthermore, the literature review may assist your teacher in the evaluation of your paper based on the research you’ve conducted. In order to write a literature review, you can look at a literature review template, so you should be able to get a brief idea on how to write about it; however, you need to know how to pick or how to search the topic efficiently.

We’ll be talking about the literature review outline as well because many students dread having to work on the literature review because of the complications associated with it. Before you get all high and mighty on us because you might think you know all about how to write a literature review for a research paper but don’t get ahead of yourself.

Working on a literature review sample pdf

If we say the literature review is an integral part of any research paper, it won’t be wrong. Because you see, the credibility of your paper depends upon the example of review of related literature. Sure, the research process is exhausting and mind-numbing but the end result will be all worth it. You’d be proud of what you’ve come up with.

A literature review format varies in each paper. Some people refer to various research papers in a single go, whereas some sensible ones only mention them when there’s a need. We’d say it’d be wise for you to do the latter. As much as your paper’s credibility matters, it is also necessary that you don’t lose sight of your topic getting overshadowed by other researchers.

The sources you can refer to for literature review can be newspapers, published articles or journals, books or other research papers. Sure, they can date back years ago; however, as long as they’re tied to the topic you’re writing about, you can use them as references.

A detailed literature review manages to cover and summarize each of the mentioned papers, discusses their findings and observations. For instance, you can talk about how social media wasn’t relevant eons ago because there was no need for it. People used to talk face to face if they had to converse and that was the end of it. There was no concept of virtual conversations.

Furthermore, you never know the goldmine you might end up finding among this existing research. Such that, you’d make an impressionable thesis followed by a dissertation that is sure to go put in the wow factor to amaze your professor, who might just let you swing by the rest of the semester if fate favours you.

Perfecting that literature review outline

You must’ve come across various articles on how to draw up a structure for an essay and always found it worthless. But let us give you a reality check, most teachers expect your research report or dissertation based on a certain format or template and if you fail to adhere to it, that’s sure to put them off; hence, you’d be losing solid marks, which you could’ve gained had you paid attention. That’s why you need to focus on your literature review outline.

If you just recently got assigned a research paper, you must be regretting passing such articles in the first place. Because now you’re scrambling to find the same articles which you disregarded. It is very much true that you never seem to care for something when you have it but desperately want it when the window has closed.

However, lucky for you, we can be of help to you. We can take the lead and all you have to do is follow us as we tell you how to write a literature review outline.

But before we get into the details, here are a few details that are going to benefit you hugely if you keep them in mind. Although learning the art of literature review can be taxing, but if you keep at it, you’ll learn it’s not so bad. Sure, there are a few things and complications that will nag you and have you contemplating nearly all your life choices but the best you can do is not to give up. Think of it as the learning curve.

How to start a literature review

The first question that is likely to plague you after mulling over the literature review outline is going to be ‘how to start a literature review introduction’. For any type of write-up, to say the introduction plays a vital role might be an understatement. The reason for that is perhaps, usually an introduction has to shoulder huge responsibilities.

It needs to be compelling to draw the readers and then push them to read and pay attention to the very end. If not, they’re going to lose interest halfway.

Now, you may pretend to know the best way to write a literature review outline but perhaps you’ve heard of Isaac Newton’s “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean”. Based on that, we’d like to assume that you definitely need us to lend you a helping hand.

See, as we mentioned, the literature review is one daunting task that you can put off only for a certain time period. After that, you’d be crunching for time because your deadline would be looming in your head and you have to write an entire research paper or, worse, a dissertation.

Because of which you’d end up putting everything of yours on the line in the hopes of completing the task as you race against time.

However, you’re only going to be able to manage if the odds are in your favour. That’s why to make sure you’ve stacked yourself well against such odds; you need us to rescue you.  

How to start a literature review sample

Before you start working on a literature review of your own, you must study a literature review example. These examples or samples will give you an insight into most of the literature reviews. You should be able to decipher their types and how you can use them in your paper.

Furthermore, you need to be able to judge which type of literature review will be most suitable for your paper. Because if your paper is of the scientific domain, your literature review must be along the same lines. Otherwise, your teacher will assume that you’re just trying to get by instead of actually focusing on the research.

A literature review outline might seem like a piece of cake that you can figure out fairly easily but you’d soon realize it’s rather easier said than done. Even the most expert essay writers aren’t that fond of literature reviews. But yes, more often than not, you need to find clever ways to do your literature review research; otherwise, it’ll probably take you months and even then, you could end up with so much material at hand that you’d be lost what needs to be included and what’s irrelevant, much like a case of biting more than you can chew.

While working on a research paper literature review, it is very easy to deviate from the topic, which is why you can ask for assistance from your teacher. Go to them and explain that you’d like to have a better understanding of literature reviews.

Request them if it’d be possible for them to check a literature review sample that you’ve whipped up and if there’s room for improvement or any issues that need to be rectified. If you’re lucky, your teacher would probably agree right away or else; you can ask a peer to do the same job for you.

Studying a literature review example

Given there are various types of literature reviews that you can use in your research, it can get confusing to pick the one that’d be the most relevant addition. Based on that, you need to think thoroughly about your topic and then when you’ve made up your mind completely; you may opt for a suitable literature review writing method.

See, after the first step, you need to focus on your research and for that, you’d have to make the Google search engine or any other search engine that you frequently use your best friend. For each and every minor detail, you have to look it up. Because remember, consistency and quality is key to your entire research paper.

So, as we were saying, now that you are good friends with Google, you have to look up various research papers on your chosen topic. But based on the diversity of the papers, it is likely that many authors used different styles of literature review. From there on, you have to study how each literature review in the distinct papers differ from one another. This should be able to give you a perspective on various types of literature reviews.

Studying literature review examples will give you a good insight into how you can work on your paper or dissertation’s literature review. You can opt for a concise tabular format or even detail-oriented paragraphs that highlight the findings and results of the papers that are being addressed.

All in all, these example literature reviews will set you on the right track for your own literature review and also give you a learning experience that ought to clear any misconceptions you have. Furthermore, you’ll find plenty of content that you can refer to in your paper.

How to write a literature review for dissertation

Before we embark on this studious journey, you have to promise that you’ll be fully committed to it. Once you dive in, there’s no coming back if something goes wrong. Take the example of cliff-diving, for instance. If you jump correctly, you’ll be experiencing a rush of adrenaline and a feeling of thrill like never before. However, if you jump incorrectly, you might not even get to see the light of the day, much less feel the thrill. 

Firstly, you must have a clear idea of what a dissertation is supposed to be and how it differs from a research paper. As a student, you might not give it much thought as you might consider both the things to be mundane and extremely boring; however, if you don’t understand the basic concepts, you might mess up big time in the future.

As the two things can be very similar to one another, so, it’s understandable why you can often confuse the two. Hence, let’s first learn about dissertations and research papers.

Research Paper vs. Dissertation

If you’re a nerd who’s a know-it-all, we’d recommend you to skip this part and move over to the section you’re in need of because this part right here is for the amateurs who have just realized that their deadline is far too near and they need a crash course in this entire debacle.

Hence, they’ve opened the first most relevant link they can get their hands on and here we are. So, without any further delay, let’s begin this crash course so that you can ace that thing even if you start working on it at the 11th hour.

Research paper and dissertation are two terms that are often used interchangeably, which might explain your dilemma about them. So, no worries, this one’s not on you. Both the write-ups consist of similar structures, such as beginning with an introduction, followed by a literature review and body, and ending with a conclusion.

Of course, the references and appendix section is also at the very end of the papers. But that’s where the similarities between the two papers draw to a close. Now, you may wonder how two extremely similar papers can be starkly different. For that, let’s dive deeper into this mystery.

Let’s talk about the differences. To sum up in a sentence: a dissertation can be referred to as a research paper; however, a research paper may not necessarily be a dissertation. Vague, isn’t it? Allow us to explain. A dissertation is written as proof that you’ve completed your study in PhD. It is a culmination of your entire doctoral study in any given field.

On the other hand, a research paper is a piece of writing that can be assigned to you on any topic throughout your school life. A dissertation consists of a minimum of 10 pages, whereas a research paper can be of a minimum of 600 words.

Other than that, a dissertation has to be defended in front of a panel of judges who decide whether the study you’ve conducted is worthy of getting accepted to the relevant field of study. So, basically, the ball is in their court. They’re experienced professionals who get to decide whether the years of effort of yours have been fruitful. At the same time, your research paper has a relatively easy checking criterion that depends upon your teacher or supervisor solely.

Furthermore, a dissertation is an attempt in exploring a field of study further by new findings, whereas a research paper only analyzes the existing studies.

This should give you a pretty decent idea in regards to how dissertations and research papers work.

Let’s move onto the next phase of our write-up.

Tips for writing a literature review

Now it’ll be in your favour if you pay close attention to everything. We’re giving you a heads-up because you might as well consider this a rollercoaster because before you know it, this write-up will be taking you to unimaginable places and you might not necessarily like it. But your survivability might perhaps depend on it, so you ain’t got much of choice. Follow all these tips closely and you shall be able to render a literature review for a dissertation with ease.

Tip # 1:  Define a Topic and Audience

First of all, needless to say, you have to keep in mind that there’s a lot riding on this dissertation of yours. It’s practically your make it or break it a moment. So you have to give it your all.

The first step revolves around you making the choice that’s going to have a huge impact. Either you might end up hating it or you might actually be proud of it. So, the field of study that you have to pick can be very crucial. Because it has to be:

  • Something of interest to you, otherwise you might lack the attention it needs. It could be something that spoke to you whilst going through the research of deciding a topic.
  • A relevant aspect of the field so that people would be interested in hearing your views and take on it.
  • A well-defined plight that needs to be pondered upon and must be resolved.

If you manage to find a topic that ticks all your above mentioned checkboxes, then you’re good to go.

Depending upon your topic, your audience will follow in whichever direction the wind blows. For instance, if you’re writing about the ‘Role of Human-Computer Interaction’, naturally, the computer scientists will be interested in hearing what you have to say about the topic.

Tip # 2:  Search and Research the Literature

Once you’ve tackled the issue of topic and audience, your focus needs to be on researching every single piece of information about the topic. You’ll have to look up a number of papers and articles to get to the bottom of explaining your dissertation in depth. For finding and downloading research papers, you may use the following websites:

  • www.scholar.google.com
  • www.researchgate.net
  • www.cqu.edu.au/student-life/library
  • www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

These sources should be able to link you to downloadable research papers so that you can skim and go over them to get the content you require.

Here are some key points that should be helpful to you:

  • keep a list of papers that you’re using so that referencing them later on, should be easier
  • make another list of papers that aren’t accessible to you so that you can look up later on for alternative sources
  • if there are too many papers and you can’t keep track, then use a paper management system
  • set up criteria for the papers ranking them from most relevant to irrelevant in terms of your study
  • don’t just stick to research papers; you can look up older reviews on the same topic as well

Tip # 3: Make notes while reading the papers

Now, you may be a bookworm but reading and noting down relevant key points is a tactic not everyone can master. But this purpose can really help in jotting down content for your dissertation. Consider it a mind map of sorts. Unless you are in possession of a photographic memory, we’d recommend you make use of sticky notes or a proper notebook to continue reading and writing down your thoughts as you go.

This will allow you to broaden your perspective and analyze them. Not only that, by the time you have deemed the literature necessary for your dissertation, you’ll have a rough draft in place for the review.

At least this way, you won’t be staring at a blank paper for hours and waiting for inspiration to strike.

Tip # 4: Determining the type of your review

Since you’ve handpicked the literature, studied it and now have a mind map, you should be good at putting your pen to paper. But first, you have yet another decision to make. You must determine the type of your literature review. Because we’re here to teach you how to write a literature review for dissertation and you must keep your eyes peeled at all times. So, you can either opt for a short review or a detailed one.

In the latter, you will be able to cover a great deal of the topic you’ve chosen. Discuss all the aspects of it. Furthermore, descriptive reviews focus on methodology and findings and the associated interpretations. So, you’d be able to easily address a literature review methodology example.

Tip # 5: Focused review with a broad perspective

Your literature review should keep the focus on your topic; however, reviewing it from all aspects is a must. Sure, you might get carried away while penning down possible revolutionary discoveries; however, don’t lead your audience entirely off the topic.

For instance, you might be talking about computer science and robots, but the next thing you know, you could be mentioning how robots can be the next big thing to be sent to space to facilitate mankind which would obviously garner the interest of scientists and astronauts. This way, you’re grabbing the attention of people from other fields as well.

Tip # 6: Be critical and consistent

If you’re referring to a scientific literature review example, then make sure to critically analyze it by giving it a point of view from various perspectives, including the methodologies and the entire paper. You should also point out any research gaps or unanswered questions that might be there within the paper.

Other than that, if your write up can be considered as an apa literature review sample, then you must use the same referencing style throughout the dissertation. The same goes for active or passive voice and past tense or present tense. Otherwise, the inconsistency might not be welcomed by the reader.

Tip # 7: Structuring the review

Your literature review must comprise a logical structure. See, if your review isn’t divided properly into smaller and appropriate sections, the reader might find it boring. So from your introduction to methods, discussions and results, everything needs to be plotted in a readable manner.

Similarly, if you need help with understanding citing styles for better structuring your dissertation in APA because your teacher specifically asked for it, you are recommended to look up a few

literature review outline examples apa.

Tip # 8: Taking feedback constructively

For all we know, as an amateur to work on this literature review, you probably went down the route of looking up ‘how to write a literature review proposal’ but, we’ll give you a hall pass on that one as long as you promise to take things seriously.

There are high chances that even though you’re reviewing a couple of pieces of literature yourself, you don’t take criticism too well about your own writings. Hence, this is another thing you must learn. If someone other than you gives your work a read, they might be able to provide a different insight that you might’ve missed earlier. So, learn to incorporate feedback into your dissertation as well.

Tip # 9: Incorporating your own research

One of the most important aspects of your dissertation is presenting your discoveries. You must keep in mind that what you’re writing needs approval from not just one but an entire panel. If they don’t agree or if they don’t find your research authentic, they might disapprove of it and there goes your months or years of hard work down the drain.

To avoid such disasters, it’d be best if you present your research with strong evidence and numbers that prove your hypothesis.

Tip # 10: Relevant Source Material

Once you’ve gotten over from research on how to write a literature review example, you might want to look up relevant source material for your dissertation.

If you’ve chosen a topic that’s quite trending these days, chances are you’re likely to find a good deal of research papers related to it. However, you must give priority to the most recent ones. But if you find a research paper that’s quite similar to your dissertation, even if it dated back decades ago, you must not disregard the latter. Relevancy matters highly when writing a dissertation.

Although, after going through all of this, if you feel like writing a dissertation is not your cup of tea, you may hire essay writing services to write one for you.


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