How to Write a Literature Review

Jun 19, 2017

When writing a literature review, you are supposed to provide a critical evaluation of the most important sources that were published on your topic of interest. Actually, a literature review can serve different purposes depending on what audience will read it or listen to it. For example, if the audience knows less than you do on the topic, the purpose of the review will be informative. On the contrary, if the audience comprises renowned professors and specialists, you should pursue the purpose of demonstrating familiarity and expertise in the topic.

Some writing tips, which you should follow when providing a review of literature:

  • Place your original work within the context of the existing sources;
  • Make sure to interpret the key issues pertaining to your topic of interest;
  • Focus on describing the relationship among chosen literary sources;
  • Come up with new ways of interpretation and point out the gaps in the analyzed sources;
  • Provide solutions to the existing conflicts or controversies among previous studies;
  • Indicate which literature makes a major contribution to your understanding of the topic;
  • Indicate the perspectives of your further research.

Constituents of a Literature Review

In order to be properly written, a literature review must be well-structured. The ideas should be presented logically and coherently. Besides, it is highly important to provide clear transitions from one idea/point to the other.
In your choice of sources, make sure they are relevant to the topic of your research and not outdated. When presenting concepts and terminology, make sure you do it as comprehensively and unbiased as possible.

Include the following parts into your review of literature:

  1. Brief overview of the topic, main issues/ aspects or theory;
  2. Separate review of sources for and against your research topic/position;
  3. Provide the background for your research, which was made before;
  4. When writing the conclusion, indicate which of the works have made the most significant contribution to the study.

Pay attention to the following criteria when deciding which work to include in your review:

  1. Credibility: which of the authors’ ideas are persuasive and why?
  2. Qualifications: Does the author have suitable/required credentials to conduct a well-comprehensive research?
  3. Worth: do the authors’ findings add value to your own ones?
  4. Neutrality: are the authors’ perspectives biased or not?

You should present your attitide towards the works you review with the help of reporting verbs, which indicate whether you accept a certain viewpoint/stance or not.

Reporting verbs indicate the following:

  1. Neutral evaluation: comment, cite, address;
  2. Positive evaluation: hold, argue, advocate;
  3. Critical evaluation: condemn, refute, object, attack;
  4. Tentative evaluation: suggest, allude to, hypothesize, believe.

All in all, the way of presentation the materials in your literature review should demonstate that you have chosen and quoted the most relevant material to support/refute your argument and that you have provided sense when introducing quotes into your argument development (by clealry interpreting them and linking to the idea you aim to express).