How to do a literature review

Some people may think of a literature review as reading a book and then giving it a positive or negative rating. No, it is not. A literature review is a review of a variety of literary works on a topic, ranging from a series of books to shorter works such as pamphlets. Sometimes a literature review is part of a larger research paper. And you can resort to the help of research paper helper. Its purpose is to prevent duplication of effort, address your time constraints, and point the way for further research.

And this article will also save your time and give you many useful tips for essays.

Before you start writing

Specify your tutor’s requirements. Some professors may ask you to do a literature review and specify nothing more. Or maybe they did, and you played Plants vs Zombies. Either way, knowing exactly what your tutor is looking for is the first step to getting that six.

How many sources should you include? Does he/she want a certain number of each type? Do they need to be at least semi-current?

When you discuss your topics, are you only summarizing or critiquing? Some reviews require a thesis, others may not.

  • Do you have to offer your opinion about your sources?
  • Do you need to provide background information, such as definitions or history, to help your audience understand?
  • Is there a page or word count requirement?


  1. Narrow your topic. Narrow your topic as much as possible while still having the right number of sources. Studying birth order can lead you to dozens of books; studying the birth order of siblings of the same sex will make the search for sources much faster and more manageable.
  2. Keep up to date. If you’re writing a review in the humanities, history, or social sciences, you can afford to be less concerned with relevance (in fact, changing opinions over the course of history can be an aspect of your work). But if you’re writing a literature review about the exact sciences, say, about the treatment of diabetes, information from 5 years ago may already be out of date. Review current bibliographies or literature reviews in the field to get a sense of what your discipline is waiting for.
  3. Find a focus. Unfortunately, you don’t just collect sources and summarize what they have to say. You need to consider what themes and ideas your sources connect. Think of these books as your group of friends arguing about the same topic. What do they all suggest? How are they the same, and how are they different?
  4. Read between the lines. You don’t have to look for explicit content. Is there an aspect of the field that is missing? Do all your sources prescribe one theory? Do you see trends emerging? This will help you tremendously to structure your paper by getting a handle on what will give your paper meaning.
  5. Build your thesis. Once you’ve found your focus, it’s time to build a thesis. You might think that literature reviews don’t have a thesis statement. This is both partially true and false: They do have a thesis, but it’s quite different. Your thesis doesn’t necessarily have to defend a position or opinion; rather, it will argue a particular point of view about the material.

For example, “The current trends in [topic] are A, B, and C” or “Theory X is accepted by most sources from 1985 onward.” Stating something like this begs a few questions, which makes your review more interesting and meaningful: How will trends change in the future? What if the accepted theories are wrong?

Again, this is not new information. You are not analyzing the material and offering your own, new perspective on it. You’re just acting like a computer – noting the patterns, holes, and assumptions that all your sources accept.

Evaluate your sources

You may have the best of intentions and a form of prose that will convince the most hardened skeptic, but if your sources aren’t viable, that’s it. Make sure your sources are evaluated on several levels.

  • What are the author’s credentials? How are their arguments supported (narratives, statistics, historical findings, etc.)?
  • Is the author’s point of view unbiased and objective? Is any data ignored to make their thesis seem stronger?
  • How convincing are they? Do any of their these leave something to be desired?
  • Does their work lead to a better understanding of the topic?

Drafting the essay

Start with a solid introduction. As with anything, first impressions matter. Your introduction should give a quick idea of the topic of your review, be it thematically or by organizational model.

Help the reader by letting them know what kind of ride they’re in for. If you use a thesis statement, place it toward the end of your introductory paragraph. At the end, your reader should expect to get into the evidence and the bulk of your paper.

  1. Organize the body. This is the part where you have the most options. You have several sources, and since they are all on the same topic, they probably have a lot in common. Choose the one that feels most natural for your particular focus.
  2. Put them in chronological order. If you’re dealing with different opinions by era or changing trends over time, chronological organization may make the most sense.
  3. Arrange it by publication. This method of organization works well if each publication has a different heading. If there is a natural progression between sources (from radical to conservative, for example), this method works well.

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