A student’s guide for writing a literature review

How to Write a Review of the Books Student’s Guide
Every college student has to learn how to write a literature review at least once when working on a research paper or putting together a summary of books and magazines they’ve read during the course. This literature review guide will help you understand why this type of academic writing is important, how to put things together in the right way, and what rules you must follow to do well.

Writing a review of the books

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What is a review of the literature?

When you are told to write a literature review, you should always think about the main task that came before it or the course materials that were covered before this task. In simple terms, a literature review is a type of academic writing in which you must analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the literature that is available on your subject, a given prompt, or a certain topic. To fully understand the meaning of your literature review, you should give a detailed estimate of the information that is available.


No matter your academic level, structure, or the type of subject you have to study, you must meet the following research goals:


You must give an overview of the literature in your chosen field of study. The goal here is to do a deep dive into your topic and show that you know how different pieces of information can fit into a bigger picture. Talk about how important what has been found is and give your opinion based on facts, quotes, or any other kind of evidence.

All the information you have to work with must be put into a special summary. In this summary, you should look for similarities or give information that helps to connect your thesis statement or information that is related to your original topic or study field. Don’t forget to explain what you want to achieve and how a certain publication helps you do that or doesn’t help you get the results you want.

A critical analysis of the information you find is the most important part of a good literature review. Here is where you should talk about the different gaps or differences you find based on what you know. It’s a good idea to talk about theories that have been put forward and think critically about different points of view. You should come up with ideas, think about them, and look for the parts that need more research and exploration. In the end, this is what a literature review is for.

As you study how to write a literature review, one of the most important things is to keep everything organized around a certain idea.

How Long is a Review of Literature?


It will always depend on what you want to do, what level of education you want to reach, and who you want to reach. Most literature reviews for theses and dissertations are at least twenty pages long. Still, if you have to write an essay for your term paper, it can be up to five pages or even less.


Why Write a Review of the Literature?


Before starting a new analysis of research, the main goal of a literature review is to find out what has already been done and what information has been found about a certain topic. It means you have to learn as much as you can about a study that has already been done so you can see the pros and cons of your topic. It will help you figure out how to handle things in the future and what problems you might run into as you research and write your dissertation or thesis paper.


Literature Review Format Rules (APA, MLA, and Chicago)

APA Rules for a Literature Review:

Again, the most important thing is to keep your review organized around the chosen theme or main idea. You should talk about how and why certain books have a big impact on your topic. You have to compare, relate, and contrast different ideas and things you learn. It’s also important to show how different trends have changed over time in a way that makes sense. In order to follow the format for a literature review in the APA manual, you must rewrite your findings in the way that is shown below:


…as new research based on other species has shown (Jones, 2009; Stanley & Pulsford, 2018).


In APA format, you should always write your literature review in a separate paper that is not part of your thesis, the research you do, or the dissertation writing as a whole. The rules say that after the literature entries, you should write a short summary of your goals and a conclusion.


When you talk about literature, you can use academic journals and magazines that have been reviewed by peers, books and e-books about your topic, different research reports, conferences, previously published doctoral dissertations, and other sources that have academic value.


Here’s how to write an APA-style literature review:


All pages have 1-inch margins and are double-spaced.

12. Times New Roman font.

In the top right corner, you need to put the running head and page numbers.

There must be an introduction, body entries, and references.

Always put the name of the author, a comma, and the year the book came out between parentheses.

The References section starts on a new page and has a heading that says “References” in bold and in the center of the page.

The entries must be put in order from A to Z.

Rules for putting together a literature review in MLA style:

Things are mostly the same as in the APA format, which means you should have an introduction, a main body with the number of entries in alphabetical order, a short conclusion or analytical summary of your findings, and a list of references to finish things off.


All of the margins on your paper must be 1 inch.

Unless told otherwise, the entries in the paper should be spaced out twice.

There should be a page number in the top right corner.

MLA format requires that you include information about the author, the date the work was published, your title, the journal or book entry, publication data, and a link or ISBN that helps to identify the information.

The citations you choose for your entries must follow the basic rules of MLA.

For instance:


… as the results of the most recent survey show (Mills 2019).




Lakers Industrials says that most of the findings are important for understanding issues of accessibility (Smith 21).


Rules for a Literature Review in Chicago Format:

If you are writing a literature review in the social sciences, you should use the “Author-Date” format from Chicago. When it comes to how to format your literature review entries, you should stick to the basic rules and paraphrase unless a direct quote is needed. The literature review must have an introduction with background information, a body, a conclusion, and a list of references in alphabetical order. The most common way to write an entry is like this:


The Soundwave Synthesis: Working With Autistic Students in a Special Education Setting, by Robin Goodridge, was published in 2005. London: Penguin Books.


How a Literature Review Is Put Together

Most academic writing tasks require that you follow the following structure for the main parts of a literature review. Even as you learn how to write an article review, you will use the same parts. Because of this, it is important to know the major differences between an article review and a literature review (as an example).


– In the beginning.


In the introduction part of your paper, you should give some background information about the topic you chose and the goals of your research. It describes a topic, which can be either descriptive or argumentative. In some cases, though, you might make a proposal that includes specific questions or an assumption. Here is where you should talk about what your literature review is not going to do. It’s also important to talk about what you’ve found and how much you’ve found (if applicable).


– Main Body.


Here is where you can put things in order by time, theme, method, or some theory. When you talk about the pros and cons of each research publication, you must summarize each entry using critical thinking. Talk about what was important, how well it was done, and what might have been missing. Make sure that what you write makes sense and that it has a clear structure.


Let’s look at the most common ways that literature reviews are put together:


Structure of a Chronological Literature Review.

If you choose a chronological structure for your literature review, you should divide your entries by when they were published. It’s especially important when talking about things you’ve done well in your field. As you look into things, it should look at how things have changed over time. But it should always depend on what you’re writing about. Some of the entries you have may talk about both old and new ideas and discoveries.


Sorting by subject.

As an alternative to writing a timeline, you could think about how to present your topic based on how much you talk about a certain theme. If you are doing research on police violence or racism, you can talk about different sources that talk about this or that problem more or less.


How to Put Together a Literature Review.

This might be one of the hardest ways to write a literature review, which is usually part of a thesis paper or dissertation. As the name suggests, it talks about how to present or compare methods based on a problem. You could also use a cause-and-effect approach, in which you talk about how certain books have changed the subject or led to later books.


Approach to Theoretical Analysis.

This type of literature review focuses on one theory and tries to fit existing books, journals, conferences, and other materials to that theory. In this case, you might need to include a thesis statement in the first part of your paper.


– In the end.


Basically, it’s a summary of your most important findings, where you sum up everything and point out any similarities or important things that must be included. It’s where you explain the point of your literature review and talk about what has been done.


– References.


Here is where you need to give full and correct references and sources for every book and resource you used. Follow the rules for how to format your writing style.


Literature Review Outline

Before you start making an outline for a literature review, make sure you know what kind of method you want to use by looking at the examples we’ve given above. Once this part is done, keep going with the plan below:

I. The beginning.


a) Talk about what you want to accomplish with your topic by explaining how it relates to your course or study, why it’s important to research, and what kind of data you plan to use.


b) You should say how the items will be sorted or what method will be used. It helps to tell your readers more about what they are going to see.


c) Sometimes you may need a thesis statement or an assumption (thesis paper, dissertation writing).


II. Theme of the first literature review.


a) Talk about your theme or subject based on what you’ve read.


b) Sub-themes, which help you narrow down what you’re researching.


Study 1 (Research question)

Study 2 (Participants)

Study 3 (Your Findings)

III. Theme of a review of secondary literature.


a) A slightly different way to look at books and other sources that give a different kind of sample data. You need to look over things.


b) Sub-topics that make things more specific and look for similarities or differences.


Study 1 (explains your methods and the things you seek).

Study 2 (talks about the pros and cons of how everything has been presented).

Study 3 (compares what you could find).

IV. In the end.


a) Putting it all together.


b) Talking about the good and bad things about what you found.


c) Ideas for doing more research.


V. References.


a) Your list of sources, or references.


b) Extra information about the appendix, if needed.


As an example of what a literature review is, let’s apply this outline to the real world:


I. The Problem The beginning.


The study of children with autism.


Here is where you should start by giving a short overview of the problem and explaining how you did your research and how you plan to write the literature review:


When dealing with the problems of teaching young children, there are many new and old methods and studies to use. Autism is hard to deal with because doctors and teachers are split into two groups. One group sees it as a problem of wrong mental development, while the other sees it as a problem with social communication. The goal of this literature review is to look into both methods and figure out what’s good and bad about them. For writing help, the theoretical methodology has been used with scientific sample groups of autistic children.


II. Problems that autistic children face in their early education.


a) Early Analysis of Education for Young Children.


b) Differences in the results of research.


There were problems with learning.

a) Social Skills.


b) Mental Issues.


c) The Parenting Side.


This group is made up of scientists.

An Overview of the Latest Research Results.

III. The children with autism and their family relationships.


Other things about family.

Note: This part should include things that you haven’t seen a lot of in the books and journals you’ve read. If something doesn’t fit into any of your other groups, you should write about it here.


Study of the impact on the community.


V. Patterns of behavior for each person.




How medicine is used.

Doings at school.

The biggest challenge most of the time.

VI. The theories that this study is based on.


Thoughts or suggestions for the end.


List of references.


As you look at this example of a literature review outline, you’ll see that our literature review is set up like an outline. When talking about a medical subject, it helps to know what kinds of things might come up. This outline has been turned into a detailed description on purpose to show you how to organize your thoughts and explain how to write a literature review when you have a clear problem.


Writing a Review of the Literature

In conclusion, let’s go over the steps you need to take to write a literature review:


Study your topic before you start.

It’s one of the most important things you have to do when you start a literature review. Since it’s usually part of a larger research project, the key is to study your topic ahead of time and try to narrow things down as much as possible. It will help you choose books, magazines, and other resources that will help you reach your goals. You should talk to an academic advisor about your worries and questions so that you don’t try to cover more research literature than may be possible for your chosen subject.


Not all sources work!

Remember that when you write a literature review, you need to use academic sources that have been reviewed by peers or are reliable. You can safely use books you find online or in print. You have to use academic journals from Google Scholar, JSTOR, PubMed, or any other database that has information about your topic. It means that you can’t use something from a blog in a reliable literature review unless you want to look into that kind of information on purpose. As you choose your sources, think about how you will provide evidence as you research your problem.


Set goals for your research.

Your literature review is more than just a list of books and other sources where you talk about what you could find in each case. As you can see from the examples and outlines, your literature review needs to have clear research goals.


A literature review example:


Violence among teens is a problem that affects more than 47% of today’s youth. As a type of disorder that affects a person’s ability to concentrate, their mood, and their studies, violent behavior needs to be looked at closely to find out what makes it morally okay. Different research has shown that things like playing video games, watching violent movies, and dealing with peer pressure are the main things that lead to bad things happening (King, 2002). In this thesis paper, we will talk about these factors in more detail to find out how mental health professionals, teachers, social workers, and parents deal with this problem. The idea here is that young people whose families are unstable or who don’t feel emotionally connected to their parents are more likely to turn to violence and show other symptoms like anxiety and depression.


In the research that Turner (2005) has provided, two important points were brought up that helped set the goals of this literature review and the problem at hand. These questions were used to help choose a method for a theoretical literature review.


Organize what you’ve found.

It’s one of the most important things you need to do after you’ve set your research goals and put together the other parts. You should set up each entry according to your method and explain it in each body part based on similarities or other things you think are important. Don’t forget that your literature review should include basic information about the author if you think it will help you understand the source better or give it more credibility.


Check your list of sources twice.

Don’t skip over this part, and double-check everything. Here is where you must give a list of references that is correct. Check your in-text citations first, if you used any. Most of the time, you should use at least two of them for each entry. You have to say something in-depth about your findings and back it up with evidence. Make sure that every quote you have, even parts that you paraphrased, is in your references list and is formatted correctly. Check your style rules twice for all the spaces and structure problems to make sure you didn’t miss anything.


Things You Need to Keep in Mind When Writing Your Literature Review

As we came to the end of our literature review guide, there are some important things you should remember before you start writing. Let’s put them all together into ten important rules that will be very important when you write a literature review:


Start by deciding what you want to write about and who you want to read it.

First, take your time to read and research what’s already out there.

Don’t forget to write things down as you learn about them.

Look at other literature reviews that cover the same topic as yours.

Stay on topic, but explain what you think is important about ideas that are related.

Keep your writing critical, and don’t forget about the way it’s put together.

If you need to, give some background information about each entry.

Read the reviews of other websites to learn more.

Add your own research, but don’t take sides.

Choose studies from both the past and the present to give a balanced look at things.

Most importantly, don’t forget about the risk of plagiarism and always include citations and other information that will help your readers find each source. If you follow these simple rules, you will be able to write a great literature review paper that stands out from the rest.

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