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How to Write a Literature Review | Tips and Common Mistakes to Avoid

Writing a literature review can seem overwhelming, but with the right strategy, it can be a rewarding and feasible task. A well-written literature review accomplishes several objectives: it offers a thorough summary of the body of knowledge already available on a given subject, points out knowledge gaps, and lays the groundwork for future research. 

Learning how to write a literature review is essential whether you're a student, trying to do well on your assignments, a researcher starting an entirely novel endeavor, or someone looking to learn more about a certain subject. This guide will lead you through the process in a methodical manner to assist you in creating a well-thought-out and impactful literature review.

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a type of academic article where the existing research on a certain topic is summarized and evaluated. It summarizes what is known at this time, points out gaps, contradictions, and trends, and makes suggestions for more research. The primary objective is to inform the reader on important advancements and discussions in the field.

Types of Literature Review

Literature review can be of following types:

Narrative Reviews

A narrative review provides a thorough summary of a subject by combining the results of several investigations into a logical story. They are not constrained by rigid methodological requirements and are usually used to present a wide viewpoint on a subject.

Systematic Literature Review

Systematic reviews are more precise and methodical, employing a predetermined process to examine, assess, and combine results from various investigations. This method reduces bias and offers high-quality data on a particular study subject.

Scoping Reviews 

Scoping reviews highlight the key ideas that underpin a field of study while also defining the primary sources and categories of available data. They are useful for making concepts more clear and for pointing out gaps in the body of knowledge.

Steps to Write a Literature Review

1. Choose a Research Topic

The crucial first stage in your research process is choosing a topic. Your topic shouldn't be too wide or too narrow in order to make sure it's approachable and effective. A clearly defined topic can help you stay focused and provide your research a clear direction. These are important things to remember:

  1. It should be relevant to your field of interest.

  2. It should be clear and specific

  3. It should cover the research gap. 

  4. Must ensure that enough data is available for your research.

2. Conduct Preliminary Research

Undertaking preliminary research is an essential step towards comprehending the existing body of literature related to the topic. This preliminary inquiry aids in your understanding of the breadth and depth of existing research, enabling you to hone in on your topic as needed. The specific steps are as follows:

Analyze Current Literature: Start by searching for relevant books, papers, and articles in scholarly databases, journals, and other reliable sources.this will give a summary of the state of the research in your field of interest.

Assess the Scope of Research:  Determine the extent to which your subject has been researched by evaluating the scope of the study. If the subject is too wide, there may be an abundance of information available. On the other hand, if it's too specific, there may not be as much research available. Modify your subject to make sure it is feasible and adequately addressed by previous research.

Identify Important Themes and Trends: Make a note of the most important themes, trends, and conclusions as you read the literature. Keep an eye out for relevant studies, prominent writers, and reoccurring themes. This will help you in determining the main problems and research gaps.

Refine Your Research Question: Make your research question more focused and specific by incorporating your findings. A specific query might help you remain on track and focus your study.

Find Research Gaps: Examine regions with little or no research or with conflicting results. These holes may present chances for your own study to significantly advance the field.

You may ensure that your study is essential and significant by carrying out in-depth preliminary research. This will also help you to get a solid understanding of your issue.

3. Define the Scope

You need to clearly define the scope of your literature review and to do so there are following key elements you must consider:

Time Frame: Choose how long you want to do your evaluation for. Choose whether to focus just on recent research or to examine past studies in order to offer a more comprehensive perspective.

Geographical Location: Indicate the limits of your review's geographic scope. Depending on your research subject, this can include studies that are worldwide in scope or that are concentrated on certain nations, areas, or even cities.

Types of Sources: Specify the types of sources used for your literature review. Generally, this includes reputable papers, books, and peer-reviewed journals. To keep your review's integrity intact, stay away from predatory journals.

Content Scope: Clearly state which subjects and their subtopics will be covered in your evaluation. This simplifies the process of narrowing your research and ensures that it remains comprehensive and relevant.

Purpose: Understand and articulate the purpose of your literature review, whether it is to identify trends, highlight gaps, or provide a critical analysis of existing research.

You can make sure your literature review is organized, targeted, and pertinent to your study goals by defining these elements.  

4. Search for Relevant Literature

Relevant research helps you to find extensive literature reviews for your topic. There are key elements that can make the process easier. Use these thorough procedures to locate pertinent material for your topic:

Select Reliable Sources: To find scholarly papers, search academic databases like Scopus, Web of Science, and PubMed. To ensure high-quality material, include books and peer-reviewed papers from reliable publishers.

Perform Comprehensive Searches: Search out keywords associated with your study problem in several sources. To make sure your results are relevant to your research topic, refine your search parameters.

Track Your Searches: Maintain an extensive record of the sources you utilize, the search terms you use, and the results you find. This can help you in minimizing duplicate work and ensure comprehensive coverage of the subject.

Arrange Your Sources: To arrange your sources, use a reference organizer like Mendeley, EndNote, or Zotero. These will help you to efficiently organize, classify, and cite your references with the use of these tools.

5. Evaluate the Sources

Give each source a critical evaluation to determine its reliability and significance. Concentrate on papers that offer important new perspectives on your subject and are closely tied to your research issue.

Here is a complete guide on how to write a literature review in this video

6. Analyze and Interpret the Literature

Once you've chosen your sources, proceed with the analysis and interpretation of the results to identify the major themes, trends, and gaps in the research. Determine common patterns and arguments in a methodical manner, and make note of any gaps or contradictions in the research. Make thorough notes on these findings, grouping them according to themes and applicability to your research question. To make writing easier and to make sure you can incorporate and cite these findings in your literature review, arrange these notes carefully.

7. Structure Your Review

Focus on the structure for your literature review. It should be in an organized manner. Thematic, chronological, and methodological frameworks are examples of common structures. Select the one that most effectively summarizes your findings and makes sense for your topic.

Structuring a Literature Review


Give a brief introduction to the topic, defining the objectives and constraints of the literature review. Emphasizes the importance of  the review to get the reader ready for the following sections.


Arrange the literature according to the nature of your research as you synthesize and examine it. There are multiple methods for organizing this section:

Topic Structure:  Sort the literature according to the main ideas or subjects you found during the course of the study. This approach makes it possible to discuss multiple aspects of the literature in a logical manner.

The Order of Events:To show how the field has developed and what trends have emerged over time, present the literature in the order that it was published.

Methodological Structure: Sort the literature according to the strategies employed in the research, facilitating the comparison and contrast of different approaches and their results.

Summarize the topic

Highlight the major conclusions, identify any gaps and important topics, and make recommendations for further study. Consider the significance of the review and how it affects the field. 

Tips for writing a Literature Review

It can be difficult to write a literature review, but you can make it easier and more efficient by using these tips:

Stay Organized: Maintain a methodical record of your references, ideas, and notes. Whether using digital or conventional means, make sure everything is well-documented and readily available.

Use a Reference Manager: You may efficiently manage your references, format citations, and construct bibliographies with the help of programs like Mendeley, EndNote, or Zotero.

Write Briefly and Clearly: Stay clear of unnecessary words and complicated language. Strive for clarity so that a wide readership may understand your review with ease.

Ensure Objectivity and Unbiased Analysis: To guarantee objectivity and impartial analysis, Analyze sources critically while taking into account different points of view and approaches. Don't allow your analysis to be influenced by personal prejudices; instead, present a neutral viewpoint. 

Avoid Plagiarism:To prevent plagiarism and to ensure academic integrity, properly cite all sources of data, concepts, and direct quotes.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When composing a literature review, stay away from the following common mistakes:

Ill-defined Scope: Provide a clear description of the parameters of your review, including what will and won't be reviewed. This keeps the review's focus and relevance consistent.

Relying Too Heavily on a Few Sources: To give a thorough summary of the subject, include a variety of sources in your analysis. A skewed perspective may arise from relying too much on a small number of sources .

Avoiding Contradictory Evidence: Discuss and acknowledge different points of view or conflicting results. Ignoring these could damage your review's credibility.

Go beyond simply summarizing sources while writing a descriptive review as opposed to an analytical one. Examine and summarize the material to find patterns, gaps, and important revelations. This gives your review more substance and worth .


Writing a literature review is an essential skill in academic and research settings. It requires thorough preparation, in-depth investigation, and concise writing. The procedures described in this guide will help you create an informative and thorough literature review that will benefit your field of study. Always keep in mind that the objective is to educate, captivate, and establish a strong basis for further study. A well-written literature review advances the scholarly conversation in your field by synthesizing the body of knowledge and pointing out gaps and areas that require more research.


What is the average length for a literature review? 

The objective and requirements of your topic determine how long the literature review should be.It could be 15–20 pages for a stand-alone paper, but it could be considerably more for a thesis or dissertation.

Can non-peer reviewed materials be incorporated into my literature review?

Yes, but only in little quantities. Peer-reviewed sources are considered more reliable.. Non-peer reviewed sources shouldn't be the main focus of your review; they can offer context or various points of view.

How can anyone determine whether the literature review has enough sources?

The quantity of sources is not fixed. But make sure your review includes all the important research on your subject and is thorough. You must have plenty if you find yourself coming across the same sources again and again.

Do direct quotes be added to Literature Review?

To ensure that the content flows naturally into your review, it is usually preferable to paraphrase. Only use direct quotes when the original text is extremely important.


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