Master the Art of Literature Review

Master the Art of Literature Review

literature ReviewA literature review is a critical evaluation of already written literature about an identified research topic. Literature review is mostly used as the first step to understanding the ideas, opinions and arguments in a particular area of study. Among the main sources of literature review are peer-reviewed journal articles, books, magazines, online articles, website content, and conference proceedings among others. It is advisable to select peer reviewed sources of your literature. This gives you and the reader an assurance of the reliability of the literature review. A literature review involves summarizing, describing, and critically evaluating all the different works. The literature review shows the reader that you have a good understanding of the research topic. It also gives assurance that the research area is not new in the research field. Therefore, it gives assurance of the research ability of the given issue or field.

When writing a literature review, it is important to avoid mere descriptions. The writer should not only focus on presenting summaries of facts or findings. A literature review is a critical discussion. It should provide insights about a given issue. Different theories and approaches should be consulted when writing the literature review. You should also understand how best to link the different literature. This allows you to develop concise argument.

Developing the Structure

The literature review structure is dependent on your research area. The structure should help in presenting and comparing opinions from different scholars about the given topic. The first step is to present what one author wrote. Then you move to identifying and presenting whoever supported that opinion. The structure should also include different arguments from those of the author. The literature review presentation should be linked to the identified purpose. You should select some key words to link the literature. Among the words used in linking the literature include additionally, also, and similarly. To present contrary arguments words like however, in contrast, nevertheless, and of a different opinion can be used. There is need to indicate any similarity or difference in arguments among the different authors. The final part of the structure should include a summary of the literature. This is the part where you link the literature to the main question or hypothesis.

The Literature Review

When you decide to write the literature review, you already have a question of hypothesis in place. This is what guides you in searching for the relevant information for the review. You could have a book or article list to direct you on where to source for information. The different areas of published works should of interest in the initial stages of writing the review. The research parameters should be set in order to know how much of information you need to look for. To decide the parameters of the research, the questions and objectives should guide you. You need to know exactly what you are looking for. Among the options to write in a literature review include theory, policy, or methodology. The choice is for the writer to know where to focus on in reviewing the literature. A clear line of argument should also be set when completing a literature review. There are three main sections of a literature review including:

  • Introduction
  • Main Body
  • Conclusion


The first part of a literature review should be a short introduction. This is where the purposes of the review are identified. The introduction also has to include the main arguments presented in the main body. The sections that follow should be headed differently depending on the area of focus. Different subheadings are presented to uncover what previous research scholars have written about the topic. Quotations are good when used in a literature review. They present the facts and give the writer a line of argument.

Main Body

The main body of the literature review is where all the critical arguments sourced from other authors are presented. When writing the literature review ensure you use a formal academic style. Personal opinions should be avoided. Clear and concise arguments are necessary. You should also avoid emotive language when critically analyzing the work of other authors. Any limitations in other works should be presented objectively. Such words and phrases including “inconsistent” and “False assumptions” can be used to present limitations identified from other authors. It is advisable to avoid the term “says” when referring to what other authors have written. Words like “states” or “argues” can be used to present such information. Present tense should also be used when presenting the findings from other authors. For instance “John (2014) argues that”, is a good way of critically presenting what was said in that particular article or book.


The final section of a literature review should include a conclusion. This is where all the arguments of the review are pieced together. You can select the opinions highlighted as most convincing to write a conclusion. The conclusion should also include identification of various gaps of knowledge. These are the areas in which you view as lacking from the critically analyzed literature. The conclusion should also present some information about how the literature contributes to the main topic of the research. Another major element of the conclusion is identifying or making suggestions on the need for future research.

Final Checklist

Once you have completed writing the literature review, there are a number of elements you should check. Among these elements include:

  • Plagiarism
  • Source selection
  • Critical evaluation


Plagiarism is the worst enemy of a good literature review. Plagiarism has been used to refer to lack of originality in writing a literature review. It is also the use of other author’s work, without acknowledging the source. It is, therefore, important to acknowledge the respective sources of information used in a literature review.

 Source Selection

The sources used in writing a literature review should be reliable. The reliability aspect is evaluated through analyzing the content of the sources. When these sources are viewed s including information relevant to the topic, they are regarded as reliable. For sources, there are a number of questions that you should ask when selecting them. It is good to know whether the sources address the purposes of the review. The parameters of the literature review should also be covered by selecting adequate and reliable sources. You should also understand why some sources were preferred over others in completing the literature review. Some major issues such as the year of publication should also be well thought when evaluating the sources. Finally you should check on the bibliographic data to ensure that it is complete.

Critical Evaluation

In critical evaluation of the literature, there are also a number of questions that you should answer. It is good to evaluate whether the materials selected are organized based on the research issue. You also should understand whether the amount of sourced information is enough to answer the question. Critical evaluation should also consider whether the information is linked appropriately. It should look into how similar and different ideas have been presented in the literature review. The issue of how the literature was interpreted should be of importance. You need to understand whether the importance of the literature to the current study has been adequately discussed. You also need to understand and explain the implications of the reviewed literature to the future studies.

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