How to Write a Literature Review

By
Shiona Fernandes
Published on
June 19, 2022

A literature review is like a trailer of what the research is going to be about. It helps fellow researchers gain summarized information about the current or past research of that particular topic. Writing a good literature review is an important skill to learn if you want to pursue a career in STEM.

Making connections between different sources in your literature review can be tricky, especially when it’s your first time. Here are a few simple steps that you can follow to ensure that you have synthesized a good literature review:

  1. Find relevant sources for your review

Finding sources that are relevant to your research topic can feel like playing a treasure hunt game because you have to go through a handful of articles and journals to find which are best suited for your research topic. To make it easier, here is a list of  a few sites that offer journals and articles that can help you in your search:

  • PubMed and Google Scholar are the most commonly used databases for journals and articles;
  • Medline can be used for searching articles related to medical research;
  • Project Muse contains a database for articles related to social science;
  • Inspec can be used for computer science and engineering-related research articles and journals.

The internet offers a wide range of sites that can help you in finding what you need; don't be afraid to use it to your advantage.

  1. Evaluate the sources

After gathering your sources, make sure to evaluate their credibility and their contribution to your research paper by asking yourself the following questions;

  • What theories or clinical situations have been addressed in the journal or article?
  • What are the strong and weak points of the research work?
  • What are the key arguments and concepts?
  • In what socio-economic context was the research done? How many participants were included? For example, the research was based in Japan, and respondents aged 18 to 35.
  • Are there any quotes that I can use in my literature review to make it more interesting?
  • Does your research challenge, enhance, or agree with the established knowledge?
  • Is there any gap in the research? For example, the research was conducted with a smaller number of participants, or the research was not conducted on social media platforms.
  • How valuable or relevant is the article? Noting recurring citations of an article or journal in Google Scholar can give you an idea of how popular and valuable the article is.

  1. Outline your plan

Make an outline so that your flow while writing the literature review won’t get disturbed and it’ll be easier to connect information from different sources without getting confused.  In the outline, mention which topic and subtopics you would like to include and what information to address in the introduction, body, conclusion, and summary.

  1. Start writing your introduction

Your introduction should attract the reader’s mind and make them want to read further about the research work. It should include the purpose of your paper, why it is important to explore the topic, and the methodology used to conduct your research. Your introduction acts as an overview of your paper, hence the importance of attracting the reader's mind and making them want to read further about your research work. Take note that the introduction shouldn’t be more than a page.

  1. Place your citations at the end of your literature review and give credits to the authors

Citing your sources is an important part of your literature review. You have to be cautious in this step to avoid plagiarism. The consequences of such are course failure, a fine, or in severe cases, expulsion from your school or university. In this situation, you can imagine plagiarism like a bullet that you have to dodge.  You can use free citation generators like Citation Machine, APA citation, and MLA citation. To check if you have any plagiarism in your review, you can use sites like check-plagiarism and Scribbr’s to check plagiarism for students.

  1. Ask your professors or trusted friends to proofread your literature review

It’s always best to take opinions and/or criticisms of what others think about your literature review. This can improve your work and can also boost your confidence.

A final piece of advice:

Be clear and avoid paraphrasing. Don’t add your own opinion or irrelevant content. Always be critical about your research and display the pros and cons of the research work.

May the force be with you!

References:

https://gradcoach.com/how-to-write-a-literature-review/

The Literature Review | A Complete Step-by-Step Guide (scribbr.com)

How to identify the research gap? – Mentors | Learn Everything About Life (temple.edu)

Literature Review Examples - A Guide to Writing (paperwriters.org)

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