The Literature Review

In this module, you will learn how to conduct and write a literature review. This includes learning how to design a literature review and manage and analyse your data.


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Chapter 1: What Is A Literature Review?

If you are in the process of writing a dissertation, a thesis, or a research paper, you might have come across this section. Therefore, this page will help you understand a literature review. On this chapter, you will be presented with the four essential components of a literature review, which include:

  1. Definition of a literature review in simple language
  2. The purpose and core functions of the literature review chapter
  3. How to find high-quality research articles to include in your literature review
  4. What is the structure of your literature review?

Starting with the simplest part of your literature review section, understanding a literature review.

So, what is a literature review?

The term literature review can refer to reviewing resources used in your dissertation or thesis to support your argument. In addition, a literature review could also be the main chapter in your dissertation, thesis or research project. Depending on how you approach the chapter, a literature review could be easy for some students and tough for others. The first step of any literature review is finding relevant research articles that will support your argument. To develop valuable resources for your work, you need to cover various research tools, such as books, articles, research reports, eBooks, and dissertations. Next, read thoroughly through the resources to find gaps that need to be filled and as much information as possible to help you create a firm foundation for your argument.

After collecting enough resources to support your research questions, you can go ahead to write the actual literature review chapter. This chapter of your dissertation should be rigorous and clear. A literature review chapter should create an overview of the key literature relevant to your research topic. Be careful not to summarise the resources; instead, develop your ideas throughout the resources. Finally, integrate these resources to create a general idea the understand the state of knowledge surrounding your research topic.

Purpose of literature review

Writing a literature review is not like writing any other research assignment. Your literature review should fulfil several functions. I will take you through these purposes one by one.

Purpose 1: Demonstrate your state of knowledge regards your topic

The original goal of the literature review chapter is to show the reader that you are an industry subject matter expert. There are several ways to show that you have read relevant previous research, and a solid literature review chapter is one of the most effective. Previous studies should summarise who stated what to show how everything fits together and what is missing.

Purpose 2: Identify the gaps that need to be filled in the research

Another purpose of the literature review chapter is to illustrate what is lacking in current research and create the groundwork for your research question. Alternatively, your literature analysis must show that there are “missing pieces” in the larger puzzle and that your research will fill one of them. This will show that your research topic is unique and will be a valuable addition to the body of knowledge. To put it another way, the evaluation of the literature aids in the justification of your research question.

Purpose 3: Create a foundation for your theoretical frameworks

The third function of a literature review is to lay the groundwork for a theoretical model. Your literature review should develop a theoretical framework if one is necessary for your topic.

Let’s say you’re doing a study to find out what causes office workers to become burned out. In this case, you’d likely develop a theoretical framework outlining the various factors contributing to burnout and how to avoid it. If you want to include those components, you’ll need to conduct a thorough literature review. According to previous burnout research, each of the possible causes will be listed in this case study’s literature review chapter and modeled into a framework.

Purpose 4: Literature review helps to inform your methodology

The fourth goal of the literature review is to help you choose a research strategy. As discussed in the Skylink Research blog, your approach will be influenced by your research goals, objectives, and questions. You should be able to learn a lot from their ways because you’ll be analysing research on a topic that’s relevant to your own.

Before beginning your study, you must analyse the work of previous researchers and learn from their research design, methodology, and processes to ensure that your technique is sound. Past research is a fantastic resource to use. In addition, you can employ known measures and scales as a quantitative researcher.

How to find quality scholarly sources for your literature review

Finding a quality journal and peer-reviewed articles for your literature review may be hard for many students. But not to worry. This part is essential in creating your literature review, and I will ensure that you understand how to develop quality articles.

Your literature review needs to be based on credible sources because not all research is similar.

We could devote a whole page to the subject of spotting high-quality literature, but for now, Google Scholar will suffice. The academic counterpart of Google, Google Scholar, leverages Google’s powerful search engine to find relevant journal articles and reports. Even if it does not include all resources, it is a good starting point for a literature study because it will quickly show you which studies in your subject are the most widely cited ones.

There are several drawbacks to using Google Scholar, such as the fact that it is merely a search engine and does not always host articles. As a result, you’ll see a paywall when you visit journal websites. However, your university’s online library should be accessible to you. You may utilise Google Scholar to retrieve the article titles and then search for them by name in the library’s online catalogue. You may also access ResearchGate through your university, a wonderful resource for finding previously published research.

Keep in mind that the appropriate search terms are essential to get the information you need quickly. Pay attention to the keywords in the journal papers you’re reading, and utilise those keywords to search for further information. If you can’t find a spoon in the kitchen, you haven’t checked the relevant drawer.

In addition, it’s critical to keep up with the latest developments. As a researcher, you need the most current information to back up your writing. However, it’s not a bad idea to check sure the classics are up to date. Citing a widely accepted study with later proven erroneous findings is pointless. In Google Scholar, you can filter results by date range, so make use of this to guarantee that your reading is always current.

How to structure your literature review

Many of you wonder what the structure of a literature review should look like. Still, unfortunately, there is no specific answer to what the structure of your literature review should look like. Generally, the structure of your literature review will depend deeply on your research topic and your research objectives.

Alternatively, you could organise your literature review chapter in chronological order by theme, group, variables, or concepts in your field of study. We’ll go over the various approaches for organising your literature review in this part. In general, you should start your literature review with a broad scope before refining it down to your specific research questions at the end. Nonetheless, there is no commonly accepted “right strategy” for organising your literature review. The most important thing to remember is that your literature review should synthesise the research rather than simply listing the sources.

For your literature review, you need to make sure you offer the most important facts in a logical and easy-to-follow manner. To begin with a lot of technical terms and then explain what they mean is a waste of time. Instead, when writing your literature review, assume your reader isn’t an expert in the topic and take them on a tour of relevant literature.

To wrap this section up, we hope we have answered all the questions about a literature review chapter. In case of any questions or concerns, be sure to check out our literature review section on our website you can also check out detailed articles on how to write a literature review chapter.

Chapter 2: The Process Of Writing A Literature Review

Now that you have collected most of the information you will need for your literature review, it is time to write it. In this section, you will learn how to write a well-organised literature review.

How to write an excellent literature review

to understand how to write a quality literature review, you first have to understand the four core purposes of your literature review in section one.

Your literature review chapter is where you synthesise information from relevant research materials to create a firm foundation for your research work.

Writing your literature review requires that you go through and satisfy three steps:

  1. Finding relevant literature for your research
  2. Understanding, analysing and organising your information from existing research
  3. Planning and writing your literature review chapter.

Before writing your chapter, you must complete steps one and two. In my own experience, I can sympathise with the need to write as you read. To avoid creating a disjointed, incomprehensible mess, you’ll have to rewrite and reshape what you already have. Instead of preparing and writing, you should first read and distil the content.

Step 1: Finding relevant literature

To get started with your literature review, you’ll need to locate any relevant studies that have already been published. When writing your dissertation or thesis, you’ll need to elaborate on what you’ve learned from your research proposal. In essence, you should search for any previously published material that could assist you in answering your research question. In other words, it’s time to don your hunting cap. I’ll go over my top four methods for finding relevant material in this post. To make sure nothing gets by you, I recommend combining all four methods:

  • Finding information on Google Scholar

A good place to start is Google Scholar, Google’s academic search engine, which provides a good high-level view of relevant journal papers for any keyword you type in. The essential feature is that it reveals how frequently each item has been referenced, showing how trustworthy it is. Articles that don’t require an account can be accessed following.

  • University Library/ Database

Students in colleges and universities typically have access to an online library that contains many (but not all) of the most widely read academic journals.

If you find an article on Google Scholar that requires a subscription, it’s good to look it up in your university’s database (which is very likely). However, because the search engines in these databases are frequently inadequate, make sure to search for the exact article name, or you may not be able to find it.

  • Journal/ peer-reviewed articles

Every academic journal article concludes with a list of references. In academic writing, these references form the basis of the piece; thus, if the article is relevant to your topic, many of the cited works will be as well. Look up the titles in your college or university database after quickly skimming through them to see what looks relevant.

  • Dissertation scavenging

In the same way that Method 3 above, you can use dissertations authored by other students. You can find many potential readings by skimming through the literature review chapters of past dissertations relevant to your topic. If you’re a university student, you’ll almost certainly have access to previous students’ dissertations.

Because theses and dissertations are written by students, not professionals, and therefore lack the academic rigour of peer-reviewed journal articles, you should double-check any references you find using this method. The number of citations in Google Scholar can be used to determine this. When in doubt about the validity of an article, you can contact one of our Research Specialists for advice.

Step 2: Understanding, analysing and organising your information from existing research

While going through step two when writing your literature review, you will go back and forth between steps one and two. For instance, you might read a few lines of an article, get an idea, and then look for more articles. Your thoughts will expand as you read, new avenues open up, and changes to your original plan of action will become clear.

Three major aspects should guide you as you simultaneously organise your information. These aspects include:

  • Logging reference information

As soon as you finish reading an article, you should add it to your reference management system. However, you can use any software of your choice for this task. Mendeley is my go-to tool for this. First and foremost, even if an article doesn’t seem to be very relevant at the time, keep it in your reference manager for future reference.

  • Organising the catalogue

However, it’s probable that as the course develops, you’ll lose track of who said what, when, and why. I’m confident you won’t be sorry. If you thoroughly review the relevant literature, it’s impossible to track who said what, when, and where. You’ll miss connections between different articles and the evolution of research because of this lack of perspective. Compiling your library of books, to put it another way, is a requirement. You can use Excel to filter, colour-code, and organise your catalogue.

You should include the following columns to organise your spreadsheet:

  1. The author’s name, date, and title will make it easier to search for titles, dates, or books by the author’s name
  2. Keywords-depending on how you prefer to organise your keywords, you can use several columns, one for each theme, then tick your relevant categories
  3. Key points- use this column to describe the key arguments in the research
  4. Context- identify the context in which every research was undertaken
  5. Methodology- identify the methods used in research and why they were used. To ensure that you do not make any mistakes when carrying out your research, identify the issues that arise regarding the methods used
  6. Quotation- write down every quote you feel is worthwhile in your research
  7. Notes- when preparing to write your literature review, it is important to take notes on what has not already been covered by the research, questions that were raised but never answered and any shortcomings in the research
  8. Digesting and synthesising information

The most important thing is to synthesise all of the material in your thoughts as you move through the books and construct your catalogue. Then, to better understand the study’s progress, look for linkages across papers. As you go through this process, there are essential questions that you need to ask yourself:

  • How does existing research provide answers to my research questions?
  • What information, or what is the central agreement point for every researcher in this field?
  • What is the pattern of development for this research?
  • Where do gaps lie in the current research?

If you’re looking to get a broad picture view and synthesise all the information, you may find mind mapping software like Free mind helpful. On the other hand, if you prefer to take notes on paper, you may want to consider a huge whiteboard as an alternative.

Step 3: Create an outline and write your literature review

Once you have digested and synthesised your relevant literature, it is time to write it down on a document. This section involves two steps:

  1. Create a rough draft/outline of your entire literature review chapter
  2. Start writing your main body

We will discuss these steps one by one to ensure you get a clear understanding.

Create your outline

It’s understandable if you’re tempted to start writing after you’ve finished all of your reading. However, you must first decide on your framework and outline a detailed plan to begin writing. When writing a literature review, you need to plan to ensure that the narrative is logical and easy to follow. If you don’t have a detailed framework, you’re more than likely to end up with a fragmented pile of waffle, which will take a lot more editing, modifying, and patching if you don’t follow the plan to the letter.

First, you must decide whether your review will be organised chronologically or thematically. Here, we explain how to choose the ideal method for your study based on the subject matter, objectives, and research questions you have in mind.

To write your chapter, you’ll first need to decide on your thesis statement. Avoid being vague or vaguely worded so that you know exactly where and how each portion will fit into the larger argument you’re making and how it all ties together. You should also set preliminary word count restrictions for each part at this time so that you can spot word count difficulties before you spend weeks or months writing.

Start writing

The time has come for you to put pen to paper now that you have a detailed outline to work from. It’s common to experience writer’s block and delay under the pressure of having to produce something. Keep in mind that the purpose of the initial drawing isn’t perfection; rather, it’s to get your ideas out of your head and onto paper, where you may later polish them. The structure may alter, the word count allocations will be rearranged, or a section will be added or removed. Don’t worry about any of this on your first draught; write down your ideas.

Once you have your first draft at hand, take a day or two breaks, and come back with a fresh mind. Pay special attention to the flow of the story. Is it able to transition smoothly from one segment to the next? To make it easier to read, attempt to improve the linkage between each section, condense the text, and lower the word count.

A good way to see if your essay is clear to someone who isn’t familiar with the subject is to show it to a friend or colleague who is. You can find out by having them go over the chapter again. In this way, you’ll tell which points were made plain and which ones weren’t. If you’re working with us, have your research specialist look at your chapter immediately.

Finally, make any necessary changes and send them to your supervisor for feedback. On the other hand, supervisors are extremely busy, so the more refined your chapter is, the less time they’ll waste dealing with little mistakes, and the more time they’ll spend giving you meaningful comments that will help you receive higher grades in the long run. As a result, you should submit your work to your supervisor quickly and feasible.

Chapter 3: How To Find High-Quality Sources For Literature Review

Finding high quality and relevant resources for your research work is not a walk around the park. However, we will take you through the steps and help you find excellent resources for your work.

Let’s get right to it. So, how do you find A-Grade resources for your literature review?

First, you must know that writing a literature review follows three essential steps; sourcing, evaluating and organising. As we have discussed before, the first step in every literature review process is finding high-quality and relevant resources for your literature review and systematically integrating these pieces of work so that it becomes easy for you to synthesise all contents efficiently.

There are six essential steps to creating high-quality and relevant resources quickly and efficiently. These steps include:

  1. Develop a clear literature search strategy

To avoid squandering valuable time and resources, as with every step of the research process, you must have a strategy before you begin. So, come up with a basic search strategy before beginning your literature evaluation. A good literature search strategy should follow the following steps:

Step 1: Identify aspects of your research

Research goals, objectives, and queries make up your golden thread/ the aspects of your research. The three components of your research topic must be firmly matched. If you don’t know what your study and research objectives are, you won’t have a clear path when trying to collect literature. Therefore, you’ll waste a lot of your valuable time looking up irrelevant information.

As a result, before beginning your literature search, be certain you have identified your golden thread. For starters, it’s important to have a clear idea of your research aims before beginning the literature review process.

Step 2: Create a phrase list and keywords

Once you’ve described your golden thread regarding research goals, objectives, and inquiries, the next step is to create a list of keywords or key phrases based on these three sections. First, in your list of terms to include, including synonyms and different spellings.

For example, if your research aims and questions are about investigating the psychological effects of drug abuse, your keywords should include; drug abuse, psychological implications, depression, and addiction. 

You can never have too many ideas for brainstorming keywords. Holding back is unnecessary at this time. Searching will reveal which ones are worth your time and which ones aren’t. As a result, to ensure that you cast a wide net, it is essential to go as wide as feasible.

Step 3: Identify the relevant databases

The following step is to choose which literature databases will be most useful and relevant to your research after you’ve generated a comprehensive list of keywords. Over a hundred thousand database resources are at your disposal; the majority are narrowly focused on a single field.

A librarian at your university’s library or a research advisor/supervisor can help you identify suitable databases. A simple chat with a well-versed librarian frequently yields priceless information and insights.

“Why not just utilise Google Scholar?” is a question you could be asking yourself right now. You can get started using an academic search engine like Google Scholar, but it won’t necessarily show you all of your alternatives or the best resources available. Furthermore, due to its limited filtering options, you should not solely rely on Google Scholar for your scholarly research.

Step 4: Use boolean operators to refine your search

After you’ve established your search keywords and databases, you’re ready to begin your literature search. The issue is that you’ll rapidly discover that there are an infinite number of journal articles to read and only a finite amount of time to do it! As a result, you’ll need to be inventive while working with these datasets.

You can refine your search using Boolean operators, a special type of character that helps you refine your search. For example, you can improve the signal-to-noise ratio of your search by using Boolean operators to exclude unnecessary results.

The image below is a perfect illustration of how a Boolean operator works:


  1. Using different types of research materials correctly

When doing a literature search, you’ll notice the numerous categories of information available. It’s vital to know the numerous forms of literature available to you and how to use each one successfully.

Generally, there are three categories of literature:

  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Tertiary research

Let’s discuss each of these categories one by one.

Primary literature

Peer-reviewed academic journal papers that detail a study, including data gathering, analysis, and discussion of conclusions, are known as primary literature. Survey data can determine personality differences between two groups of people, for example, as in a journal study.

Ideally, primary literature should serve as the foundation of your literature study. You will likely use many of these articles’ arguments and findings to support your claims in your literature study. In addition, depending on the nature of your research, you may potentially use these articles as theoretical models and frameworks for your own proposed framework.

Another potential source of scales for quantitative studies is primary literature. For example, many journal articles include a copy of the survey measures used in the study at the end of the paper, which is usually valid and reliable. This list of questions can be used as a starting point for your survey questions.

Secondary literature

Secondary literature generally refers to journal articles that have been created, organised and synthesised from primary research.

Using secondary sources can help you become familiar with the current state of knowledge and learn about renowned researchers, significant publications, and other important things in the field. If you want to get a thorough picture of what’s out there, they’re a great way to do it. Despite their lack of depth, they will point you in the right direction.

Start with secondary literature-type articles to acquire an overview of the terrain before delving further into primary literature to comprehend the nuances and maintain your knowledge current with the most recent studies. This is the ideal practice.

Tertiary literature

Material that is less academic and scientifically rigorous yet current and relevant falls into the fourth category of literature. Examples of sources include industry and national reports produced by management consulting firms, news headlines, blog postings, etc.

In contrast to academic research, which can take years before publication in a journal, these sources can provide extremely up-to-date information. They might be useful to put your research into context and emphasise a current trend. In the introduction rather than the literature review chapter, these sources are more commonly listed, but they can still be informative.

Therefore, it is essential to understand these three categories of research and use them appropriately in your research.

In contrast to academic research, which can take years before publication in a journal, these sources can provide extremely up-to-date information. They might be useful to put your research into context and emphasise a current trend. In the introduction rather than the literature review chapter, these sources are more commonly listed, but they can still be informative.

  1. Evaluate the quality of your sources closely and carefully

As we’ve already mentioned, not all literature is created equal. Both the genre of literature and the quality of the work vary greatly. However, all sources are on a quality scale, and they all fall somewhere around the middle. At the top of the heap are works that have been subjected to rigorous peer review and have been published in renowned, trustworthy publications. Next on the list are journal articles that have not been peer-reviewed or published in low-quality or less-known journals. The focus is on academic texts and reports from professional organisations. Examples of low-cost sources are newspapers, blogs, and social media posts.

Here we have another case where quality is sacrificed for freshness, as seen in our discussion of different forms of literature. To make an informed decision on incorporating a source into your literature review, you must first assess its quality. A newspaper or blog piece isn’t out of bounds; the point is simply that you shouldn’t base your argument on anything you read in a newspaper or blog. The number of citations to a journal article can be used to measure the quality of that piece. Consider that the citation count can be affected by many things, including the article’s popularity and that of its field. When it comes to citations, it’s only obvious that newer articles will have fewer of them than older ones. Keeping in mind that your literature review should focus on recent literature is essential.

Writing your literature review’s main arguments should be based on high-quality sources. For example, a debate regarding the significance and novelty of your study should not be based only on the views expressed by a blog post author.

  1. Make use of your literature catalogue and a reference manager

You’ll need a way to keep track of all the information as you go through the literature and compile a list of possible sources. This requires using both reference management and an online literature library. Let us look at each of these tools.

Reference manager

Reference management software allows you to keep track of all the sources you’ve used while writing your literature review chapter, making it easier to create citations and reference lists. In addition, an effective reference manager ensures that your work is formatted following the guidelines set out by your school’s referencing policy. For example, your university could recommend MLA, Harvard or APA referencing styles, among many others.

Using a reference manager saves you the time and work of manually typing out your in-text citations and reference list, both of which you are highly likely to make a mistake with. In addition, with so many references, even something as minor as incorrect use of quotation marks, italics, or boldface might cost you points. As a result, it’s a no-brainer to use software for this task. That said, there are other free and low-cost alternatives out there. For example, we typically recommend Mendeley or Zotero for novice researchers because they are both free.

Literature catalogue

The next tool you will need is a literature catalogue which we discussed before in this section. All you need to keep track of your reading is an Excel spreadsheet, which you can easily create on your own. You’ll need a separate catalogue even though you’ve previously entered your reference data into a reference manager. It is not unusual to read hundreds of articles in conducting a literature review, making it practically impossible to retain all the details.

What makes a literature catalogue more preferable is that it can store as much information as you want for the literature. Information you should include in your catalogue is the author’s name, date, title, main argument of your research, key findings, contexts, quotations, category, quality of the resources, and methodology. A few examples are provided here; in the end, you will need to customise your catalogue to meet your individual needs. You can see that the more extensive your catalogue is, the more valuable it will be when it comes to synthesising and writing your literature review. It is possible, for example, to search the catalogue for papers that support a specific hypothesis, argue in a particular direction, or were published at a specific time.

  1. Research extensively

To summarise and synthesise the existing state of knowledge concerning your research goals, objectives, and questions, the literature review chapter serves the purpose we’ve discussed in previous articles of this series. Doing so will require you to read extensively and thoroughly. You’ll need to demonstrate to the examiner that you thoroughly understand the subject matter and the relevant literature.

Your literature review should include a wide range of papers from varied perspectives. Tunnel vision and focus on one narrow stream of literature must be avoided at all costs. To show that you have a well-rounded understanding of the subject, you should emphasise both the similarities and the disparities in the many sources of information. Remember to look up further reading in the references section of each journal article. This method will allow you to quickly locate the most important literature pieces in a given field. You may also use Google Scholar to discover whether other papers have mentioned a particular piece of research, giving you an idea of how the area is developing.

Using a strategic skimming technique when you’re first reviewing articles is a fantastic idea because you’ll be working through a lot of information. As a practical matter, this implies that if the paper’s title and abstract appear to be relevant, you can then proceed to the findings and limitations sections. To help you decide whether or not the material is relevant to your work, these sections will tell you if it is worth further investigation.

  1. Keep your golden thread at the forefront

As we said before, your golden thread should consist of the aims and objectives of your research and your research questions. While working on your dissertation, thesis, or other research endeavours, every decision should be guided by your golden thread. It is important to employ the golden thread as a litmus test for relevance in the literature review and any other step of the research process. If a piece of content has nothing to do with your golden thread, it is usually not worth your attention.

Remember that your study goals, objectives, and research questions may alter over the literature review process. The literature review may reveal that your topic focus isn’t as novel as you thought or that a related issue merits more investigation. Don’t be alarmed if your focus shifts during the evaluation; this is quite natural. If this is the case, simply revise your literature review and any previous chapters to ensure that your paper stays on topic.

To wrap this section up, reach out to us for help with your Literature Review chapter. 

Chapter 4: How To Search & Analyse Materials

Learn how to review your articles quickly by focusing on a few important points or sections of the article. How do I read academic journal articles quickly and efficiently?

You likely have a stack of scientific journal articles and papers written in dense, academic language that is difficult to comprehend if you are beginning your literature study. In addition, depending on your field of study, you may notice that these journal publications contain a lot of complex statistics and number crunching.

When conducting a literature review, I’ll show you how to do it wisely so that you don’t waste time on low-value activities.

There are three essential questions that students end up asking themselves while navigating around their literature review section includes:

Question 1: Do I need to go through every journal article to ensure that I cover every piece of information relevant to my research?

At least not every journal paper on your topic, which is a relief. In your case, it would be a waste of time, as you are just interested in the current situation of the literature, not its full history. If you want a full comprehension of the literature in your subject of study, you’ll need to spend a lot of time reading.

When it comes to literature reviews, quality always wins out over quantity. Put another way; you should concentrate on reading the journal publications that have earned the greatest citations concerning your topic keyword (s) (s). First, however, a few things to keep in mind when looking for periodicals to read.

In addition, to know that an article is well cited, you can visit Google Scholar and check any citations easy and fast. In reality, Google Scholar is an excellent resource for locating important journal articles related to any given topic. As a result, you’ll most likely utilise it to begin your search for journal articles. As a result, pay attention to the number of citations when researching papers. Make a column in your database/ literature catalogue for citation count to filter and sort by citation count.

However, the number of citations in a journal paper isn’t always a good indicator of its quality. Although it is an accurate predictor of an article’s popularity, it does not imply that the findings are without flaws. On the contrary, it may indicate a significant dispute over the findings. To put it another way, don’t be fooled by the overwhelming number of citations. Instead, examine the magazine’s quality and what other publications say about a hot topic.

 Question 2: Do I need to read an entire journal article?

To complete your literature review, you do not need to read each word of every journal article you come across in your research. Instead, to begin your literature review, you need to get a broad perspective on what each journal article has to say. You may get a solid sense of what the piece is about by reading a few portions when it comes to this.

You’ll need to go deeper into the most important studies as your literature evaluation becomes more precise and targeted. However, if an article is critical to your research, you don’t need to read it in its entirety.

Question 3: Which section of a journal or an article should I read?

Three sections are essential to get a deeper understanding of your supporting literature. These sections explain the article’s main ideas by generally stating what the article is about. The findings of the research are also described.

So, let us discuss these three sections:


An abstract provides a general overview of the entire research. The first taste of the soup is what you’re getting here. In general, it will discuss the study’s goals and their significance. Make sure you pay close attention to this because it will tell you how relevant the article is for your question.

However, it is not necessarily true that the abstract discusses the article’s findings. If it does, it’s a good thing. However, the abstract only provides a high-level overview of the research and may exclude crucial details.


It is important to clarify why the issue is important to the field of study in the introduction. A clearer understanding of what they were looking at and how they were looking at it can be gained from this information. Keep in mind that context is vitally important.

Therefore, to properly grasp the research’s goal and background, read the introduction chapter. Then, when writing your literature review, you’ll be relying on both of these sources to back up your arguments.


The high-level questions posed by the researchers are explained in the introductory section, while the solutions they discovered are described in the conclusion section. If you do this, you can rapidly obtain the heart of the text without having to wade through all of the tiresome and dry details. I realise it’s a little snarky. However, suppose the article is particularly relevant to your research. In that case, you should read the section on analysis findings because not all of the findings from the analysis will be presented in the conclusion.

It’s common for conclusion sections to focus on areas that need more exploration in addition to the findings. As a result, they’ll be able to bring out areas that still require additional scholarly investigation, such as study gaps. Ensure the article is up-to-date before using it, or else someone else may have already exploited the research gap and come up with a better concept. Take a look at our video on choosing a study topic if you’re still stuck at a stage where you would like to identify your topic.

Even though you’ll spend less time, you’ll better understand what each post says if you go over the following three sections. Keep in mind that your focus will narrow as your literature review progresses. You will come up with a list of highly relevant articles that you should investigate further.

Chapter 5: How To Structure The Literature Review Chapter

In this section, we will take you through the common structures of your literature review. As you learn these structures, you will be able to choose the best structure that works for your dissertation or thesis.

There are four essential objectives that a good literature review should fulfil:

  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of your research topic
  • Identify gaps in existing research that are linked to your topic of study
  • Lay a firm foundation for your conceptual framework
  • Inform your methodology

To do this, you’ll need a well-structured study of literature. You’ll have difficulty reaching these goals if you don’t get your literature review chapter organised correctly. Here, we’ll show you how to format your literature review to have the greatest possible impact.

Let us get to it!

After you’ve gathered and digested the literature, before you begin writing the chapter, you should determine the framework of this review. To put it another way, before you can begin to sketch out a framework, you must first have a good understanding of the literature. Attempting to design a structure before completely understanding current research is a waste of time.

Before you begin writing your literature review, you must have a strategy. Otherwise, your review will be a disorganised, disjointed mess. Importantly, don’t assume that you can’t make changes to a structure after you’ve defined a structure. It’s very acceptable to make changes to your manuscript as you go along. Since writing allows you to expand your thinking, it’s normal for your thoughts to change as you write and for your chapter structure to change as well.

So, how should I structure my literature review?

Your literature review should have a logical structure like any other chapter in your thesis or dissertation. At the absolute least, it should include an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion.

Let us look at each of these aspects.

  1. Introduction

The chapter’s goal and structure should be established in the literature review’s introductory section, as with any effective introduction. The reader should be given a taste of what’s to come and how it will be presented in your introduction. A high-level map of your chapter should be provided to the reader to get a sense of the adventure that awaits them.

If you’re going to write an introduction, you’ll need to provide some context for your topic and explain what you’ll and won’t include in your literature review. This will help you focus your evaluation by reducing its scope. The deeper you can go into a problem, the narrower and more targeted your concentration must be.

You may also choose to offer your viewpoint or stance at this point, depending on the nature of the project. There are several trends and problems in this sector, and you’ll be able to see what’s missing after going through the literature. In the beginning, you can use these ideas to show the examiners that you grasp the connections between your research and the current body of knowledge.

  1. Main body

The main substance of your paper is in the body of your literature review. You will present, analyse, evaluate, and synthesise existing research in this part. This is where it all happens when getting or losing points. So when it comes to communicating your ideas, it’s critical to consider how you’ll structure your presentation.

You should adhere to the rules laid out in this chapter when writing the body of your review. The literature should be identified, analysed, and synthesised as part of the “review” process. For this reason, while contemplating how to arrange your literature review, think about which structural strategy will create the most “review” for your research and goals.

There are three main approaches to organising your literature review:

Approach 1: Using chronological order of dates

It is one of the simplest ways to organise a literature review chronologically. You start with the oldest work and work your way through the literature until you come to the most recent work. ‘ It’s all straightforward. With this method, you’ll be able to easily debate changes and arguments in the area as they happen over time. For example, you might emphasise the influence that specific articles or work may have had on the field’s development by arranging your materials chronologically. To put it another way, if you’re trying to figure out how a subject has changed over time, this method is a great one to use. Anyone interested in researching change through time can use this strategy.

Even if you structure your literature review in chronological order, you’ll still be looking at how the literature has changed through time. However, the chronological technique emphasises how the discussion has evolved through time rather than how all of the literature interacts.

Approach 2: Thematic approach

A thematic approach involves organising your literature in terms of themes and categories. For example, as you’ve been reading and synthesising novels, you’ve noticed recurring themes or patterns. Use these recurring themes or patterns to build your body language. The most common way to structure a literature review is to employ the subject approach, which may be used in any field.

Approach 3: Methodological approach

You can structure your literature review depending on the methodological choices you made throughout your study. First, consider the method used to conduct each piece of research, such as qualitative, quantitative, or a combination of the three. Structure your literature review by methodology if you’re assessing research from many disciplines and evaluating different approaches. Rather than focusing on the findings themselves, this approach seeks to understand how the study was conducted.

  1. Conclusion

Once you’ve completed the body of your literature review using one of the above-mentioned structural strategies, you’ll need to “wrap up” your review and bring all the pieces together to establish the direction for the rest of your dissertation or thesis.

In conclusion, you’ll offer the most significant findings from your literature review. This section should focus on the research that is most relevant to your research questions and any gaps in the current literature. If you can show how your study fills in any of the holes you’ve noticed in the literature, your contribution will be well-justified, and your study may move forward with confidence.

Finally, the conclusion section is great for developing a theoretical foundation for your dissertation or thesis.

Chapter 6: Common Mistakes In The Literature Review Chapter

No literature review chapter can be perfect. We all make mistakes, and it is natural. However, some mistakes are avoidable when writing your literature review chapter.

Seven common mistakes to avoid when writing your literature review chapter

An excellent literature evaluation is crucial for a successful dissertation, thesis, or research assignment. It’s not a simple procedure, though. We have examined hundreds of literature reviews and discovered a pattern of blunders and issues that demoralise students.

Therefore, we will state and discuss these seven mistakes.

  1. Reliance on low-quality resources to support your argument

One of the most common mistakes in literature evaluations is an overreliance on low-quality sources. Blog posts, opinion articles, publications from advocacy groups, and the news of the day are examples of non-academic sources that might be included here.

A blog post isn’t always bad just because it’s written in the manner of a blog post. However, since you can’t expect it to be as rigorously researched as a journal article, it’s important to exercise caution and make sure the material you’re considering is well-supported. Don’t depend heavily on these sources of information in your literature review; instead, use them only when necessary.

Your literature review should be based on journal articles, particularly from well-known, peer-reviewed publications with a high H index. You might also turn to publications written by well-known specialists in the field. For books, scholarly presses like Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Routledge are the best options. It is possible to utilise government websites if they have a high reputation for objectivity and data quality. The same care should be used to any government website that appears to be promoting an agenda.

However, this does not mean that you cannot use a few blog posts or news articles in your literature review. In your study, these sorts of information play a significant function, particularly in setting the stage for the rest of your investigation. For example, a compilation of newspaper articles might be used to illustrate a current trend. On the other hand, you should not build your fundamental arguments and theoretical premises. You may ensure that your research is built upon the shoulders of mighty men by relying on well-regarded academic literature.

  1. Lack of relevant literature

Another concern in less-than-satisfactory literature assessments is a lack of foundational literature for the study’s subject matter. The phrase “seminal/ landmark literature” refers to works that first established an idea of significant importance or significance in a field.

It is common for inadequate literature reviews to omit landmark books because the student lacks knowledge of the literature or because they believe they should only give the most current discoveries. Because a comprehensive literature review should always recognise the work of the field’s most important researchers, this is a problem.

To find landmark literature, for the most part, you’ll be able to locate them by searching for the topic on Google Scholar and looking for papers with a high number of citations. Textbooks and Wikipedia will frequently reference these researches as well. Keep in mind the classics when writing your literary evaluation, even if it’s just for a few phrases. The theoretical underpinnings of foundational works provide the basis for a sound literature evaluation.

  1. Inadequate current literature

The importance of highlighting important studies and research has already been acknowledged. In contrast, current studies should be included in a thorough literature review. It should compare and contrast the “classics” with more recent finds and remark on the evolution. Although it’s fair that you don’t want to go into too much detail about how the subject has changed through time, you should at the very least note any notable alterations.

Using the “Since…” drop-down menu on the left side of Google Scholar, you may narrow your search to only include articles published since a certain date. Generally, “recent” can relate to the past year or two or even a couple of years.

Remember to include both classics and more modern research when constructing your collection. Then, you’ll be able to build a solid foundation in the literature that’s both up-to-date and grounded in established theory.

  1. Description instead of integration and synthesis

This is the most common mistake that students make. Students typically mistakenly assume that a literature review consists of just a summary of the results of the many researchers before them. There is a long and detailed “he said, she said,” which is not the case at all. A literature review must do more than simply compile a list of all relevant articles to be thorough. To show how everything fits together, earlier studies must be included.

A thorough literature review should identify any areas that don’t seem to fit together or have missing components. Which areas of research do scholars disagree about, and why? It’s uncommon that everyone can agree on everything when the truth is so nuanced and complex in reality. Readers benefit from a wide range of perspectives and findings in a well-balanced literature review.

A jigsaw puzzle is an excellent analogy to use. With each piece of literature, there are several puzzle pieces that, when assembled, provide a picture of where we are at this point in our knowledge. In such a puzzle, there will very certainly be pieces that are missing or that do not fit together properly.

We will know where there are gaps in existing research after completing this critical review and synthesis of accessible material. The research you propose will be built on top of these gaps. In other words, you’ll conduct research to fill in a missing piece of the puzzle. Remember to synthesise and use the current research as a foundation for your research as you write your literature review chapter. This will help keep your research on track.

  1. Irrelevant content

Another common blunder in literature review chapters is the inclusion of information that is not relevant to the topic at hand. The reader may be left in the dark if a chapter goes on for pages and pages.

Review your study objectives, goals, and questions to ensure that your research is on track and focused. Keep in mind that the literature review’s primary goal is to create the basis for attaining your research goals and answering your research questions. As a result, the amount of data that can be found that is related to these three traits is quite low.

For example, if your research is about the psychological effects of drug abuse, your main focus should be on key areas related to drug abuse of its psychological effects. For example, your themes should include:

  • Depression as an effect of drug abuse
  • Hallucinations
  • Treatment options

Your themes should be closely related to the aims, objectives and research questions of your dissertation or thesis. Keep returning to your study goals, objectives, and research questions as a litmus test for article relevance as you move through your literature evaluation.

  1. Poor chapter layout

The most important information may be overlooked if the literature review is poorly written. Unfortunately, this results in disjointed arguments that are difficult to follow because of the lack of cohesion.

In many cases, students begin writing their literature review chapters without a plan or framework, leading to poor organisation. Because writing is a kind of thinking, you are under no need to layout your whole strategy before you begin. However, if you’re going to type, you need to have an outline written down.

So, what should the structure of your literature review look like?

We discussed the literature review structure earlier, but let us get a quick overview. The structure of your literature review should consist of three core sections: an introduction, the body and a conclusion. Each of these sections plays a different role in your literature review.

Because pupils start writing their literature chapter too early, their organisation is sloppy. Put another way; they start writing before they’ve read the book thoroughly enough to comprehend it properly. Because it always needs a significant amount of rewriting, this is a time-consuming error to make. While it’s perfectly okay to do some more reading if inspiration strikes, it’s best to finish the bulk of your reading before starting to write.

Therefore, ensure that you have a structural outline to avoid common structure-related issues with your work.

  1. Plagiarism and lack of originality in your work

The originality of your work is essential. Plagiarism issues are very common and yet easily avoidable. A great deal of the time, though, we come across literature assessments that are less than stellar despite their initial appearance. On the other hand, a plagiarism checker demonstrates that the student has not fully comprehended and expressed the stuff they have read.

As a reader, you may find yourself unable to develop a better method to express an author’s thought process. Direct quotes are permissible in certain instances, but only if you add citations to the text. However, the vast part of your literature review should be written in your own words.

Originality shouldn’t be too difficult if your primary goal is to synthesise and integrate existing material rather than write about individual studies in isolation. Remember that if you can’t articulate anything in your own words, you don’t understand it.

Poor referencing is a closely related issue that we see regularly. Citation and reference formatting issues can all be classified as part of this category, such as referencing style errors or a lack of references. When you don’t mention a source in an academic paper, you’re committing plagiarism since you’re claiming credit for someone else’s work. Placing someone else’s work in your own is a serious academic offence that might result in you losing more than a few points.

Consequently, when writing your literature review, bear in mind that you must digest the text and personalise it. Additionally, it would be best to mention the origins of many ideas, frameworks, or models you employ in your paper.


In the above module, you will learn how to write research questions for a literature review, gather and analyse data, and write up your literature review chapter. You should end the module with a solid rough draft of your paper. This module is designed for individuals who are new or have limited experience with conducting and writing a literature review.

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