How to write a literature review
You’re probably used to writing essays by now (if not, we’ve got some tips here). But have you ever written a literature review?
A literature review is an exploration of the published literature on a particular topic. By ‘literature’ we mean books, academic journal articles, book chapters, and other sources. For undergraduate assignments, a literature review is designed to give you a good understanding of the main debates within an area of study and provides your marker with evidence of considered reading. Honours and postgraduate students may write a literature review prior to developing a research question and writing a thesis.
A literature review requires you to analyse and evaluate key literature on a given topic – to identify, compare and contrast common themes explored in the literature.
Much like an essay, they have an introduction, a body and a conclusion. You can read the Library’s online guide which includes information on all aspects of writing a literature review, including the structure and the language you should use.
Here are five top tips for tackling a literature review.
- Be aware of your assessment criteria. Your criteria will tell you how many sources you are expected to review, any specific formatting requirements and what referencing style to use. Don’t overlook these requirements!
- Make a plan. Before you start searching for sources, plan what aspect of your topic you intend to research and what subheadings you plan to use in your paper. This will help you create a specific search strategy suited to your paper.
- Make notes. You will need to read a lot of sources, so make clear and specific notes about each one. Make notes on the content of each article, as well as specific page numbers for easy referencing later on.
- Follow a basic essay structure for each text you evaluate. This will help you structure your review academically. Start with an introduction explaining your focus and break the body section using subheadings. Conclude by summarising all the evidence presented.
- Check over your review by reading it aloud. Once you have read the same paper in your head over and over, it can be hard to pick out any mistakes. Reading your essay aloud to yourself can make it easier to identify any errors.
If you need further help with writing a literature review, or any other assignment you’re working on, get in touch with our Study Support team. Language and Learning Advisers can assist you with understanding your assignments and can provide tips and strategies for developing your academic writing skills. Make an online appointment now.