How to Write a Literature Review For Dummies

guide to literature review

Literature review is always a part of the student’s educational process. You still don’t know what is it and how to deal with it? Don’t worry! The article you are reading will tell you everything that you need to know in order to submit a great literature review.

What Is a Literature Review?

The first thing we should do is to give a definition of literature review. It is a short critical analysis of “literature” (researches, articles, books, trustworthy opinions etc.) existing on the topic. If you are doing a literature review for your graduate paper, it is assumed that in the work itself you will apply your own methods and make your own conclusions. It is logical that before doing your own research work, you need to explore all the sources on the topic and include this information in your paper. You should cover main aspects of the topic in a structured way and provide references to literature sources.

Why Do We Need a Literature Review?

Students often underestimate the importance of literature review. Let’s figure it out together, why do we need to write a literature review!

how to write a literature review

There are a few goals of a literature review:

  • Show your awareness of the topic

It is crucial to find all the information you can. One criteria used to evaluate your work is the variety of sources you used in your research paper. The way to demonstrate it – is to do a good and detailed literature review, where you will briefly summarize your research results.

  • Narrow the topic

In most cases a student starts with choosing a broad area for a research paper. Doing a literature review requires studying various issues of the topic. It will help you to identify aspects of the area of a research that will be included into your paper. Hence, literature review is a way to narrow your topic and identify worth-to-be-researched ideas.

  • Find gaps in current knowledge

The last but not the least – it gives you an opportunity to find «gaps» of a research topic. Gaps are aspects, problems or questions that have not been covered or solved yet by other researches. Then, the purpose of your research paper could become to focus on those gaps, to analyze them and make conclusions.

  • Cover all points of view on the issue

It would be great, if you reflect on the same problem in the context of your area. This will help readers to get a complete picture of the topic in their minds. In your research work you could refer to your opponents and argue about certain points – it will add some value.

What Is the Structure Of a Literature Review?

That’s a difficult question! It usually follows a common pattern “introduction-body-conclusion”. However, it is difficult to tell how the body will be structured. Why? It highly depends on topic. Remember, a literature review is not just a list of sources with description of the content. It should more look like a summary of information. In a body paragraph you should try to find several major things you will be covering depending on the topic. However, check our step-by-step guide below  how to structure your literature review.

Step-By-Step Guide to Literature Review

literature review


The literature review should have an introduction in which you could state a theme of your work and justify the need of reviewing the literature. A tip: you can use points from the section “Why do we need literature review?” of this article, rephrase them and apply to your own topic. In the introduction you also should provide the scope of this review. In other words, you should state which particular aspects of the area of your research will be covered in your literature review. Try to stay focused and avoid including information that is far away from your topic.


Clearly, body is the main part of a literature review. This part is usually divided into several paragraphs, each of them covers a specific aspect of the topic.

For example, let’s take a topic «Influence of marketing activities on performance of FMCG companies» and let’s assume you will do it using a multiple regression analysis. Here is how the body of your literature review may be organized:

  • Marketing activities of the companies
  • Marketing of FMCG companies
  • What is the influence of marketing on other companies performance?
  • How to measure performance of FMCG companies
  • Multiple regression analysis
  • Multiple regression analysis in marketing

As you see, we usually start with a quite broad area and then cover narrower aspects of the topic.


Conclusion is the most important part of the literature review.To begin with, you summarize all the main ideas covered in the body. Then, you could mention the “gaps” of your topic, explain what aspects of the topic you choose for your paper and why they represent an interest for you as a researcher.

Literature Review Outline


  • present the topic
  • justify the need to do a literature review
  • define what should be included


  • Aspect of the topic 1 (broad area)
    • Subtopic
  • Aspect of the topic 2 (narrow area)
  • Aspect of the topic 3 (narrow area)
  • Aspect of the topic 4 (methods)


  • Summary
  • “Gaps”
  • Goal of your research

Good luck with your studies!

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