The prospect of having to construct a literature review can be daunting. It involves a lot of reading, analysis and interpretation. The key to constructing and achieving an extensive and insightful literature review is planning. We have collated some top tips on how to write a literature review which clearly lays out a path for informed research.

In most cases, a literature review will be required as part of your dissertation or thesis. Writing a literature review will provide a wealth of information around your research topic and identify any gaps into which you can take your research.

Each discipline and type of research will influence the type of literature review to construct. Research topics can vary massively, even within disciplines, as different niches will apply. If you are unsure, reach out to your tutors and peers.

Now let’s explore these easy to follow steps on how to write a literature review.

Study the Question

By the time it comes to writing a literature review, you should have a research question, or at least a focused research field, decided.

Take apart each word and phrase within the research question. Think about different topics you have studied which relate, even slightly, to these sections of the question. Note them all down.

Brainstorm synonyms or similar phrases relating to the topic of the question. This should provide an initial basis for a list of areas to start your research.

Refer to your Notes

It is likely that your tutors will have recommended certain publications for you to read into. Check back through your notes, lecture slides or reading lists to see which of these publications relate to the subject you will be researching.

Your assessor will appreciate it if you show that you have acknowledged some of the recommended reading. Do not, however, rely just on what you have been given. You will be rewarded for demonstrating further research, so this is why brainstorming alternate words and phrases will help you.

Take Notes While Reading

As you start to explore the literature, whether online or offline, make sure you note the title, author and year. As well as this, note a summary of key points in the article or chapter, and relevant page numbers.

The key points will help you when constructing each point of discussion within the literature review. Noting the author and details of the text will help, both if you need to revisit the document and for referencing purposes.

Whatever you do, don’t get through a load of note-taking without noting where you got it from. Taking these notes will save you a lot of time when it comes to finishing up your project, trust us.

Pulling it Together

Once you have identified your key points from the initial set of texts you have read, you can start to think about how they work together.

Does one complement the other? Are there opposing views? Which research is the most comprehensive? Is the type of data collection appropriate and valid?

These are all points which you can discuss in the literature review. After all, it is a review of the literature. If you feel one type of research was conducted better than another, give reasons and evidence.

Simply stating your own opinion won’t cut it. When backing up your arguments in a literature review, you will need to try and find other research, quotes, facts or other evidence behind your reasoning.

Remember, the reason for writing a literature review is to find missing gaps in research which are yet to be explored, and to define the most effective way to conduct your research.

Identifying Gaps

When writing a literature review, you need to be critical and analytical. At this level of academic writing, it is expected that you have the level of knowledge and curiosity to question everything.

Read through each separate topic of your literature review in the context of your research question. Examine how much of the research directly links to the question, and if there is anything missing or unexplored.

Often at the end of academic journals, authors will analyse their research project and identify areas for future research. If you are looking for further guidance or recommendations to explore when writing a literature review, look out for this. You may find new ideas to explore in your own research.

A Strong Literature Review

When writing a literature review, the more research you have to analyse, the more comprehensive your results will be. Demonstrating that your topic knowledge is broad and deep, your assessor will be able to see that you have a strong basis on which to begin your exploration into the topic through your own research.

A detailed, critical and analytical literature review takes time, patience and effort. Make sure you give yourself enough time to write it, and then check it over to make sure that there are no errors in spelling, facts and figures.

Once you have checked the document over yourself, you may wish to get a second set of eyes to proofread it for you. At Express Proofreading, we provide a comprehensive academic proofreading service. We can provide you with an instant quote and a quick turnaround to make sure that your literature review, and your whole academic project, are word perfect.