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  • How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

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Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods?
  • Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

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To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources

Theoretical

A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

  • Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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McCombes, S. (2023, September 11). How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved April 2, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/literature-review/

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  • Knowledge Base
  • Dissertation
  • What is a Literature Review? | Guide, Template, & Examples

What is a Literature Review? | Guide, Template, & Examples

Published on 22 February 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 7 June 2022.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research.

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarise sources – it analyses, synthesises, and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

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Table of contents

Why write a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1: search for relevant literature, step 2: evaluate and select sources, step 3: identify themes, debates and gaps, step 4: outline your literature review’s structure, step 5: write your literature review, frequently asked questions about literature reviews, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a dissertation or thesis, you will have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position yourself in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your dissertation addresses a gap or contributes to a debate

You might also have to write a literature review as a stand-alone assignment. In this case, the purpose is to evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of scholarly debates around a topic.

The content will look slightly different in each case, but the process of conducting a literature review follows the same steps. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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writing a lit review dissertation

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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research objectives and questions .

If you are writing a literature review as a stand-alone assignment, you will have to choose a focus and develop a central question to direct your search. Unlike a dissertation research question, this question has to be answerable without collecting original data. You should be able to answer it based only on a review of existing publications.

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research topic. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list if you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can use boolean operators to help narrow down your search:

Read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

To identify the most important publications on your topic, take note of recurring citations. If the same authors, books or articles keep appearing in your reading, make sure to seek them out.

You probably won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on the topic – you’ll have to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your questions.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models and methods? Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • How does the publication contribute to your understanding of the topic? What are its key insights and arguments?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible, and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can find out how many times an article has been cited on Google Scholar – a high citation count means the article has been influential in the field, and should certainly be included in your literature review.

The scope of your review will depend on your topic and discipline: in the sciences you usually only review recent literature, but in the humanities you might take a long historical perspective (for example, to trace how a concept has changed in meaning over time).

Remember that you can use our template to summarise and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using!

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It’s important to keep track of your sources with references to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography, where you compile full reference information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

You can use our free APA Reference Generator for quick, correct, consistent citations.

To begin organising your literature review’s argument and structure, you need to understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly-visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat – this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organising the body of a literature review. You should have a rough idea of your strategy before you start writing.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarising sources in order.

Try to analyse patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organise your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources

Theoretical

A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text, your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

If you are writing the literature review as part of your dissertation or thesis, reiterate your central problem or research question and give a brief summary of the scholarly context. You can emphasise the timeliness of the topic (“many recent studies have focused on the problem of x”) or highlight a gap in the literature (“while there has been much research on x, few researchers have taken y into consideration”).

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, make sure to follow these tips:

  • Summarise and synthesise: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole.
  • Analyse and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole.
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources.
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transitions and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts.

In the conclusion, you should summarise the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasise their significance.

If the literature review is part of your dissertation or thesis, reiterate how your research addresses gaps and contributes new knowledge, or discuss how you have drawn on existing theories and methods to build a framework for your research. This can lead directly into your methodology section.

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a dissertation , thesis, research paper , or proposal .

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarise yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your  dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the ‘Cite this Scribbr article’ button to automatically add the citation to our free Reference Generator.

McCombes, S. (2022, June 07). What is a Literature Review? | Guide, Template, & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 2 April 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/thesis-dissertation/literature-review/

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A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research ( scholarship ) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably.

Where, when, and why would I write a lit review?

There are a number of different situations where you might write a literature review, each with slightly different expectations; different disciplines, too, have field-specific expectations for what a literature review is and does. For instance, in the humanities, authors might include more overt argumentation and interpretation of source material in their literature reviews, whereas in the sciences, authors are more likely to report study designs and results in their literature reviews; these differences reflect these disciplines’ purposes and conventions in scholarship. You should always look at examples from your own discipline and talk to professors or mentors in your field to be sure you understand your discipline’s conventions, for literature reviews as well as for any other genre.

A literature review can be a part of a research paper or scholarly article, usually falling after the introduction and before the research methods sections. In these cases, the lit review just needs to cover scholarship that is important to the issue you are writing about; sometimes it will also cover key sources that informed your research methodology.

Lit reviews can also be standalone pieces, either as assignments in a class or as publications. In a class, a lit review may be assigned to help students familiarize themselves with a topic and with scholarship in their field, get an idea of the other researchers working on the topic they’re interested in, find gaps in existing research in order to propose new projects, and/or develop a theoretical framework and methodology for later research. As a publication, a lit review usually is meant to help make other scholars’ lives easier by collecting and summarizing, synthesizing, and analyzing existing research on a topic. This can be especially helpful for students or scholars getting into a new research area, or for directing an entire community of scholars toward questions that have not yet been answered.

What are the parts of a lit review?

Most lit reviews use a basic introduction-body-conclusion structure; if your lit review is part of a larger paper, the introduction and conclusion pieces may be just a few sentences while you focus most of your attention on the body. If your lit review is a standalone piece, the introduction and conclusion take up more space and give you a place to discuss your goals, research methods, and conclusions separately from where you discuss the literature itself.

Introduction:

  • An introductory paragraph that explains what your working topic and thesis is
  • A forecast of key topics or texts that will appear in the review
  • Potentially, a description of how you found sources and how you analyzed them for inclusion and discussion in the review (more often found in published, standalone literature reviews than in lit review sections in an article or research paper)
  • Summarize and synthesize: Give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: Don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically Evaluate: Mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: Use transition words and topic sentence to draw connections, comparisons, and contrasts.

Conclusion:

  • Summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance
  • Connect it back to your primary research question

How should I organize my lit review?

Lit reviews can take many different organizational patterns depending on what you are trying to accomplish with the review. Here are some examples:

  • Chronological : The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time, which helps familiarize the audience with the topic (for instance if you are introducing something that is not commonly known in your field). If you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze the patterns, turning points, and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred (as mentioned previously, this may not be appropriate in your discipline — check with a teacher or mentor if you’re unsure).
  • Thematic : If you have found some recurring central themes that you will continue working with throughout your piece, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic. For example, if you are reviewing literature about women and religion, key themes can include the role of women in churches and the religious attitude towards women.
  • Qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the research by sociological, historical, or cultural sources
  • Theoretical : In many humanities articles, the literature review is the foundation for the theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. You can argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach or combine various theorical concepts to create a framework for your research.

What are some strategies or tips I can use while writing my lit review?

Any lit review is only as good as the research it discusses; make sure your sources are well-chosen and your research is thorough. Don’t be afraid to do more research if you discover a new thread as you’re writing. More info on the research process is available in our "Conducting Research" resources .

As you’re doing your research, create an annotated bibliography ( see our page on the this type of document ). Much of the information used in an annotated bibliography can be used also in a literature review, so you’ll be not only partially drafting your lit review as you research, but also developing your sense of the larger conversation going on among scholars, professionals, and any other stakeholders in your topic.

Usually you will need to synthesize research rather than just summarizing it. This means drawing connections between sources to create a picture of the scholarly conversation on a topic over time. Many student writers struggle to synthesize because they feel they don’t have anything to add to the scholars they are citing; here are some strategies to help you:

  • It often helps to remember that the point of these kinds of syntheses is to show your readers how you understand your research, to help them read the rest of your paper.
  • Writing teachers often say synthesis is like hosting a dinner party: imagine all your sources are together in a room, discussing your topic. What are they saying to each other?
  • Look at the in-text citations in each paragraph. Are you citing just one source for each paragraph? This usually indicates summary only. When you have multiple sources cited in a paragraph, you are more likely to be synthesizing them (not always, but often
  • Read more about synthesis here.

The most interesting literature reviews are often written as arguments (again, as mentioned at the beginning of the page, this is discipline-specific and doesn’t work for all situations). Often, the literature review is where you can establish your research as filling a particular gap or as relevant in a particular way. You have some chance to do this in your introduction in an article, but the literature review section gives a more extended opportunity to establish the conversation in the way you would like your readers to see it. You can choose the intellectual lineage you would like to be part of and whose definitions matter most to your thinking (mostly humanities-specific, but this goes for sciences as well). In addressing these points, you argue for your place in the conversation, which tends to make the lit review more compelling than a simple reporting of other sources.

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How to write a literature review in 6 steps

Literature review for thesis

What is a literature review?

How to write a literature review, 1. determine the purpose of your literature review, 2. do an extensive search, 3. evaluate and select literature, 4. analyze the literature, 5. plan the structure of your literature review, 6. write your literature review, other resources to help you write a successful literature review, frequently asked questions about writing a literature review, related articles.

A literature review is an assessment of the sources in a chosen topic of research.

A good literature review does not just summarize sources. It analyzes the state of the field on a given topic and creates a scholarly foundation for you to make your own intervention. It demonstrates to your readers how your research fits within a larger field of study.

In a thesis, a literature review is part of the introduction, but it can also be a separate section. In research papers, a literature review may have its own section or it may be integrated into the introduction, depending on the field.

➡️ Our guide on what is a literature review covers additional basics about literature reviews.

  • Identify the main purpose of the literature review.
  • Do extensive research.
  • Evaluate and select relevant sources.
  • Analyze the sources.
  • Plan a structure.
  • Write the review.

In this section, we review each step of the process of creating a literature review.

In the first step, make sure you know specifically what the assignment is and what form your literature review should take. Read your assignment carefully and seek clarification from your professor or instructor if needed. You should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How many sources do I need to include?
  • What types of sources should I review?
  • Should I evaluate the sources?
  • Should I summarize, synthesize or critique sources?
  • Do I need to provide any definitions or background information?

In addition to that, be aware that the narrower your topic, the easier it will be to limit the number of sources you need to read in order to get a good overview of the topic.

Now you need to find out what has been written on the topic and search for literature related to your research topic. Make sure to select appropriate source material, which means using academic or scholarly sources , including books, reports, journal articles , government documents and web resources.

➡️ If you’re unsure about how to tell if a source is scholarly, take a look at our guide on how to identify a scholarly source .

Come up with a list of relevant keywords and then start your search with your institution's library catalog, and extend it to other useful databases and academic search engines like:

  • Google Scholar
  • Science.gov

➡️ Our guide on how to collect data for your thesis might be helpful at this stage of your research as well as the top list of academic search engines .

Once you find a useful article, check out the reference list. It should provide you with even more relevant sources. Also, keep a note of the:

  • authors' names
  • page numbers

Keeping track of the bibliographic information for each source will save you time when you’re ready to create citations. You could also use a reference manager like Paperpile to automatically save, manage, and cite your references.

Paperpile reference manager

Read the literature. You will most likely not be able to read absolutely everything that is out there on the topic. Therefore, read the abstract first to determine whether the rest of the source is worth your time. If the source is relevant for your topic:

  • Read it critically.
  • Look for the main arguments.
  • Take notes as you read.
  • Organize your notes using a table, mind map, or other technique.

Now you are ready to analyze the literature you have gathered. While your are working on your analysis, you should ask the following questions:

  • What are the key terms, concepts and problems addressed by the author?
  • How is this source relevant for my specific topic?
  • How is the article structured? What are the major trends and findings?
  • What are the conclusions of the study?
  • How are the results presented? Is the source credible?
  • When comparing different sources, how do they relate to each other? What are the similarities, what are the differences?
  • Does the study help me understand the topic better?
  • Are there any gaps in the research that need to be filled? How can I further my research as a result of the review?

Tip: Decide on the structure of your literature review before you start writing.

There are various ways to organize your literature review:

  • Chronological method : Writing in the chronological method means you are presenting the materials according to when they were published. Follow this approach only if a clear path of research can be identified.
  • Thematic review : A thematic review of literature is organized around a topic or issue, rather than the progression of time.
  • Publication-based : You can order your sources by publication, if the way you present the order of your sources demonstrates a more important trend. This is the case when a progression revealed from study to study and the practices of researchers have changed and adapted due to the new revelations.
  • Methodological approach : A methodological approach focuses on the methods used by the researcher. If you have used sources from different disciplines that use a variety of research methods, you might want to compare the results in light of the different methods and discuss how the topic has been approached from different sides.

Regardless of the structure you chose, a review should always include the following three sections:

  • An introduction, which should give the reader an outline of why you are writing the review and explain the relevance of the topic.
  • A body, which divides your literature review into different sections. Write in well-structured paragraphs, use transitions and topic sentences and critically analyze each source for how it contributes to the themes you are researching.
  • A conclusion , which summarizes the key findings, the main agreements and disagreements in the literature, your overall perspective, and any gaps or areas for further research.

➡️ If your literature review is part of a longer paper, visit our guide on what is a research paper for additional tips.

➡️ UNC writing center: Literature reviews

➡️ How to write a literature review in 3 steps

➡️ How to write a literature review in 30 minutes or less

The goal of a literature review is to asses the state of the field on a given topic in preparation for making an intervention.

A literature review should have its own independent section. You should indicate clearly in the table of contents where it can be found, and address this section as “Literature Review.”

There is no set amount of words for a literature review; the length depends on the research. If you are working with a large amount of sources, then it will be long. If your paper does not depend entirely on references, then it will be short.

Most research papers include a literature review. By assessing the available sources in your field of research, you will be able to make a more confident argument about the topic.

Literature reviews are most commonly found in theses and dissertations. However, you find them in research papers as well.

writing a lit review dissertation

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  • CAREER FEATURE
  • 04 December 2020
  • Correction 09 December 2020

How to write a superb literature review

Andy Tay is a freelance writer based in Singapore.

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Literature reviews are important resources for scientists. They provide historical context for a field while offering opinions on its future trajectory. Creating them can provide inspiration for one’s own research, as well as some practice in writing. But few scientists are trained in how to write a review — or in what constitutes an excellent one. Even picking the appropriate software to use can be an involved decision (see ‘Tools and techniques’). So Nature asked editors and working scientists with well-cited reviews for their tips.

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doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-03422-x

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Updates & Corrections

Correction 09 December 2020 : An earlier version of the tables in this article included some incorrect details about the programs Zotero, Endnote and Manubot. These have now been corrected.

Hsing, I.-M., Xu, Y. & Zhao, W. Electroanalysis 19 , 755–768 (2007).

Article   Google Scholar  

Ledesma, H. A. et al. Nature Nanotechnol. 14 , 645–657 (2019).

Article   PubMed   Google Scholar  

Brahlek, M., Koirala, N., Bansal, N. & Oh, S. Solid State Commun. 215–216 , 54–62 (2015).

Choi, Y. & Lee, S. Y. Nature Rev. Chem . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41570-020-00221-w (2020).

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writing a lit review dissertation

Writing the Dissertation - Guides for Success: The Literature Review

  • Writing the Dissertation Homepage
  • Overview and Planning
  • The Literature Review
  • The Methodology
  • The Results and Discussion
  • The Conclusion
  • The Abstract
  • Getting Started
  • Research Gap
  • What to Avoid

Overview of writing the literature review

Conducting a literature review enables you to demonstrate your understanding and knowledge of the existing work within your field of research. Doing so allows you to identify any underdeveloped areas or unexplored issues within a specific debate, dialogue or field of study. This, in turn, helps you to clearly and persuasively demonstrate how your own research will address one or more of these gaps.

Disciplinary differences

Please note: this guide is not specific to any one discipline. The literature review can vary depending on the nature of the research and the expectations of the school or department. Please adapt the following advice to meet the demands of your dissertation and the expectations of your school or department. Consult your supervisor for further guidance; you can also check out  Writing Across Subjects guide .

Guide contents

As part of the Writing the Dissertation series, this guide covers the most common expectations for the literature review chapter, giving you the necessary knowledge, tips and guidance needed to impress your markers!  The sections are organised as follows:

  • Getting Started  - Defines the literature review and presents a table to help you plan.
  • Process -  Explores choosing a topic, searching for sources and evaluating what you find.
  • Structure  - Presents key principles to consider in terms of structure, with examples to illustrate the concepts.
  • Research gap - Clarifies what is meant by 'gap' and gives examples of common types of gaps.
  • What to Avoid  - Covers a few frequent mistakes you'll want to...avoid!
  • FAQs  - Answers to common questions about research gaps, literature availability and more.
  • Checklist  - Includes a summary of key points and a self-evaluation checklist.

Training and tools

  • The Academic Skills team has recorded a Writing the Dissertation workshop series to help you with each section of a standard dissertation, including a video on writing the literature review .
  • Check out the library's online Literature Review: Research Methods training.
  • Our literature reviews summary guide provides links to further information and videos.
  • The dissertation planner tool can help you think through the timeline for planning, research, drafting and editing.
  • iSolutions offers training and a Word template to help you digitally format and structure your dissertation.

writing a lit review dissertation

What is the literature review?

The literature review of a dissertation gives a clear, critical overview of a specific area of research. Our main Writing the Dissertation - Overview and Planning guide explains how you can refine your dissertation topic  and begin your initial research; the next tab of this guide, 'Process', expands on those ideas. In summary, the process of conducting a literature review usually involves the following:

  • Conducting a series of strategic searches to identify the key texts within that topic.
  • Identifying the main argument in each source, the relevant themes and issues presented and how they relate to each other.
  • Critically evaluating your chosen sources and determining their strengths, weaknesses, relevance and value to your research along with their overall contribution to the broader research field.
  • Identifying any gaps or flaws in the literature which your research can address.

Literature review as both process and product

Writers should keep in mind that the phrase 'literature review' refers to two related, but distinct, things:

  • 'Literature review' refers, first, to the  active process  of discovering and assessing relevant literature.
  • 'Literature review' refers, second, to the  written product  that emerges from the above process.

This distinction is vital to note because  every  dissertation requires the writer to engage with and consider existing literature (i.e., to undertake the active  process ). Research doesn't exist in a void, and it's crucial to consider how our work builds from or develops existing foundations of thought or discovery. Thus, even if your discipline doesn't require you to include a chapter titled 'Literature Review' in your submitted dissertation, you should expect to engage with the process of reviewing literature.

Why is it important to be aware of existing literature?

  • You are expected to explain how your research fits in with other research in your field and, perhaps, within the wider academic community.
  • You will be expected to contribute something new, or slightly different, so you need to know what has already been done.
  • Assessing the existing literature on your topic helps you to identify any gaps or flaws within the research field. This, in turn, helps to stimulate new ideas, such as addressing any gaps in knowledge, or reinforcing an existing theory or argument through new and focused research.

Not all literature reviews are the same. For example, in many subject areas, you are expected to include the literature review as its own chapter in your dissertation. However, in other subjects, the dissertation structure doesn't include a dedicated literature review chapter; any literature the writer has reviewed is instead incorporated in other relevant sections such as the introduction, methodology or discussion.

For this reason, there are a number of questions you should discuss with your supervisor before starting your literature review. These questions are also great to discuss with peers in your degree programme. These are outlined in the table below (see the Word document for a copy you can save and edit):

  • Dissertation literature review planning table

Literature review: the process

Conducting a literature review requires you to stay organised and bring a systematic approach to your thinking and reading. Scroll to continue reading, or click a link below to jump immediately to that section:

Choosing a topic

The first step of any research project is to select an interesting topic. From here, the research phase for your literature review helps to narrow down your focus to a particular strand of research and to a specific research question. This process of narrowing and refining your research topic is particularly important because it helps you to maintain your focus and manage your material without becoming overwhelmed by sources and ideas.

Try to choose something that hasn’t been researched to death. This way, you stand a better chance of making a novel contribution to the research field.

Conversely, you should avoid undertaking an area of research where little to no work has been done. There are two reasons for this:

  • Firstly, there may be a good reason for the lack of research on a topic (e.g. is the research useful or worthwhile pursuing?).
  • Secondly, some research projects, particularly practice-based ones involving primary research, can be too ambitious in terms of their scope and the availability of resources. Aim to contribute to a topic, not invent one!

Searching for sources

Researching and writing a literature review is partly about demonstrating your independent research skills. Your supervisor may have some tips relating to your discipline and research topic, but you should be proactive in finding a range of relevant sources. There are various ways of tracking down the literature relevant to your project, as outlined below.

Make use of Library Search

One thing you don’t want to do is simply type your topic into Google and see what comes up. Instead, use Library Search to search the Library’s catalogue of books, media and articles.

Online training for 'Using databases' and 'Finding information' can be found here . You can also use the Library's subject pages to discover databases and resources specific to your academic discipline.

Engage with others working in your area

As well as making use of library resources, it can be helpful to discuss your work with students or academics working in similar areas. Think about attending relevant conferences and/or workshops which can help to stimulate ideas and allows you to keep track of the most current trends in your research field.

Look at the literature your sources reference

Finding relevant literature can, at times, be a long and slightly frustrating experience. However, one good source can often make all the difference. When you find a good source that is both relevant and valuable to your research, look at the material it cites throughout and follow up any sources that are useful. Also check if your source has been cited in any more recent publications.

Cartoon person with magnifying glass follows footstep patterns. Text reads 'Found a great source? Follow the trail!'

Think of the bibliography/references page of a good source as a series of breadcrumbs that you can follow to find even more great material.

Evaluating sources

It is very important to be selective when choosing the final sources to include in your literature review. Below are some of the key questions to ask yourself:

  • If a source is tangentially interesting but hasn’t made any particular contribution to your topic, it probably shouldn’t be included in your literature review. You need to be able to demonstrate how it fits in with the other sources under consideration, and how it has helped shape the current state of the literature.
  • There might be a wealth of material available on your chosen subject, but you need to make sure that the sources you use are appropriate for your assignment. The safest approach to take is to use only academic work from respected publishers. However, on occasions, you might need to deviate from traditional academic literature in order to find the information you need. In many cases, the problem is not so much the sources you use, but how you use them. Where relevant, information from newspapers, websites and even blogs are often acceptable, but you should be careful how you use that information. Do not necessarily take any information as factual. Instead be critical and interpret the material in the context of your research. Consider who the writer is and how this might influence the authority and reliability of the information presented. Consult your supervisor for more specific guidance relating to your research.
  • The mere fact that something has been published does not automatically guarantee its quality, even if it comes from a reputable publisher. You will need to critique the content of the source. Has the author been thorough and consistent in their methodology? Do they present their thesis coherently? Most importantly, have they made a genuine contribution to the topic?

Keeping track of your sources

Once you have selected a source to use in your literature review, it is useful to make notes on all of its key features, including where it comes from, what it says, and what its main strengths and weaknesses are. This way you can easily re-familiarise yourself with a source without having to re-read it. Keeping an annotated bibliography is one way to do this.

Alternately, below is a table you can copy and fill out for each source (see the Word document to save an editable copy for yourself). Software such as EndNote also allows you to keep an electronic record of references and your comments on them.

  • Source evaluation table

Writing your literature review

As we explored in the 'Getting Started' tab, the literature review is both a process you follow and (in most cases) a written chapter you produce. Thus, having engaged the review process, you now need to do the writing itself. Please continue reading, or click a heading below to jump immediately to that section.

Guiding principles

The structure of the final piece will depend on the discipline within which you are working as well as the nature of your particular research project. However, here are a few general pieces of advice for writing a successful literature review:

  • Show the connections between your sources. Remember that your review should be more than merely a list of sources with brief descriptions under each one. You are constructing a narrative. Show clearly how each text has contributed to the current state of the literature, drawing connections between them.
  • Engage critically with your sources. This means not simply describing what they say. You should be evaluating their content: do they make sound arguments? Are there any flaws in the methodology? Are there any relevant themes or issues they have failed to address? You can also compare their relative strengths and weaknesses.
  • Signpost throughout to ensure your reader can follow your narrative.  Keep relating the discussion back to your specific research topic.
  • Make a clear argument. Keep in mind that this is a chance to present your take on a topic. Your literature review showcases your own informed interpretation of a specific area of research. If you have followed the advice given in this guide you will have been careful and selective in choosing your sources. You are in control of how you present them to your reader.

There are several different ways to structure the literature review chapter of your dissertation. Two of the most common strategies are thematic structure and chronological structure (the two of which can also be combined ). However you structure the literature review, this section of the dissertation normally culminates in identifying the research gap.

Thematic structure

Variations of this structure are followed in most literature reviews. In a thematic structure , you organise the literature into groupings by theme (i.e., subtopic or focus). You then arrange the groupings in the most logical order, starting with the broadest (or most general) and moving to the narrowest (or most specific).

The funnel or inverted pyramid

To plan a thematic structure structure, it helps to imagine your themes moving down a funnel or inverted pyramid  from broad to narrow. Consider the example depicted below, which responds to this research question:

What role did the iron rivets play in the sinking of the Titanic?

The topic of maritime disasters is the broadest theme, so it sits at the broad top of the funnel. The writer can establish some context about maritime disasters, generally, before narrowing to the Titanic, specifically. Next, the writer can narrow the discussion of the Titanic to the ship's structural integrity, specifically. Finally, the writer can narrow the discussion of structural integrity to the iron rivets, specifically. And voila: there's the research gap!

Funnel divided into layers. Layer 1: Research on maritime disasters. Layer 2: Research on the Titanic. Layer 3: Research on structural integrity of Titanic. Layer 4: Role of iron rivets in Titanic sinking. Layer 5: My research.

The broad-to-narrow structure is intuitive for readers. Thus, it is crucial to consider how your themes 'nest inside' one another, from the broad to the narrow. Picturing your themes as nesting dolls is another way to envision this literature review structure, as you can see in the image below.

Five nesting dolls labelled left to right: 1.1 Maritime disasters; 1.2 The Titanic; 1.3 Structural integrity; 1.4 Iron rivets; and 1.5 Research gap.

As with the funnel, remember that the first layer (or in this case, doll) is largest because it represents the broadest theme. In terms of word count and depth, the tinier dolls will warrant more attention because they are most closely related to the research gap or question(s).

The multi-funnel variation

The example above demonstrates a research project for which one major heading might suffice, in terms of outlining the literature review. However, the themes you identify for your dissertation might not relate to one another in such a linear fashion. If this is the case, you can adapt the funnel approach to match the number of major subheadings you will need.

In the three slides below, for example, a structure is depicted for a project that investigates this (fictional) dissertation research question: does gender influence the efficacy of teacher-led vs. family-led learning interventions for children with ADHD? Rather than nesting all the subtopics or themes in a direct line, the themes fall into three major headings.

The first major heading explores ADHD from clinical and diagnostic perspectives, narrowing ultimately to gender:

  • 1.1 ADHD intro
  • 1.2 ADHD definitions
  • 1.3 ADHD diagnostic criteria
  • 1.4 ADHD gender differences

The second major heading explores ADHD within the classroom environment, narrowing to intervention types:

  • 2.1 ADHD in educational contexts
  • 2.2 Learning interventions for ADHD
  • 2.2.1 Teacher-led interventions
  • 2.2.2 Family-led interventions

The final major heading articulates the research gap (gender differences in efficacy of teacher-led vs. family-led interventions for ADHD) by connecting the narrowest themes of the prior two sections.

Multi-funnel literature review structure by Academic Skills Service

To create a solid thematic structure in a literature review, the key is thinking carefully and critically about your groupings of literature and how they relate to one another. In some cases, your themes will fit in a single funnel. In other cases, it will make sense to group your broad-to-narrow themes under several major headings, and then arrange those major headings in the most logical order.

Chronological structure

Some literature reviews will follow a  chronological structure . As the name suggests, a review structured chronologically will arrange sources according to their publication dates, from earliest to most recent.

This approach can work well when your priority is to demonstrate how the research field has evolved over time. For example, a chronological arrangement of articles about artificial intelligence (AI) would allow the writer to highlight how breakthroughs in AI have built upon one another in sequential order.

A chronological structure can also suit literature reviews that need to capture how perceptions or understandings have developed across a period of time (including to the present day). For example, if your dissertation involves the public perception of marijuana in the UK, it  could  make sense to arrange that discussion chronologically to demonstrate key turning points and changes of majority thought.

The chronological structure can work well in some situations, such as those described above. That being said, a purely chronological structure should be considered with caution.  Organising sources according to date alone runs the risk of creating a fragmented reading experience. It can be more difficult in a chronological structure to properly synthesize the literature. For these reasons, the chronological approach is often blended into a thematic structure, as you will read more about, below.

Combined structures

The structures of literature reviews can vary drastically, and for any given dissertation there will be many valid ways to arrange the literature.

For example, many literature reviews will  combine  the thematic and chronological approaches in different ways. A writer might match their major headings to themes or subtopics, but then arrange literature chronologically within the major themes identified. Another writer might base their major headings on chronology, but then assign thematic subheadings to each of those major headings.

When considering your options, try to imagine your reader or audience. What 'flow' will allow them to best follow the discussion you are crafting? When you are reading articles, what structural approaches do you appreciate in terms of ease and clarity?

Identifying the gap

The bulk of your literature review will explore relevant points of development and scholarly thought in your research field: in other words, 'Here is what has been done so far, thus here is where the conversation now stands'. In that way, you position your project within a wider academic discussion.

Having established that context, the literature review generally culminates in an articulation of what remains to be done: the  research gap  your project addresses. See the next tab for further explanation and examples.

Demystifying the research gap

The term research gap   is intimidating for many students, who might mistakenly believe that every single element of their research needs to be brand new and fully innovative. This isn't the case!

The gap in many projects will be rather niche or specific. You might be helping to update or re-test knowledge rather than starting from scratch. Perhaps you have repeated a study but changed one variable. Maybe you are considering a much discussed research question, but with a lesser used methodological approach.

To demonstrate the wide variety of gaps a project could address, consider the examples below. The categories used and examples included are by no means comprehensive, but they should be helpful if you are struggling to articulate the gap your literature review has identified.

***P lease note that the content of the example statements has been invented for the sake of demonstration. The example statements should not be taken as expressions of factual information.

Gaps related to population or geography

Many dissertation research questions involve the study of a specific population. Those populations can be defined by nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, political beliefs, religion, health status, or other factors. Other research questions target a specific geography (e.g. a country, territory, city, or similar). Perhaps your broader research question has been pursued by many prior scholars, but few (or no) scholars have studied the question in relation to your focal population or locale: if so, that's a gap.

  • Example 1:  As established above, the correlations between [ socioeconomic status ] and sustainable fashion purchases have been widely researched. However, few studies have investigated the potential relationship between [ sexual identity ] and attitudes toward sustainable fashion. Therefore...
  • Example 2:  Whilst the existing literature has established a clear link between [ political beliefs ] and perceptions of socialized healthcare, the influence of [ religious belief ] is less understood, particularly in regards to [ Religion ABC ].
  • Example 3:  Available evidence confirms that the widespread adoption of Technology XYZ in [ North America ] has improved manufacturing efficiency and reduced costs in the automotive sector. Using predictive AI models, the present research seeks to explore whether deployment of Technology XYZ could benefit the automotive sector of [ Europe ] in similar ways.

Gaps related to theoretical framework

The original contribution might involve examining something through a new lens.  Theoretical framework  refers, most simply, to the theory or theories a writer will use to make sense of and shape (i.e., frame ) their discussion. Perhaps your topic has been analysed in great detail through certain theoretical lenses, but you intend to frame your analysis using a theory that fewer scholars have applied to the topic: if so, that's a gap.

  • Example 1:  Existing discussions of the ongoing revolution in Country XYZ frame the unrest in terms of [ theory A ] and [ theory B ]. The present research will instead analyse the situation using [ theory C ], allowing greater insight into...
  • Example 2:  In the first section of this literature review, I examined the [ postmodern ], [ Marxist ], and [ pragmatist ] analyses that dominate academic discussion of The World According to Garp.  By revisiting this modern classic through the lens of [ queer theory ], I intend to...

Gaps related to methodological approach

The research gap might be defined by differences of methodology (see our Writing the Methodology guide for more). Perhaps your dissertation poses a central question that other scholars have researched, but they have applied different methods to find the answer(s): if so, that's a gap.

  • Example 1:  Previous studies have relied largely upon the [ qualitative analysis of interview transcripts ] to measure the marketing efficacy of body-positive advertising campaigns. It is problematic that little quantitative data underpins present findings in this area. Therefore, I will address this research gap by [ using algorithm XYZ to quantify and analyse social-media interactions ] to determine whether...
  • Example 2: Via [ quantitative and mixed-methods studies ], previous literature has explored how demographic differences influence the probability of a successful match on Dating App XYZ. By instead [ conducting a content analysis of pre-match text interactions ] on Dating App XYZ, I will...

Scarcity as a gap

Absolutes such as never  and always  rarely apply in academia, but here is an exception: in academia, a single study or analysis is  never  enough. Thus, the gap you address needn't be a literal void in the discussion. The gap could instead have to do with  replicability  or  depth/scope.  In these cases, you are adding value and contributing to the academic process by testing emerging knowledge or expanding underdeveloped discussions.

  • Example:  Initial research points to the efficacy of Learning Strategy ABC in helping children with dyslexia build their reading confidence. However, as detailed earlier in this review, only four published studies have tested the intervention, and two of those studies were conducted in a laboratory. To expand our growing understanding of how Learning Strategy ABC functions in classroom environments, I will...

Elapsed time as a gap

Academia values up-to-date knowledge and findings, so another valid type of gap relates to elapsed time. Many factors that can influence or shape research findings are ever evolving: technology, popular culture, and political climates, to name just a few. Due to such changes, it's important for scholars in most fields to continually update findings. Perhaps your dissertation adds value by contributing to this process.

For example, imagine if a scholar today were to rely on a handbook of marketing principles published in 1998. As good as that research might have been in 1998, technology (namely, the internet) has advanced drastically since then. The handbook's discussion of online marketing strategies will be laughably outdated when compared to more recent literature.

  • Example:  A wide array of literature has explored the ways in which perceptions of gender influence professional recruitment practices in the UK. The bulk of said literature, however, was published prior to the #MeToo movement and resultant shifts in discourse around gender, power imbalances and professional advancement. Therefore...

What to avoid

This portion of the guide will cover some common missteps you should try to avoid in writing your literature review. Scroll to continue reading, or click a heading below to jump immediately to that section.

Writing up before you have read up

Trying to write your literature review before you have conducted adequate research is a recipe for panic and frustration. The literature review, more than any other chapter in your dissertation, depends upon your critical understanding of a range of relevant literature. If you have only dipped your toe into the pool of literature (rather than diving in!), you will naturally struggle to develop this section of the writing. Focus on developing your relevant bases of knowledge before you commit too much time to drafting.

Believing you need to read everything

As established above, a literature review does require a significant amount of reading. However, you aren't expected to review  everything ever written  about your topic. Instead, aim to develop a more strategic approach to your research. A strategic approach to research looks different from one project to the next, but here are some questions to help you prioritise:

  • If your field values up-to-date research and discoveries, carefully consider the 'how' and 'what' before investing time reading older sources: how will the source function in your dissertation, and what will it add to your writing?
  • Try to break your research question(s) down into component parts. Then, map out where your literature review will need to provide extensive detail and where it can instead present quicker background. Allocate your research time and effort accordingly. 

Omitting dissenting views or findings

While reviewing the literature, you might discover authors who disagree with your central argument or whose own findings contradict your hypothesis. Don't omit those sources: embrace them! Remember, the literature review aims to explore the academic dialogue around your topic: disagreements or conflicting findings are often part of that dialogue, and including them in your writing will create a sense of rich, critical engagement. In fact, highlighting any disagreements amongst scholars is a great way to emphasise the relevance of, and need for, your own research.

Miscalculating the scope

As shown in the funnel structure (see 'Structure' tab for more), a literature review often starts broadly and then narrows the dialogue as it progresses, ultimately bringing the reader to the dissertation's specific research topic (e.g. the funnel's narrowest point).

Within that structure, it's common for writers to miscalculate the scope required. They might open the literature review far too broadly, dedicating disproportionate space to developing background information or general theory; alternately, they might rush into the narrowest part of the discussion, failing to develop any sense of surrounding context or background, first.

It takes trial and error to determine the appropriate scope for your literature review. To help with this...

  • Imagine your literature review subtopics cascading down a stairwell,  as in the illustration below.
  • Place the broadest concepts on the highest steps, then narrow down to the most specific concepts on the lowest steps: the scope 'zooms in' as you move down the stairwell.
  • Now, consider which step is the most logical starting place for your readers. Do they need to start all the way at the top, or should you 'zoom in'?

Stairwell sloping down with topics written on steps, top to bottom: Feminism; feminist theories; feminist literary theory (FLT); FLT and horror; FLT and Stephen King; FLT and the Stand.

The illustration above shows a stairwell diagram of a dissertation that aims to analyse Stephen King's horror novel  The Stand  through the lens of a specific feminist literary theory.

  • If the literature review began on one of the bottom two steps, this would feel rushed and inadequate. The writer needs to explore and define the relevant theoretical lens before they discuss how it has been applied by other scholars.
  • If the literature review began on the very top step, this would feel comically broad in terms of scope: in this writing context, the reader doesn't require a detailed account of the entire history of feminism!

The third step, therefore, represents a promising starting point: not too narrow, not too broad.

The 'islands' structure

Above all else, a literature review needs to synthesize a range of sources   in a logical fashion. In this context, to  synthesize  means to bring together, connect, weave, and/or relate. A common mistake writers make is failing to conduct such synthesis, and instead discussing each source in isolation. This leads to a disconnected structure, with each source treated like its own little 'island'. The island approach works for very few projects.

Some writers end up with this island structure because they confuse the nature of the  literature review  with the nature of an annotated bibliography . The latter is a tool you can use to analyse and keep track of individual sources, and most annotated bibliographies will indeed be arranged in a source-by-source structure. That's fine for pre-writing and notetaking, but to structure the literature review, you need to think about connections and overlaps between sources rather than considering them as stand-alone works.

If you are struggling to forge connections between your sources, break down the process into tiny steps:

  • e.g. Air pollution from wood-burning stoves in homes.
  • e.g.  Bryant and Dao (2022) found that X% of small particle pollution in the United Kingdom can be attributed to the use of wood-burning stoves.
  • e.g.  A study by Williams (2023) reinforced those findings, indicating that small particle pollution has...
  • e.g.  However, Landers (2023) cautions that factor ABC and factor XYZ may contribute equally to poor air quality, suggesting that further research...

The above exercise is  not  meant to suggest that you can only write one sentence per source: you can write more than that, of course! The exercise is simply designed to help you start synthesizing the literature rather than giving each source the island treatment.

Q: I still don't get it - what's the point of a literature review?

A: Let's boil it down to three key points...

  • The literature review provides a platform for you, as a scholar, to demonstrate your understanding of how your research area has evolved. By engaging with seminal texts or the most up-to-date findings in your field, you can situate your own research within the relevant academic context(s) or conversation(s).
  • The literature review allows you to identify the research gap your project addresses: in other words, what you will add to discussions in your academic field.
  • Finally, the literature review justifies the reason for your research. By exploring existing literature, you can highlight the relevance and purpose of your own research.

Q: What if I don't have a gap?

A:  It's normal to struggle with identifying a research gap. This can be particularly true if you are working in a highly saturated research area, broadly speaking: for example, if you are studying the links between nutrition and diabetes, or if you are studying Shakespeare.

Library catalog keyword search for 'diabetes' and 'nutrition', showing about 101,000 results.

The 'What to Avoid' tab explained that  miscalculating the scope  is a common mistake in literature reviews. If you are struggling to identify your gap, scope might be the culprit, particularly if you are working in a saturated field. Remember that the gap is the narrowest part of the funnel, the smallest nesting doll, the lowest step: this means your contribution in that giant academic conversation will need to be quite 'zoomed in':

This is not a valid gap →  Analysing Shakespeare's sonnets.

This might be a valid gap →  Conducting an ecocritical analysis of the visual motifs of Shakespeare's final five procreation sonnets (e.g. sonnets number thirteen to seventeen).

In the above example, the revised attempt to articulate a gap 'zooms in' by identifying a particular theoretical lens (e.g. ecocriticism), a specific convention to analyse (e.g. use of visual motifs), and a narrower object (e.g. five sonnets rather than all 150+). The field of Shakespeare studies might be crowded, but there is nonetheless room to make an original contribution.

Conversely, it might be difficult to identify the gap if you are working not in a saturated field, but in a brand new or niche research area. How can you situate your work within a relevant academic conversation if it seems like the 'conversation' is just you talking to yourself?

Library catalog keyword search for 'hippogriffs' and 'anatomy' showing only 2 search results.

In these cases, rather than 'zooming in', you might find it helpful to 'zoom out'. If your topic is niche, think creatively about who will be interested in your results. Who would benefit from understanding your findings? Who could potentially apply them or build upon them? Thinking of this in interdisciplinary terms is helpful for some projects.

Tip:  Venn diagrams and mind maps are great ways to explore how  your research connects to, and diverges from, the existing literature.

Q: How many references should I use in my literature review?

A:  This question is risky to answer because the variations between individual projects and disciplines make it impossible to provide a universal answer. The fact is that one dissertation might have 50 more references than another, yet the two projects could be equally rigorous and successful in fulfilling their research aims.

With that warning in mind, let's consider a 'standard' dissertation of around 10K words. In that context, referencing 30 to 40 sources in your literature review tends to work well. Again, this is  not  a universally accurate rule, but a ballpark figure for you to contemplate. If the 30 to 40 estimate seems frighteningly high to you, do remember that many sources will be used sparingly rather than being mulled over at length. Consider this example:

In British GP practices, pharmaceutical treatment is most often prescribed for Health Condition XYZ ( Carlos, 2019; Jones, 2020 ; Li, 2022 ). Lifestyle modifications, such as physical exercise or meditation practices, have only recently...

When writing critically, it's important to validate findings across studies rather than trusting only one source. Therefore, this writer has cited three recent studies that agree about the claim being made. The writer will delve into other sources at more length, but here, it makes sense to cite the literature and move quickly along.

As you search the databases and start following the relevant trails of 'research bread crumbs', you will be surprised how quickly your reference list grows.

Q: What if there isn't enough relevant literature on my topic?

A: Think creatively about the literature you are using and engaging with. A good start is panning out to consider your topic more broadly: you might not identify articles that discuss your  exact  topic, but what can you discover if you shift your focus up one level?

Imagine, for example, that Norah is researching how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to provide dance instruction. She discovers that no one has written about this topic. Rather than panicking, she breaks down her research question into its component parts to consider what research  might  exist.

  • First, dance instruction: literature on how dance has traditionally been taught (i.e., not with AI) is still relevant because it will provide background and context. To appreciate the challenges or opportunities that transition to AI instruction might bring, we need to understand the status quo. Norah might also search for articles that analyse how other technological shifts have affected dance instruction: for example, how YouTube popularized at-home dance study, or how live video services like Zoom enabled real-time interaction between dance pupils and teachers despite physical distance.
  • Next, artificial intelligence used for instruction: Norah can seek out research on, and examples of, the application of AI for instructive purposes. Even if those purposes don't involve dance, such literature can contribute to illustrating the broader context around Norah's project.
  • Could it be relevant to discuss the technologies used to track an actor's real-life movements and convert them into the motions of a video game character? Perhaps there are parallels!
  • Could it be relevant to explore research on applications of AI in creative writing and visual art? Could be relevant since dance is also a creative field!

In summary, don't panic if you can't find research on your  exact  question or topic. Think through the broader context and parallel ideas, and you will soon find what you need.

Q: What if my discipline doesn't require a literature review chapter?

A: This is a great question. Whilst many disciplines dictate that your dissertation should include a chapter called Literature Review , not all subjects follow this convention. Those subjects will still expect you to incorporate a range of external literature, but you will nest the sources under different headings.

For example, some disciplines dictate an introductory chapter that is longer than average, and you essentially nest a miniature literature review inside the introduction, itself. Although the writing is more condensed and falls under a subheading of the introduction, the techniques and principles of writing a literature review (for example, moving from the broad to the narrow) will still prove relevant.

Some disciplines include chapters with names like Background , History , Theoretical Framework , etc. The exact functions of such chapters differ, but they have this in common: reviewing literature. You can't provide a critical background or history without synthesizing external sources. To illustrate your theoretical framework, you need to synthesize a range of literature that defines the theory or theories you intend to use.

Therefore, as stated earlier in this guide, you should be prepared to review and synthesize a range of literature regardless of your discipline. You can tailor the purpose of that synthesis to the structure and demands of writing in your subject area.

Q: Does my literature review need to include every source I plan to use in my discussion chapter?

A: The short answer is 'no' - there are some situations in which it is okay to use a source in your discussion chapter that you didn't integrate into your literature review chapter.

Imagine, for example, that your study produced a surprising result: a finding that you didn't anticipate. To make sense of that result, you might need to conduct additional research. That new research will help you explain the unexpected result in your discussion chapter.

More often, however, your discussion will  draw on, or return to, sources from your literature review. After all, the literature review is where you paint a detailed picture of the conversation surrounding your research topic. Thus, it makes sense for you to relate your own work to that conversation in the discussion.

The literature review provides you an opportunity to engage with a rich range of published work and, perhaps for the first time, critically consider how your own research fits within and responds to your academic community. This can be a very invigorating process!

At the same time, it's likely that you will be juggling more academic sources than you have ever used in a single writing project. Additionally, you will need to think strategically about the focus and scope of your work: figuring out the best structure for your literature review might require several rounds of re-drafting and significant edits.

If you are usually a 'dive in without a plan and just get drafting' kind of writer, be prepared to modify your approach if you start to feel overwhelmed. Mind mapping, organising your ideas on a marker board, or creating a bullet-pointed reverse outline can help if you start to feel lost.

Alternately, if you are usually a 'create a strict, detailed outline and stick to it at all costs' kind of writer, keep in mind that long-form writing often calls for writers to modify their plans for content and structure as their work progresses and evolves. It can help such writers to schedule periodic 'audits' of their outlines, with the aim being to assess what is still working and what else needs to be added, deleted or modified.

Here’s a final checklist for writing your literature review. Remember that not all of these points will be relevant for your literature review, so make sure you cover whatever’s appropriate for your dissertation. The asterisk (*) indicates any content that might not be relevant for your dissertation. You can save your own copy of the checklist to edit using the Word document, below.

  • Literature review self-evaluation checklist

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How to Write a Literature Review for a Dissertation

Last Updated: August 4, 2021

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. This article has been viewed 22,403 times.

If you're writing a doctoral-level dissertation in the sciences or humanities, you'll most likely be required to include a literature review. A well-written review brings together the previous work done in your field and places an emphasis upon established points relevant to your topic. This shows your dissertation committee that you're well-read in your specialty area and can contextualize your work within larger conversations in your field. Within the review itself, you’ll need to analyze other scholars’ works, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and synthesize their perspectives with your own work.

Reviewing the Literature

Step 1 Understand the formatting and content guidelines.

  • If you're not sure which formatting guidelines you should be following, ask your committee chair or major professor.

Step 2 Collect at least 50 relevant literature sources within your field.

  • The number of sources you'll need will vary depending on your field and major professor. While not all fields will require 50 sources (and some may require more), it's a good ballpark figure to start with.
  • Make sure that you identify the major and minor fields that your dissertation fits into. Discuss this with your committee and make a list of key terms and concepts to help you as you start collecting sources.

Step 3 Read and analyze all of your sources before you begin writing.

  • What research methods do the scholars whose work you're reading use?
  • What conflicts have cropped up between different schools of thought?
  • How have theories in the field changed over time?
  • What names and ideas come up most frequently?
  • Write your citations 1 at a time as you read through your sources. Do not try to write several annotations at once.

Structuring the Body of Your Lit Review

Step 1 Include 4–6 subheadings in your lit review to increase readability.

  • For example, say you’re writing about teaching trends in higher education. You could have 1 subheading about online-based teaching, another about uses of technology in the classroom, and another about experience-based teaching.

Step 2 Organize sources around the most influential article in each subsection.

  • Organizing sources will allow you to enumerate the ways in which other sources agree with, disagree with, or otherwise modify the sources of highest importance.

Step 3 Present the sources chronologically within each section.

  • For example, you’d summarize a source about technology in the classroom written in 1967 before one written in 1976.

Writing the Lit Review

Step 1 Tie the lit review to the body of your dissertation in the introduction.

  • For example, maybe the work you’re doing in your dissertation expands on what’s been done in one subsection of the works you’re reviewing.

Step 2 Write each entry in a way that blends summary and analysis.

  • For example, if a frequently-cited article within the literature relies on faulty research or poor research, point this out when addressing the article.

Step 3 Synthesize different sources that take a similar approach to a topic.

  • Synthesizing sources by method by comparing different academic works that follow a similar operating method (this is especially prevalent in the hard sciences)
  • Synthesizing sources by topic, since your lit review should be broad enough to cover at least 4–5 different subfields within your area of study

Step 4 Maintain your own writing voice when composing the lit review.

  • So, don’t switch between imitating the sentence structures and vocabularies of each of the sources you’re summarizing.

Step 5 Proofread your lit review before moving on with your dissertation.

  • A thoroughly checked review has a better chance of being accepted by your dissertation committee.

Expert Q&A

  • Give yourself at least 4-6 months to write the literature review. Although you won’t be coming up with new, original ideas for the lit review, it still takes a substantial chunk of time to write. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • If you're seriously struggling to write your literature review, you can consult a professional editorial company to help you write your review. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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  • ↑ https://guides.library.cornell.edu/annotatedbibliography
  • ↑ https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/resources/writing/writing-resources/literature-review
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/literature-reviews/

About this article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a literature review for a dissertation, start with an introduction that gives an overview of the topic. In this overview, emphasize the topic's importance, identify recent research, and clarify how that research applies to the body of your dissertation. For example, the work in your dissertation might expand on what’s been done in one subsection of the works you’re reviewing. In your review, summarize 40 to 50 different sources in a way that provides an analysis of their strengths. It’s not realistic to write an entire paragraph for each source, so look for ways to group sources together and show your committee that you’re able to make high-level connections between them. As you write, be sure to maintain your own writing voice by trying to think of it as a conversation between yourself and the sources. For more advice from our academic co-author, including how to research formatting guidelines, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to write a literature review for a dissertation, published by steve tippins on july 5, 2019 july 5, 2019.

Last Updated on: 2nd February 2024, 04:45 am

Chapter 2 of your dissertation, your literature review, may be the longest chapter. It is not uncommon to see lit reviews in the 40- to 60-page range. That may seem daunting, but I contend that the literature review could be the easiest part of your dissertation.

It is also foundational. To be able to select an appropriate research topic and craft expert research questions, you’ll need to know what has already been discovered and what mysteries remain. 

Remember, your degree is meant to indicate your achieving the highest level of expertise in your area of study. The lit review for your dissertation could very well form the foundation for your entire career.

In this article, I’ll give you detailed instructions for how to write the literature review of your dissertation without stress. I’ll also provide a sample outline.

When to Write the Literature Review for your Dissertation

Though technically Chapter 2 of your dissertation, many students write their literature review first. Why? Because having a solid foundation in the research informs the way you write Chapter 1.

Also, when writing Chapter 1, you’ll need to become familiar with the literature anyway. It only makes sense to write down what you learn to form the start of your lit review.

Some institutions even encourage students to write Chapter 2 first. But it’s important to talk with your Chair to see what he or she recommends.

How Long Should a Literature Review Be?

There is no set length for a literature review. The length largely depends on your area of study. However, I have found that most literature reviews are between 40-60 pages.

If your literature review is significantly shorter than that, ask yourself (a) if there is other relevant research that you have not explored, or (b) if you have provided enough of a discussion about the information you did explore.

Preparing to Write the Literature Review for your Dissertation

barefoot woman sitting on a large stack of books

1. Search Using Key Terms

Most people start their lit review searching appropriate databases using key terms. For example, if you’re researching the impact of social media on adult learning, some key terms you would use at the start of your search would be adult learning, androgogy, social media, and “learning and social media” together. 

If your topic was the impact of natural disasters on stock prices, then you would need to explore all types of natural disasters, other market factors that impact stock prices, and the methodologies used. 

You can save time by skimming the abstracts first; if the article is not what you thought it might be you can move on quickly.

writing a lit review dissertation

Once you start finding articles using key terms, two different things will usually happen: you will find new key terms to search, and the articles will lead you directly to other articles related to what you are studying. It becomes like a snowball rolling downhill. 

Note that the vast majority of your sources should be articles from peer-reviewed journals. 

2. Immerse Yourself in the Literature

woman asleep on the couch next to a giant pile of books

When people ask what they should do first for their dissertation the most common answer is “immerse yourself in the literature.” What exactly does this mean?

Think of this stage as a trip into the quiet heart of the forest. Your questions are at the center of this journey, and you’ll need to help your reader understand which trees — which particular theories, studies, and lines of reasoning — got you there. 

There are lots of trees in this particular forest, but there are particular trees that mark your path.  What makes them unique? What about J’s methodology made you choose that study over Y’s? How did B’s argument triumph over A’s, thus leading you to C’s theory? 

You are showing your reader that you’ve fully explored the forest of your topic and chosen this particular path, leading to these particular questions (your research questions), for these particular reasons.

3. Consider Gaps in the Research

The gaps in the research are where current knowledge ends and your study begins. In order to build a case for doing your study, you must demonstrate that it:

  • Is worthy of doctoral-level research, and
  • Has not already been studied

Defining the gaps in the literature should help accomplish both aims. Identifying studies on related topics helps make the case that your study is relevant, since other researchers have conducted related studies.

And showing where they fall short will help make the case that your study is the appropriate next step. Pay special attention to the recommendations for further research that the authors of studies make.

4. Organize What You Find

As you find articles, you will have to come up with methods to organize what you find. 

Whether you find a computer-based system (three popular systems are Zotero, endNote, and Mendeley) or some sort of manual system such as index cards, you need to devise a method where you can easily group your references by subject and methodology and find what you are looking for when you need it. It is very frustrating to know you have found an article that supports a point that you are trying to make, but you can’t find the article!

focused woman studying inside a bright library

One way to save time and keep things organized is to cut and paste relevant quotations (and their references) under topic headings. You’ll be able to rearrange and do some paraphrasing later, but if you’ve got the quotations and the citations that are important to you already embedded in your text, you’ll have an easier time of it.  

If you choose this method, be sure to list the whole reference on the reference/bibliography page so you don’t have to do this page separately later. Some students use Scrivener for this purpose, as it offers a clear way to view and easily navigate to all sections of a written document.

Need help with your literature review? Take a look at my dissertation coaching and dissertation editing services.

How to Write the Literature Review for your Dissertation

Once you have gathered a sufficient number of pertinent references, you’ll need to string them together in a way that tells your story. Explain what previous researchers have done by telling the story of how knowledge on this topic has evolved. Here, you are laying the support for your topic and showing that your research questions need to be answered. Let’s dive into how to actually write your dissertation’s literature review.

1. Create an Outline

If you’ve created a system for keeping track of the sources you’ve found, you likely already have the bones of an outline. Even if not, it may be relatively easy to see how to organize it all. The main thing to remember is, keep it simple and don’t overthink it. There are several ways to organize your dissertation’s literature review, and I’ll discuss some of the most common below:

  • By topic. This is by far the most common approach, and it’s the one I recommend unless there’s a clear reason to do otherwise. Topics are things like servant leadership, transformational leadership, employee retention, organizational knowledge, etc. Organizing by topic is fairly simple and it makes sense to the reader.
  • Chronologically. In some cases, it makes sense to tell the story of how knowledge and thought on a given subject have evolved. In this case, sub-sections may indicate important advances or contributions. 
  • By methodology. Some students organize their literature review by the methodology of the studies. This makes sense when conducting a mixed-methods study, and in cases where methodology is at the forefront.

2. Write the Paragraphs 

I said earlier that I thought the lit review was the easiest part to write, and here is why. When you write about the findings of others, you can do it in small, discrete time periods. You go down the path awhile, then you rest. 

Once you have many small pieces written, you can then piece them together. You can write each piece without worrying about the flow of the chapter; that can all be done at the end when you put the jigsaw puzzle of references together.

woman with curly hair studying in her home office

The literature review is a demonstration of your ability to think critically about existing research and build meaningfully on it in your study. Avoid simply stating what other researchers said. Find the relationships between studies, note where researchers agree and disagree, and– especiallyy–relate it to your own study. 

Pay special attention to controversial issues, and don’t be afraid to give space to researchers who you disagree with. Including differing opinions will only strengthen the credibility of your study, as it demonstrates that you’re willing to consider all sides.

4. Justify the Methodology

In addition to discussing studies related to your topic, include some background on the methodology you will be using. This is especially important if you are using a new or little-used methodology, as it may help get committee members onboard. 

I have seen several students get slowed down in the process trying to get committees to buy into the planned methodology. Providing references and samples of where the planned methodology has been used makes the job of the committee easier, and it will also help your reader trust the outcomes.

Advice for Writing Your Dissertation’s Literature Review

  • Remember to relate each section back to your study (your Problem and Purpose statements).
  • Discuss conflicting findings or theoretical positions. Avoid the temptation to only include research that you agree with.
  • Sections should flow together, the way sections of a chapter in a nonfiction book do. They should relate to each other and relate back to the purpose of your study. Avoid making each section an island.
  • Discuss how each study or theory relates to the others in that section.
  • Avoid relying on direct quotes–you should demonstrate that you understand the study and can describe it accurately.

Sample Outline of a Literature Review (Dissertation Chapter 2)

close-up shot of an open notebook and a laptop

Here is a sample outline, with some brief instructions. Note that your institution probably has specific requirements for the structure of your dissertation’s literature review. But to give you a general idea, I’ve provided a sample outline of a dissertation ’s literature review here.

  • Introduction
  • State the problem and the purpose of the study
  • Give a brief synopsis of literature that establishes the relevance of the problem
  • Very briefly summarize the major sections of your chapter

Documentation of Literature Search Strategy

  • Include the library databases and search engines you used
  • List the key terms you used
  • Describe the scope (qualitative) or iterative process (quantitative). Explain why and based on what criteria you selected the articles you did.

Literature Review (this is the meat of the chapter)

writing a lit review dissertation

  • Sub-topic a
  • Sub-topic b
  • Sub-topic c

See below for an example of what this outline might look like.

How to Write a Literature Review for a Dissertation: An Example 

Let’s take an example that will make the organization, and the outline, a little bit more clear. Below, I’ll fill out the example outline based on the topics discussed.

If your questions have to do with the impact of the servant leadership style of management on employee retention, you may want to saunter down the path of servant leadership first, learning of its origins , its principles , its values , and its methods . 

You’ll note the different ways the style is employed based on different practitioners’ perspectives or circumstances and how studies have evaluated these differences. Researchers will draw conclusions that you’ll want to note, and these conclusions will lead you to your next questions. 

man browsing on his laptop

Next, you’ll want to wander into the territory of management styles to discover their impact on employee retention in general. Does management style really make a difference in employee retention, and if so, what factors, exactly, make this impact?

Employee retention is its own path, and you’ll discover factors, internal and external, that encourage people to stick with their jobs.

You’ll likely find paradoxes and contradictions in here that just bring up more questions. How do internal and external factors mix and match? How can employers influence both psychology and context ? Is it of benefit to try and do so?

At first, these three paths seem somewhat remote from one another, but your interest is where the three converge. Taking the lit review section by section like this before tying it all together will not only make it more manageable to write but will help you lead your reader down the same path you traveled, thereby increasing clarity. 

Example Outline

So the main sections of your literature review might look something like this:

  • Literature Search Strategy
  • Conceptual Framework or Theoretical Foundation
  • Literature that supports your methodology
  • Origins, principles, values
  • Seminal research
  • Current research
  • Management Styles’ Impact on employee retention
  • Internal Factors
  • External Factors
  • Influencing psychology and context
  • Summary and Conclusion

Final Thoughts on Writing Your Dissertation’s Chapter 2

The lit review provides the foundation for your study and perhaps for your career. Spend time reading and getting lost in the literature. The “aha” moments will come where you see how everything fits together. 

At that point, it will just be a matter of clearly recording and tracing your path, keeping your references organized, and conveying clearly how your research questions are a natural evolution of previous work that has been done.

PS. If you’re struggling with your literature review, I can help. I offer dissertation coaching and editing services.

Steve Tippins

Steve Tippins, PhD, has thrived in academia for over thirty years. He continues to love teaching in addition to coaching recent PhD graduates as well as students writing their dissertations. Learn more about his dissertation coaching and career coaching services. Book a Free Consultation with Steve Tippins

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What is a literature review?

A literature review is an integrated analysis -- not just a summary-- of scholarly writings and other relevant evidence related directly to your research question.  That is, it represents a synthesis of the evidence that provides background information on your topic and shows a association between the evidence and your research question.

A literature review may be a stand alone work or the introduction to a larger research paper, depending on the assignment.  Rely heavily on the guidelines your instructor has given you.

Why is it important?

A literature review is important because it:

  • Explains the background of research on a topic.
  • Demonstrates why a topic is significant to a subject area.
  • Discovers relationships between research studies/ideas.
  • Identifies major themes, concepts, and researchers on a topic.
  • Identifies critical gaps and points of disagreement.
  • Discusses further research questions that logically come out of the previous studies.

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1. Choose a topic. Define your research question.

Your literature review should be guided by your central research question.  The literature represents background and research developments related to a specific research question, interpreted and analyzed by you in a synthesized way.

  • Make sure your research question is not too broad or too narrow.  Is it manageable?
  • Begin writing down terms that are related to your question. These will be useful for searches later.
  • If you have the opportunity, discuss your topic with your professor and your class mates.

2. Decide on the scope of your review

How many studies do you need to look at? How comprehensive should it be? How many years should it cover? 

  • This may depend on your assignment.  How many sources does the assignment require?

3. Select the databases you will use to conduct your searches.

Make a list of the databases you will search. 

Where to find databases:

  • use the tabs on this guide
  • Find other databases in the Nursing Information Resources web page
  • More on the Medical Library web page
  • ... and more on the Yale University Library web page

4. Conduct your searches to find the evidence. Keep track of your searches.

  • Use the key words in your question, as well as synonyms for those words, as terms in your search. Use the database tutorials for help.
  • Save the searches in the databases. This saves time when you want to redo, or modify, the searches. It is also helpful to use as a guide is the searches are not finding any useful results.
  • Review the abstracts of research studies carefully. This will save you time.
  • Use the bibliographies and references of research studies you find to locate others.
  • Check with your professor, or a subject expert in the field, if you are missing any key works in the field.
  • Ask your librarian for help at any time.
  • Use a citation manager, such as EndNote as the repository for your citations. See the EndNote tutorials for help.

Review the literature

Some questions to help you analyze the research:

  • What was the research question of the study you are reviewing? What were the authors trying to discover?
  • Was the research funded by a source that could influence the findings?
  • What were the research methodologies? Analyze its literature review, the samples and variables used, the results, and the conclusions.
  • Does the research seem to be complete? Could it have been conducted more soundly? What further questions does it raise?
  • If there are conflicting studies, why do you think that is?
  • How are the authors viewed in the field? Has this study been cited? If so, how has it been analyzed?

Tips: 

  • Review the abstracts carefully.  
  • Keep careful notes so that you may track your thought processes during the research process.
  • Create a matrix of the studies for easy analysis, and synthesis, across all of the studies.
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Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review

Marco pautasso.

1 Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology (CEFE), CNRS, Montpellier, France

2 Centre for Biodiversity Synthesis and Analysis (CESAB), FRB, Aix-en-Provence, France

Literature reviews are in great demand in most scientific fields. Their need stems from the ever-increasing output of scientific publications [1] . For example, compared to 1991, in 2008 three, eight, and forty times more papers were indexed in Web of Science on malaria, obesity, and biodiversity, respectively [2] . Given such mountains of papers, scientists cannot be expected to examine in detail every single new paper relevant to their interests [3] . Thus, it is both advantageous and necessary to rely on regular summaries of the recent literature. Although recognition for scientists mainly comes from primary research, timely literature reviews can lead to new synthetic insights and are often widely read [4] . For such summaries to be useful, however, they need to be compiled in a professional way [5] .

When starting from scratch, reviewing the literature can require a titanic amount of work. That is why researchers who have spent their career working on a certain research issue are in a perfect position to review that literature. Some graduate schools are now offering courses in reviewing the literature, given that most research students start their project by producing an overview of what has already been done on their research issue [6] . However, it is likely that most scientists have not thought in detail about how to approach and carry out a literature review.

Reviewing the literature requires the ability to juggle multiple tasks, from finding and evaluating relevant material to synthesising information from various sources, from critical thinking to paraphrasing, evaluating, and citation skills [7] . In this contribution, I share ten simple rules I learned working on about 25 literature reviews as a PhD and postdoctoral student. Ideas and insights also come from discussions with coauthors and colleagues, as well as feedback from reviewers and editors.

Rule 1: Define a Topic and Audience

How to choose which topic to review? There are so many issues in contemporary science that you could spend a lifetime of attending conferences and reading the literature just pondering what to review. On the one hand, if you take several years to choose, several other people may have had the same idea in the meantime. On the other hand, only a well-considered topic is likely to lead to a brilliant literature review [8] . The topic must at least be:

  • interesting to you (ideally, you should have come across a series of recent papers related to your line of work that call for a critical summary),
  • an important aspect of the field (so that many readers will be interested in the review and there will be enough material to write it), and
  • a well-defined issue (otherwise you could potentially include thousands of publications, which would make the review unhelpful).

Ideas for potential reviews may come from papers providing lists of key research questions to be answered [9] , but also from serendipitous moments during desultory reading and discussions. In addition to choosing your topic, you should also select a target audience. In many cases, the topic (e.g., web services in computational biology) will automatically define an audience (e.g., computational biologists), but that same topic may also be of interest to neighbouring fields (e.g., computer science, biology, etc.).

Rule 2: Search and Re-search the Literature

After having chosen your topic and audience, start by checking the literature and downloading relevant papers. Five pieces of advice here:

  • keep track of the search items you use (so that your search can be replicated [10] ),
  • keep a list of papers whose pdfs you cannot access immediately (so as to retrieve them later with alternative strategies),
  • use a paper management system (e.g., Mendeley, Papers, Qiqqa, Sente),
  • define early in the process some criteria for exclusion of irrelevant papers (these criteria can then be described in the review to help define its scope), and
  • do not just look for research papers in the area you wish to review, but also seek previous reviews.

The chances are high that someone will already have published a literature review ( Figure 1 ), if not exactly on the issue you are planning to tackle, at least on a related topic. If there are already a few or several reviews of the literature on your issue, my advice is not to give up, but to carry on with your own literature review,

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Object name is pcbi.1003149.g001.jpg

The bottom-right situation (many literature reviews but few research papers) is not just a theoretical situation; it applies, for example, to the study of the impacts of climate change on plant diseases, where there appear to be more literature reviews than research studies [33] .

  • discussing in your review the approaches, limitations, and conclusions of past reviews,
  • trying to find a new angle that has not been covered adequately in the previous reviews, and
  • incorporating new material that has inevitably accumulated since their appearance.

When searching the literature for pertinent papers and reviews, the usual rules apply:

  • be thorough,
  • use different keywords and database sources (e.g., DBLP, Google Scholar, ISI Proceedings, JSTOR Search, Medline, Scopus, Web of Science), and
  • look at who has cited past relevant papers and book chapters.

Rule 3: Take Notes While Reading

If you read the papers first, and only afterwards start writing the review, you will need a very good memory to remember who wrote what, and what your impressions and associations were while reading each single paper. My advice is, while reading, to start writing down interesting pieces of information, insights about how to organize the review, and thoughts on what to write. This way, by the time you have read the literature you selected, you will already have a rough draft of the review.

Of course, this draft will still need much rewriting, restructuring, and rethinking to obtain a text with a coherent argument [11] , but you will have avoided the danger posed by staring at a blank document. Be careful when taking notes to use quotation marks if you are provisionally copying verbatim from the literature. It is advisable then to reformulate such quotes with your own words in the final draft. It is important to be careful in noting the references already at this stage, so as to avoid misattributions. Using referencing software from the very beginning of your endeavour will save you time.

Rule 4: Choose the Type of Review You Wish to Write

After having taken notes while reading the literature, you will have a rough idea of the amount of material available for the review. This is probably a good time to decide whether to go for a mini- or a full review. Some journals are now favouring the publication of rather short reviews focusing on the last few years, with a limit on the number of words and citations. A mini-review is not necessarily a minor review: it may well attract more attention from busy readers, although it will inevitably simplify some issues and leave out some relevant material due to space limitations. A full review will have the advantage of more freedom to cover in detail the complexities of a particular scientific development, but may then be left in the pile of the very important papers “to be read” by readers with little time to spare for major monographs.

There is probably a continuum between mini- and full reviews. The same point applies to the dichotomy of descriptive vs. integrative reviews. While descriptive reviews focus on the methodology, findings, and interpretation of each reviewed study, integrative reviews attempt to find common ideas and concepts from the reviewed material [12] . A similar distinction exists between narrative and systematic reviews: while narrative reviews are qualitative, systematic reviews attempt to test a hypothesis based on the published evidence, which is gathered using a predefined protocol to reduce bias [13] , [14] . When systematic reviews analyse quantitative results in a quantitative way, they become meta-analyses. The choice between different review types will have to be made on a case-by-case basis, depending not just on the nature of the material found and the preferences of the target journal(s), but also on the time available to write the review and the number of coauthors [15] .

Rule 5: Keep the Review Focused, but Make It of Broad Interest

Whether your plan is to write a mini- or a full review, it is good advice to keep it focused 16 , 17 . Including material just for the sake of it can easily lead to reviews that are trying to do too many things at once. The need to keep a review focused can be problematic for interdisciplinary reviews, where the aim is to bridge the gap between fields [18] . If you are writing a review on, for example, how epidemiological approaches are used in modelling the spread of ideas, you may be inclined to include material from both parent fields, epidemiology and the study of cultural diffusion. This may be necessary to some extent, but in this case a focused review would only deal in detail with those studies at the interface between epidemiology and the spread of ideas.

While focus is an important feature of a successful review, this requirement has to be balanced with the need to make the review relevant to a broad audience. This square may be circled by discussing the wider implications of the reviewed topic for other disciplines.

Rule 6: Be Critical and Consistent

Reviewing the literature is not stamp collecting. A good review does not just summarize the literature, but discusses it critically, identifies methodological problems, and points out research gaps [19] . After having read a review of the literature, a reader should have a rough idea of:

  • the major achievements in the reviewed field,
  • the main areas of debate, and
  • the outstanding research questions.

It is challenging to achieve a successful review on all these fronts. A solution can be to involve a set of complementary coauthors: some people are excellent at mapping what has been achieved, some others are very good at identifying dark clouds on the horizon, and some have instead a knack at predicting where solutions are going to come from. If your journal club has exactly this sort of team, then you should definitely write a review of the literature! In addition to critical thinking, a literature review needs consistency, for example in the choice of passive vs. active voice and present vs. past tense.

Rule 7: Find a Logical Structure

Like a well-baked cake, a good review has a number of telling features: it is worth the reader's time, timely, systematic, well written, focused, and critical. It also needs a good structure. With reviews, the usual subdivision of research papers into introduction, methods, results, and discussion does not work or is rarely used. However, a general introduction of the context and, toward the end, a recapitulation of the main points covered and take-home messages make sense also in the case of reviews. For systematic reviews, there is a trend towards including information about how the literature was searched (database, keywords, time limits) [20] .

How can you organize the flow of the main body of the review so that the reader will be drawn into and guided through it? It is generally helpful to draw a conceptual scheme of the review, e.g., with mind-mapping techniques. Such diagrams can help recognize a logical way to order and link the various sections of a review [21] . This is the case not just at the writing stage, but also for readers if the diagram is included in the review as a figure. A careful selection of diagrams and figures relevant to the reviewed topic can be very helpful to structure the text too [22] .

Rule 8: Make Use of Feedback

Reviews of the literature are normally peer-reviewed in the same way as research papers, and rightly so [23] . As a rule, incorporating feedback from reviewers greatly helps improve a review draft. Having read the review with a fresh mind, reviewers may spot inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and ambiguities that had not been noticed by the writers due to rereading the typescript too many times. It is however advisable to reread the draft one more time before submission, as a last-minute correction of typos, leaps, and muddled sentences may enable the reviewers to focus on providing advice on the content rather than the form.

Feedback is vital to writing a good review, and should be sought from a variety of colleagues, so as to obtain a diversity of views on the draft. This may lead in some cases to conflicting views on the merits of the paper, and on how to improve it, but such a situation is better than the absence of feedback. A diversity of feedback perspectives on a literature review can help identify where the consensus view stands in the landscape of the current scientific understanding of an issue [24] .

Rule 9: Include Your Own Relevant Research, but Be Objective

In many cases, reviewers of the literature will have published studies relevant to the review they are writing. This could create a conflict of interest: how can reviewers report objectively on their own work [25] ? Some scientists may be overly enthusiastic about what they have published, and thus risk giving too much importance to their own findings in the review. However, bias could also occur in the other direction: some scientists may be unduly dismissive of their own achievements, so that they will tend to downplay their contribution (if any) to a field when reviewing it.

In general, a review of the literature should neither be a public relations brochure nor an exercise in competitive self-denial. If a reviewer is up to the job of producing a well-organized and methodical review, which flows well and provides a service to the readership, then it should be possible to be objective in reviewing one's own relevant findings. In reviews written by multiple authors, this may be achieved by assigning the review of the results of a coauthor to different coauthors.

Rule 10: Be Up-to-Date, but Do Not Forget Older Studies

Given the progressive acceleration in the publication of scientific papers, today's reviews of the literature need awareness not just of the overall direction and achievements of a field of inquiry, but also of the latest studies, so as not to become out-of-date before they have been published. Ideally, a literature review should not identify as a major research gap an issue that has just been addressed in a series of papers in press (the same applies, of course, to older, overlooked studies (“sleeping beauties” [26] )). This implies that literature reviewers would do well to keep an eye on electronic lists of papers in press, given that it can take months before these appear in scientific databases. Some reviews declare that they have scanned the literature up to a certain point in time, but given that peer review can be a rather lengthy process, a full search for newly appeared literature at the revision stage may be worthwhile. Assessing the contribution of papers that have just appeared is particularly challenging, because there is little perspective with which to gauge their significance and impact on further research and society.

Inevitably, new papers on the reviewed topic (including independently written literature reviews) will appear from all quarters after the review has been published, so that there may soon be the need for an updated review. But this is the nature of science [27] – [32] . I wish everybody good luck with writing a review of the literature.

Acknowledgments

Many thanks to M. Barbosa, K. Dehnen-Schmutz, T. Döring, D. Fontaneto, M. Garbelotto, O. Holdenrieder, M. Jeger, D. Lonsdale, A. MacLeod, P. Mills, M. Moslonka-Lefebvre, G. Stancanelli, P. Weisberg, and X. Xu for insights and discussions, and to P. Bourne, T. Matoni, and D. Smith for helpful comments on a previous draft.

Funding Statement

This work was funded by the French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB) through its Centre for Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity data (CESAB), as part of the NETSEED research project. The funders had no role in the preparation of the manuscript.

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Sample Lit Reviews from Communication Arts

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Stellar Literature Review (with Help from AI)

A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Stellar Literature Review (with Help from AI)

Table of contents

writing a lit review dissertation

Aren’t all of us mini versions of Sherlock Holmes when browsing data and archives for a research piece? As we go through the process, a comprehensive literature review is an essential toolkit to make your research shine.

A literature review consists of scholarly sources that validate the content. Its primary objective is to offer a concise summary of the research and to let you explore relevant theories and methodologies. Through this review, you can identify gaps in the existing research and bridge them with your contribution. 

The real challenge is how to write an excellent literature review. Let’s learn.

What is the purpose of a literature review?

A literature review is an introduction to your research. It helps you put your perspective to the table, along with a summary of the theme.

What does my literature review communicate?

  • Explanation of your research: how the information was collected, the research method, the justification of the chosen data sources, and an overview of the data analysis.
  • Framework: the journey from where the concept began and how it is presented.
  • Connects the previous and current research: 

It presents the broader scope of your research by connecting it to the existing data and debates and underlining how your content fits the prevailing studies. 

In an era of information overload, a literature review must be well-structured. 

Let’s learn all about the structure and style of a literature review that’ll help you strengthen your research.

Literature review– structure and style

Begin with a question and end it with the solution– the key to structuring a literature review. It resembles an essay’s format, with the first paragraph introducing the readers to the topic and the following explaining the research in-depth.

The conclusion reiterates the question and summarizes the overall insights of your research. There’s no word count restriction. —it depends on the type of research. For example, a dissertation demands lengthy work, whereas a short paper needs a few pages. 

In a literature review, maintaining high quality is vital, with a focus on academic writing style. Informal language should be avoided in favor of a more formal tone. 

The content avoids contractions, clearly differentiating between previous and current research through the use of past and present tense. Wordtune assists in establishing a formal tone, enhancing your work with pertinent suggestions. This AI-powered tool ensures your writing remains genuine, lucid, and engaging. 

writing a lit review dissertation

The option of refining the tonality offers multiple possibilities for rephrasing a single sentence. Thus, pick the best and keep writing.

Get Wordtune for free > Get Wordtune for free >

Your friendly step-by-step guide to writing a literary review (with help from AI)

Do you find it challenging to begin the literature review? Don’t worry! We’re here to get you started with our step-by-step guide.

1. Narrow down the research scope

Simply begin with the question: What am I answering through my research?

Whether it’s cooking or painting, the real challenge is the prep-up for it rather than performing the task. Once you’re done, it smoothly progresses. Similarly, for your literature review, prepare the groundwork by narrowing down the research scope.

Browse and scoop out relevant data inclining well with your research. While you can’t cover every aspect of your research, pick a topic that isn’t too narrow nor too broad to keep your literature review well-balanced. 

2. Hunt relevant literature

The next question: Does this data align with the issue I’m trying to address?

As you review sources of information, hunt out the best ones. Determine which findings help in offering a focused insight on your topic. The best way to pick primary sources is to opt for the ones featured in reliable publications. You can also choose secondary sources from other researchers from a reasonable time frame and a relevant background.

For example, if your research focuses on the Historical Architecture of 18th-century Europe, the first-hand accounts and surveys from the past would hold more weight than the new-age publications. 

3. Observe the themes and patterns in sources

Next comes: What is the core viewpoint in most of the research? Has it stayed constant over time, or have the authors differed in their points of view?

Ensure to scoop out the essential aspects of what each source represents. Once you have collected all this information, combine it and add your interpretations at the end. This process is known as synthesis.

Synthesize ideas by combining arguments, findings and forming your new version.

4. Generate an outline

The next question: How can I organize my review effectively? When navigating multiple data sources, you must have noticed a structure throughout the research. Develop an outline to make the process easier. An outline is a skeletal format of the review, helping you connect the information more strategically.

Here are the three different ways to organize an outline– Chronologically, Thematically, or by Methodology.You can develop the outline chronologically, starting from the older sources and leading to the latest pieces. Another way of organizing is to thematically divide the sections and discuss each under the designated sub-heading.

You can even organize it per the research methods used by the respective authors. The choice of outline depends on the subject. For example, in the case of a science paper, you can divide the information into sections like introduction, types of equipment, method, procedure, findings, etc. In contrast, it’s best to present it in divisions based on timelines like Ancient, Middle Ages, Industrial revolutions, etc., for a history paper.

If you’re confused about how to structure the data, work with Wordtune. 

writing a lit review dissertation

With the Generate with AI feature, you can mention your research topic and let Wordtune curate a comprehensive outline for your study.

writing a lit review dissertation

Having a precise prompt is the key to getting the best results.

5. Start filling!

Your next question must be: Am I ready to compose all the parts of the literature review?

Once you’re ready with the basic outline and relevant sources, start filling in the data. Go for an introductory paragraph first to ensure your readers understand the topic and how you will present it. Ensure you clearly explain the section in the first sentence.

However, if beginning from the first paragraph seems intimidating, don’t worry! Add the main body content to the sub-headings, then jump to the introduction. 

Add headings wherever possible to make it more straightforward and guide your readers logically through different sources. Lastly, conclude your study by presenting a key takeaway and summarizing your findings. To make your task easier, work with Wordtune. It helps align your content with the desired tone and refine the structure.

6. Give attention to detail and edit

The last question: Am I satisfied with the language and content written in the literature review? Is it easy to understand?

Once you’re done writing the first draft of a literature review, it’s time to refine it. Take time between writing and reading the draft to ensure a fresh perspective. It makes it easier to spot errors when you disconnect from the content for some time. Start by looking at the document from a bird's eye to ensure the formatting and structure are in order. 

After reviewing the content format, you must thoroughly check your work for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. One of the best approaches to editing and proofreading is to use Wordtune . It helps simplify complex sentences, enhance the content quality, and gain prowess over the tonality.

The dos and don’ts of writing a literature review

Writing a stellar literature review requires following a few dos and don'ts. Just like Sherlock Holmes would never overlook a hint, you must pay attention to every minute detail while writing a perfect narrative. To help you write, below are some dos and don'ts to remember.

The dos and don’ts of writing a literature review

Composing a literature review demands a holistic research summary, each part exhibiting your understanding and approach. As you write the content, make sure to cover the following points:

  • Keep a historical background of the field of research. Highlight the relevant relation between the old studies and your new research.
  • Discuss the core issue, question, and debate of your topic.
  • Theories lay the foundation of research. While you’re writing a literature review, make sure to add relevant concepts and ideas to support your statements.
  • Another critical thing to keep in mind is to define complex terminologies. It helps the readers understand the content with better clarity. 

Examples of comprehensive literature reviews

Aren’t good examples the best way to understand a subject? Let’s look into a few examples of literature reviews and analyze what makes them well-written.

1. Critical Thinking and Transferability: A Review of the Literature (Gwendolyn Reece)

An overview of scholarly sources is included in the literature review, which explores critical thinking in American education. The introduction stating the subject’s importance makes it a winning literature review. Following the introduction is a well-defined purpose that highlights the importance of research.

As one keeps reading, there is more clarity on the pros and cons of the research. By dividing information into parts with relevant subheadings, the author breaks a lengthy literature review into manageable chunks, defining the overall structure.

Along with other studies and presented perspectives, the author also expresses her opinion. It is presented with minimal usage of ‘I,’ keeping it person-poised yet general. Toward the conclusion, the author again offers an overview of the study. A summary is further strengthened by presenting suggestions for future research as well. 

2. The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review

This literature review is thematically organized on how technology affects language acquisition. The study begins with an introduction to the topic with well-cited sources. It presents the views of different studies to help readers get a sense of different perspectives. After giving these perspectives, the author offers a personalized opinion.

One of the critical aspects that makes this a good literature review is a dedicated paragraph for definitions. It helps readers proceed further with a clear understanding of the crucial terminologies. There’s a comparison of the modern and previous studies and approaches to give an overall picture of the research.

Once the main body is composed, the author integrates recommendations for action-based tips. Thus, the literature review isn’t just summarizing the sources but offering actions relevant to the topics. Finally, the concluding paragraph has a brief overview with key takeaways.

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Literature reviews

Writing a literature review.

The following guide has been created for you by the  Student Learning Advisory Service . For more detailed guidance and to speak to one of our advisers, please book an  appointment  or join one of our  workshops . Alternatively, have a look at our  SkillBuilder  skills videos.   

Preparing a literature review involves:

  • Searching for reliable, accurate and up-to-date material on a topic or subject
  • Reading and summarising the key points from this literature
  • Synthesising these key ideas, theories and concepts into a summary of what is known
  • Discussing and evaluating these ideas, theories and concepts
  • Identifying particular areas of debate or controversy
  • Preparing the ground for the application of these ideas to new research

Finding and choosing material

Ensure you are clear on what you are looking for. ask yourself:.

  • What is the specific question, topic or focus of my assignment?
  • What kind of material do I need (e.g. theory, policy, empirical data)?
  • What type of literature is available (e.g. journals, books, government documents)?

What kind of literature is particularly authoritative in this academic discipline (e.g. psychology, sociology, pharmacy)?

How much do you need?

This will depend on the length of the dissertation, the nature of the subject, and the level of study (undergraduate, Masters, PhD). As a very rough rule of thumb – you may choose 8-10 significant pieces (books and/or articles) for an 8,000 word dissertation, up to 20 major pieces of work for 12-15,000 words, and so on. Bear in mind that if your dissertation is based mainly around an interaction with existing scholarship you will need a longer literature review than if it is there as a prelude to new empirical research. Use your judgement or ask your supervisor for guidance.

Where to find suitable material

Your literature review should include a balance between substantial academic books, journal articles and other scholarly publications. All these sources should be as up-to-date as possible, with the exception of ‘classic texts’ such as major works written by leading scholars setting out formative ideas and theories central to your subject. There are several ways to locate suitable material:

Module bibliography: for undergraduate dissertations, look first at the bibliography provided with the module documentation. Choose one or two likely looking books or articles and then scan through the bibliographies provided by these authors. Skim read some of this material looking for clues: can you use these leads to identify key theories and authors or track down other appropriate material?

Library catalogue search engine: enter a few key words to capture a range of items, but avoid over-generalisations; if you type in something as broad as ‘social theory’ you are likely to get several thousand results. Be more specific: for example, ‘Heidegger, existentialism’. Ideally, you should narrow the field to obtain just a few dozen results. Skim through these quickly to identity texts which are most likely to contribute to your study.

Library bookshelves: browse the library shelves in the relevant subject area and examine the books that catch your eye. Check the contents and index pages, or skim through the introductions (or abstracts, in the case of journal articles) to see if they contain relevant material, and replace them if not. Don’t be afraid to ask one of the subject librarians for further help. Your supervisor may also be able to point you in the direction of some of the important literature , but remember this is your literature search, not theirs.

Online: for recent journal articles you will almost certainly need to use one of the online search engines. These can be found on the ‘Indexing Services’ button on the Templeman Library website. Kent students based at Medway still need to use the Templeman pages to access online journals, although you can get to these pages through the Drill Hall Library catalogue. Take a look as well at the Subject Guides on both the Templeman and DHL websites.

Check that you have made the right selection by asking:

  • Has my search been wide enough to ensure that I have identified all the relevant material, but narrow enough to exclude irrelevant material?
  • Is there a good enough sample of literature for the level (PhD, Masters, undergraduate) of my dissertation or thesis?
  • Have I considered as many alternative points of view as possible?
  • Will the reader find my literature review relevant and useful?

Assessing the literature

Read the material you have chosen carefully, considering the following:

  • The key point discussed by the author: is this clearly defined
  • What evidence has the author produced to support this central idea?
  • How convincing are the reasons given for the author’s point of view?
  • Could the evidence be interpreted in other ways?
  • What is the author's research method (e.g. qualitative, quantitative, experimental, etc.)?
  • What is the author's theoretical framework (e.g. psychological, developmental, feminist)?
  • What is the relationship assumed by the author between theory and practice?
  • Has the author critically evaluated the other literature in the field?
  • Does the author include literature opposing their point of view?
  • Is the research data based on a reliable method and accurate information?
  • Can you ‘deconstruct’ the argument – identify the gaps or jumps in the logic?
  • What are the strengths and limitations of this study?
  • What does this book or article contribute to the field or topic?
  • What does this book or article contribute to my own topic or thesis?

As you note down the key content of each book or journal article (together with the reference details of each source) record your responses to these questions. You will then be able to summarise each piece of material from two perspectives:     

Content: a brief description of the content of the book or article. Remember, an author will often make just one key point; so, what is the point they are making, and how does it relate to your own research project or assignment?

Critical analysis: an assessment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the evidence used, and the arguments presented. Has anything conveniently been left out or skated over? Is there a counter-argument, and has the author dealt with this adequately? Can the evidence presented be interpreted another way? Does the author demonstrate any obvious bias which could affect their reliability? Overall, based on the above analysis of the author’s work, how do you evaluate its contribution to the scholarly understanding and knowledge surrounding the topic?    

Structuring the literature review

In a PhD thesis, the literature review typically comprises one chapter (perhaps 8-10,000 words), for a Masters dissertation it may be around 2-3,000 words, and for an undergraduate dissertation it may be no more than 2,000 words. In each case the word count can vary depending on a range of factors and it is always best, if in doubt, to ask your supervisor.

The overall structure of the section or chapter should be like any other: it should have a beginning, middle and end. You will need to guide the reader through the literature review, outlining the strategy you have adopted for selecting the books or articles, presenting the topic theme for the review, then using most of the word limit to analyse the chosen books or articles thoroughly before pulling everything together briefly in the conclusion.

Some people prefer a less linear approach. Instead of simply working through a list of 8-20 items on your book review list, you might want to try a thematic approach, grouping key ideas, facts, concepts or approaches together and then bouncing the ideas off each other. This is a slightly more creative (and interesting) way of producing the review, but a little more risky as it is harder to establish coherence and logical sequencing.

Whichever approach you adopt, make sure everything flows smoothly – that one idea or book leads neatly to the next. Take your reader effortlessly through a sequence of thought that is clear, accurate, precise and interesting. 

Writing up your literature review

As with essays generally, only attempt to write up the literature review when you have completed all the reading and note-taking, and carefully planned its content and structure. Find an appropriate way of introducing the review, then guide the reader through the material clearly and directly, bearing in mind the following:

  • Be selective in the number of points you draw out from each piece of literature; remember that one of your objectives is to demonstrate that you can use your judgement to identify what is central and what is secondary.
  • Summarise and synthesise – use your own words to sum up what you think is important or controversial about the book or article.
  • Never claim more than the evidence will support. Too many dissertations and theses are let down by sweeping generalisations. Be tentative and careful in the way you interpret the evidence.
  • Keep your own voice – you are entitled to your own point of view provided it is based on evidence and clear argument.
  • At the same time, aim to project an objective and tentative tone by using the 3rd person, (for example, ‘this tends to suggest’, ‘it could be argued’ and so on).
  • Even with a literature review you should avoid using too many, or overlong, quotes. Summarise material in your own words as much as possible. Save the quotes for ‘punch-lines’ to drive a particular point home.
  • Revise, revise, revise: refine and edit the draft as much as you can. Check for fluency, structure, evidence, criticality and referencing, and don’t forget the basics of good grammar, punctuation and spelling.

writing a lit review dissertation

CS 224C Final Project Details

Stanford / spring 2024.

The final project is the main assignment of the course. Projects are required to be related in a reasonable way to at least one of the central topics of the course or related to other social science topics via the lens of computation. Final projects can be done in groups of 1–3 people; in our experience, groups of 3 lead to the best outcomes, so we encourage you to form a team of that size. Each project team will be assigned a mentor (a member of the teaching team), who will provide feedback on all their project-related work and generally be available.

Submission Format

The literature review, experiment protocol, and final paper must use the ACL submission format and abide by all the ACL requirements except where we have specified otherwise.

1. Literature Review: Due Apr 25th, 23:59pm PT

  • General problem/task definition : What are these papers trying to solve, and why?
  • Concise summaries of the articles : Do not simply copy the article text in full. We can read them ourselves. Put in your own words the major contributions of each article.
  • Compare and contrast : Point out the similarities and differences of the papers. Do they agree with each other? Are results seemingly in conflict? If the papers address different subtasks, how are they related? (If they are not related, then you may have made poor choices for a lit review...). This section is probably the most valuable for the final project, as it can become the basis for a literature review section. .
  • Future work : Make several suggestions for how the work can be extended. Are there open questions to answer? How do the papers relate to your final project idea?
  • References section : The entries should appear alphabetically and give at least full author name(s), year of publication, title, and outlet if applicable (e.g., journal name or proceedings name). Beyond that, we are not picky about the format. Electronic references are fine but need to include the above information in addition to the link.

2. Experiment Protocol (Due May 14, 23:59pm PT)

Required sections:

  • Research Questions : A statement of the project's core research questions.
  • Data : A description of the dataset(s) that the project will use for either the analyses or evaluations.
  • Methods or Approaches : A description of the methods or approaches that you'll be using, and a preliminary description of the approach that will be the focus of your investigation. At this early stage, some aspects of these approaches might not yet be worked out, so preliminary descriptions are fine.
  • General Reasoning or Discussion : An explanation of how the data and approach come together to help answer or evaluate your core research questions.
  • Summary of Progress : what you have been done, what you still need to do, and any obstacles or concerns that might prevent your project from coming to fruition.
  • References : In the same format as for literature review.

3. Final Paper (Due Friday Jun 7, 23:59pm PT)

The final paper should be 8 pages long, in ACL submission format and adhering to ACL guidelines concerning references, layout, supplementary materials, and so forth. We'll provide additional guidance on writing up final papers. The course readings include many exceptionally good examples of NLP+CSS papers in this format.

There are two required paper sections that are special to our course:

Ethical Consideration : Please write an explicit discussion section of any potential ethical issues, such as around the ethical implication of the project, the use of the data, and potential applications of your work. Here are some recommendations from ACL's ethics guideline : "Ethical questions may arise when working with a variety of types of computational work with language, including (but not limited to) the collection and release of data, inference of information or judgments about individuals, real-world impact of the deployment of language technologies, and environmental consequences of large-scale computation."

  • Authorship statement : At the end of your paper (after the 'Acknowledgments' section in the template), please include a brief authorship statement, explaining how the individual authors contributed to the project. You are free to include whatever information you deem important to convey. For guidance, see the second page, right column, of this guidance for PNAS authors (p. 12). We are requiring this largely because we think it is a good policy in general. This statement is required even for singly-authored papers, because we want to know whether your project is a collaboration with people outside of the class. Only in extreme cases, and after discussion with the team, would we consider giving separate grades to team members based on this statement.
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Book Review: Short story anthology ‘The Black Girl Survives in This One’ challenges the horror canon

This cover image released by Flatiron shows "The Black Girl Survives in This One" horror stories edited by Desiree S. Evans and Saraciea J. Fennell. (Flatiron via AP)

This cover image released by Flatiron shows “The Black Girl Survives in This One” horror stories edited by Desiree S. Evans and Saraciea J. Fennell. (Flatiron via AP)

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writing a lit review dissertation

Ahh, the Final Girl — a point of pride, a point of contention. Too often, the white, virginal, Western ideal. But not this time.

“The Black Girl Survives in This One,” a short story anthology edited by Saraciea J. Fennell and Desiree S. Evans, is changing the literary horror canon. As self-proclaimed fans of “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and “Goosebumps,” the editors have upped the ante with a new collection spotlighting Black women and girls, defying the old tropes that would box Black people in as support characters or victims.

The 15 stories are introduced with an excellent forward by Tananarive Due laying out the groundwork with a brief history of Black women in horror films and literature, and of her own experiences. She argues with an infallible persuasiveness that survival is the thread that connects Black women and the genre that has largely shunned them for so long.

These are the kind of stories that stick with you long after you’ve read them.

“Queeniums for Greenium!” by Brittney Morris features a cult-ish smoothie MLM with a deadly level of blind faith that had my heart pounding and my eyes watering with laughter at intervals. And “The Skittering Thing” by Monica Brashears captures the sheer panic of being hunted in the dark, with some quirky twists.

This image released by William Morrow shows "City in Ruins" by Don Winslow. (William Morrow via AP)

Many of the stories are set in the most terrifying real-life place there is: high school. As such, there are teen crushes and romance aplenty, as well as timely slang that’s probably already outdated.

Honestly, this was one of the best parts: seeing 15 different authors’ takes on a late-teens Black girl. How does she wear her hair, who are her friends, is she religious, where does she live, does she like boys or girls or no one at all? Is she a bratty teen or a goody-two-shoes or a bookworm or just doing her best to get through it? Each protagonist is totally unique and the overall cast of both characters and writers diverse.

And even though we know the Black girl survives, the end is still a shock, because the real question is how.

The anthology has something for everyone, from a classic zombie horror in “Cemetery Dance Party” by Saraciea J. Fennell to a spooky twist on Afrofuturism in “Welcome Back to The Cosmos” by Kortney Nash. Two of the stories have major “Get Out” vibes that fans of Jordan Peele will appreciate (“Black Girl Nature Group” by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite and “Foxhunt” by Charlotte Nicole Davies). If your flavor is throwbacks and cryptids, Justina Ireland’s “Black Pride” has you covered. Or if you like slow-burn psychological thrillers and smart protagonists, “TMI” by Zakiya Delila Harris.

Overall, it’s a bit long and the anthology could stand to drop a couple of the weaker stories. But it’s well worth adding to any scary book collection, and horror fans are sure to find some new favorites.

AP book reviews: https://apnews.com/hub/book-reviews

DONNA EDWARDS

Grad Coach

🎙️ PODCAST: Ace The Literature Review

4 Time-Saving Tips To Fast-Track Your Literature Review

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) and Ethar Al-Saraf (Phd) | Feb 2024

Writing a literature review can be a daunting task for many students, but fear not! In this episode of the Grad Coach Podcast, we unveil four “cheat codes” that will help you fast-track your literature review process and ensure you stay on the right track.

Episode Summary

————————————-

#1: Use Your Research Aims and Questions To Guide Your Search

When embarking on your literature search, use your research aims and questions as a compass to guide you. By inputting the keywords from your research questions into databases like Google Scholar, JSTOR, or your university’s academic repository, you can refine your search results to align closely with your research goals. This strategic approach not only saves time but also ensures that the literature you find is directly relevant to your study.

#2: Plan Out Your Chapter Structure in Advance

Before diving into writing your literature review, sketch out a loose structure outlining the introduction, main topics, and conclusion. By aligning this structure with your research questions, you can streamline your writing process and maintain focus throughout. Having a roadmap in place helps prevent digressions and ensures a cohesive flow in your review.

#3: Aim for Analytical Writing over Descriptive Writing

Distinguish between descriptive writing, which presents facts, and analytical writing, which delves into the significance and implications of these facts. When analysing sources, ask yourself the “so what” question to uncover the deeper meaning behind the information. By critically evaluating the data in relation to your research aims, you can elevate your literature review to a more insightful and impactful level.

#4: Embrace “Quote Sandwiches”

When incorporating quotes from sources, remember to use quote sandwiches. Introduce the quote with contextual information, insert the quote itself, and follow up with an explanatory sentence that links back to your research. This method not only enhances the readability of your writing but also demonstrates a deeper understanding of the cited material.

If you found these tips valuable, don’t forget to check out our free literature review template .

Need a helping hand?

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JEMS: EMS, Emergency Medical Services - Training, Paramedic, EMT News

International Prehospital Medicine Institute Literature Review, April 2024

This literature review keeps you up to date with current EMS publications and studies.

International Prehospital Medicine Institute Literature Review, April 2024

1. Completeness of Pediatric Versus Adult Patient Assessment Documentation in the National Emergency Medical Services Information System . Cercone A, Ramgopal S, Martin-Gill C. Prehosp Emerg Care, 2024;28:243-252.

2. National analysis of motorcycle associated injuries and fatalities: wearing helmets saves lives. RosanderA, Breeding T, Ngatuvai M, et al. Am J Emerg Med 2023 ;69:108-113.

3. Accuracy of the American College of Surgeons Minimum Criteria for Full Trauma Team Activation for Children . Lerner EB, Drendel AL, Badawy M, et al. Ped Emerg Care 2024;40:187-190.

4. Video Laryngoscopy versus Direct Laryngoscopy for Orotracheal Intubation in the Out-of-Hospital Environment: A Systematic Review and MetaAnalysis . Kent ME, Sciavolino BM, Blickley ZJ, Pasichow SH. Prehosp Emerg Care, 2024;28:221-230.

International Prehospital Medicine Institute Literature Review, March 2024

Pediatric prehospital encounters are relatively uncommon, making up only 5.7% to 7.4% of EMS responses. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Emergency Nurses Association, the National Association of EMS Physicians and the National Association of EMT’s have emphasized preparing EMS responders to improve their pediatric competence. These initiatives call for comprehensive patient assessments that require complete and accurate vital signs for all patients evaluated in the out of hospital setting.

The authors conducted a retrospective review of the 2019 NEMSIS dataset involving over 10,000 EMS agencies in 47 states. They included all encounters, both BLS and ALS, which were transported to the hospital. Patients with no age listed, cardiac arrests, non-transports or cancellations, scene assists, interfacility transfers and specialty transports were excluded from their review.

They had identified 34,203,087 EMS activations and from these 18,918,914 were included in their study. Pediatric patients (age <18 years) accounted for 1,212,843 (6.4%) cases). Male patients made up 47.3% of the calls. The proportion of ALS vs BLS for the adult and pediatric populations were similar (adults 84.2% vs 83.6% pediatrics).

Documentation of vital signs increased as the patient population increased in age. Systolic blood pressures were documented in 32.2% of neonates and in 95.5% of the adults. The lowest incidence of complete vital signs was in children < 1 month old (30.8%). Documentation of complete vital signs increased to 89.2% for adolescents and to 91.8% for adults.

The authors also found regional differences with the highest proportion of complete vital signs occurring in the south and lower proportions of complete vital signs documented in the Midwest in the <12 years old population. In addition, higher proportions of complete vital signs were documented in children in all age groups by for profit and non-hospital based ambulance services. The lowest proportion of vital signs documented were in children <12 years old managed by tribal ambulance services.

Other findings included a slight increase in reporting of respiratory rates in all age categories when the patients had respiratory complaints. Pulse oximetry readings were less prevalent in pediatric patients versus adult patients with respiratory complaints. (73.9% vs 95.1%).

In patients with cardiac complaints, 80.9% of the adult patients were placed on cardiac monitors while only 24.4% of the children less than 1 year old had monitors.

Limitations of this study include the fact that the NEMSIS does not include all EMS encounters in the United States. It does, however, report on > 1 million pediatric encounters every year for over 10,000 EMS agencies so this likely provides a generalized view of the state of pediatric assessments. Some of the variables used for adjustment in the multivariable models were subject to higher rates of missing data. They did not review the narrative reports which could have included some of the missing data.

Documentation of complete vital signs in pediatric patients occurs less frequently than in adult patients in the prehospital setting. This finding persists across locations and response levels. This result is particularly concerning and indicates the need for increased education of prehospital providers regarding complete pediatric assessment.

As the number of registered motorcycles has doubled over the last 20 years, the incidence of motorcycle fatalities has also increased. Unlike automobile occupants, motorcyclists often have very limited protection when involved in a collision. Despite data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that shows that use of helmets is associated with an estimate 40% reduction in fatalities amongst riders, motorcyclists claim laws that mandate the use of helmets impinge on their personal freedom. As a result, some states have either repealed mandatory helmet laws or required helmet use by younger riders only. Some data indicated that almost one-third of motorcyclists infrequently or never use a helmet.

A team of researchers assembled by traumatologists at the Orlando Regional Medical Center sought to provide a “comprehensive analysis of current motorcycle injuries, injury types, and the impact of helmet use.” They devised a retrospective cohort study to query the American College of Surgeons Trauma Quality Improvement Program (TQIP)’s participant use file from 2017 – 2020 to abstract data on motorcycle associated injuries and fatalities in relation to helmet use. De-identified data for motorcyclists age 18 or older were included if they suffered blunt or penetrating injury or fatality and had an Injury Severity Score (ISS) of 15 or greater. Cases were excluded if the patient was dead on arrival, had an ISS of 14 or less or lacked key information (age, race, gender or helmet status). The primary outcome was the adjusted motorcycle related in-hospital mortality rate and the secondary outcome with the ICU-length of stay (LOS) in days. Standard statistical analysis was performed and a p value <0.05 was considered statistically significant.

During the study period, more than 43,000 motorcyclists met inclusion criteria. Of this group, only 56.4% (24,389) were using helmets while 43.6% were not. Helmet users were predominantly male (90.4%), white (77.8%) and between the ages of 18 – 34 (37.9%), while non helmet users were similarly male (89.0%), white (80.9%) and between the ages of 18-34 (31.2%). Helmeted motorcyclists had a significantly lower rate of skull fractures compared to non-users (0.5% vs 2.1%, p <0.001), but suffered a greater number of bodily injuries including chest trauma, pelvic fractures and greater than two extremity fractures. Crushed extremities, extremity amputation and paralysis were also significantly higher in the helmeted group. Non-helmet users were significantly more likely (p<0.001) to present with Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of 13 or less (14.9%) than helmeted riders (12.3%). Helmeted motorcyclists had a 35% reduction in the relative risk of dying in the hospital from motorcycle-related injuries compared to non-users (aOR 0.65, 95% CI [0.59-0.70]. Lastly, helmet use was associated with a decreased ICU-LOS compared to non-helmet users.

The authors note that their study showed that helmeted riders had significantly decreased odds of dying in the hospital from their injuries and a significantly decreased ICU-LOS compared to non-helmet motorcyclists. The investigators found that those wearing helmets had significantly higher incidence of bodily injury compared to helmet non-users, a finding that has been previously documented. Other researchers had proposed that, because the helmet protects the head, the body can withstand higher forces in collisions. That is, non-helmeted riders with more severe head trauma would succumb more quickly from their brain injury (at the scene or during transport) and not survive long enough for their bodily injury to be identified. Another rational explanation may be that those motorcyclists who wear helmets may feel overconfident in their protection and may therefore operate their motorcycle in a manner that puts them at greater risk for bodily injury (increased speed or recklessness).

One limitation of the study noted by the authors was that the database utilized lacked details regarding the type of motorcycle helmet used (half helmet/skull cap vs open face vs full face), so no comparative analysis could be performed. In addition, the exclusion of those motorcyclists that were declared dead at the scene may have underestimated the effect of wearing a helmet.

The authors fell short of their proposed goal of producing a comprehensive analysis of motorcycle injuries and injury types related to helmet use. While they briefly reported on the various injuries, there was little discussion. These investigators really didn’t present any substantially new findings, however they did confirm previous studies which have documented that helmet use is associated with saving the lives of motorcyclists.

In many EMS systems, providers are required to notify receiving facilities, prior to arrival, of their patient status and chief complaint. Facilities use this information to plan Emergency Department bed assignments and if any specialty resources are required to optimally care for the patient. Those specialty resources include resuscitation teams, sepsis protocols and trauma teams to name a few.

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) recommends that Adult and Pediatric Trauma Centers have prearrival activation criteria for trauma patients arriving via EMS. Current ACS recommendations for prearrival notifications resulting in a trauma team response for pediatric trauma patients include age specific hypotension, gunshot wounds, a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score less than 9, and or an emergent airway. The ACS further recommends that institutions expand prearrival trauma team activation criteria based on several anatomical indicators and local experience with patient populations.

The authors of this paper attempted to evaluate the efficacy of ACS pediatric trauma team activation criteria as well as the expanded local criteria of three Trauma Centers located within three separate cities in the United States. This was a three year, prospective, institution review board consent waived, observational study. The three institutions are located within EMS regions that have protocols in place that direct potentially seriously injured children to ACS credentialed, pediatric trauma centers with notification of their impending arrival. Following arrival and handoff of an injured pediatric patient, a trained interviewer asked the EMS provider responsible for the child’s care if they would consent to take a brief survey on the child’s condition on scene and injuries. Pediatrics were defined as patient’s fifteen years of age or less. If the EMS provider consented to being interviewed, the child’s care and disposition were followed from Emergency Department admission until discharge from the hospital. Interviewers were available between 8 and 16 hours a day.

The investigators conducted 9,483 EMS interviews with providers from both ground and aeromedical EMS programs. All patients came directly from the scene and interfacility transfers were excluded from the study. The average age of patients enrolled into the study was 7.7 years of age. Two percent of the patients (202) required trauma team activations. This cohort of patients often required advanced airways with 2 hours of arrival or surgery within 4 hours. A total of 299 children met ACS minimal criteria for a prearrival trauma team activation. The authors found that this minimum criterion over-triaged 2% of the pediatric patients and under-triaged 44% that should have been met by a trauma team. GCS scores produced the least number of false positives and age specific hypotension produced the greatest number of false positives. Overall, the authors discovered a higher rate of under-triage versus over-triage regardless of the criterion used (ACS minimum criteria, expanded criteria or local criteria). The authors noted that there is no recommended rate of over-triage versus under-triage for pediatric trauma team activations. There have been suggested rates of 5% under-triage and 25% to 50% over-triage being acceptable.

The study group identified many limitations. The interviews with EMS providers post arrival at the hospital were voluntary. Not all providers consented to the interviews and potentially sicker or less sick patients were lost for participation in the study. Interviewers were not available 24/7 resulting in a loss of some study subjects. The authors did not account for levels of trauma team activations at facilities or modification of responses once the patient arrived at the Emergency Department.

The authors concluded that there is a high rate of under-triaged pediatric patients arriving at trauma centers. Local criteria for trauma team activations may decrease the rate of under-triage but will potentially increase the rate of false positives based on unique criteria within the trauma activation protocol.

Appropriate patients benefit from trauma teams awaiting their arrival at the Emergency Department. Overuse of trauma team activations may decrease the team’s response abilities and accessibility to patients within the hospital that would benefit from their expertise. EMS providers must be familiar with their state and local Trauma Point of Entry Protocols and receiving trauma centers’ trauma team activation criteria. The goal should be to activate trauma teams accurately and responsibly.

Effective airway management is a crucial intervention across all healthcare settings, but the out-of-hospital environment, in particular, presents unique challenges. First-pass success, indicating successful intubation on the initial attempt, is a key indicator of effective airway management due to its association with reduced complications such as hypoxia and cardiac arrest. However, success rates vary among providers and settings. Video laryngoscopy (VL) has emerged as a method that may improve first-pass success, particularly in critical scenarios.

The authors performed a systematic review and metaanalysis of the literature. They included studies published in English that were conducted in the out-of-hospital setting and involved live human subjects aged 16 or older. These studies had direct laryngoscopy (DL) as the primary device for the control group, video laryngoscopy (VL) as the primary device for the experimental group, and reported either first-pass success or overall intubation success. The authors’ primary outcome was determining the odds of achieving first-pass success using video laryngoscopy (VL) versus direct laryngoscopy (DL). The authors conducted subgroup analyses to assess how clinician type and the type of VL blade impacted the differences in first-pass success between VL and DL. A total of twenty-five (25) studies were included, yielding 35,489 intubations across all subgroups involving critical care paramedics (CCP) and nurses (CCRN), paramedics, and physicians.

They found that overall success rate for CCPs and CCRNS was the same for VL and DL. In the physician subgroup, VL was favored in 2/6 studies. In the paramedic subgroup, 9/10 studies favored VL. Intubation times were generally shorter with DL compared to VL.

The study has several limitations as noted by the authors. Substantial heterogeneity in the studies was observed across all outcomes and subgroups, potentially influenced by inconsistencies in defining overall intubation success among studies. While first-pass success is a common metric, its significance may vary depending on patient outcomes beyond mere intubation success. Sensitivity analyses excluding observational studies had minimal impact on results, suggesting consistency across methodologies. The performance of video laryngoscopy (VL) and direct laryngoscopy (DL) might differ in various clinical scenarios, such as trauma or airway obstruction, but data were insufficient to detail results by scenario. Moreover, variations in clinician training and experience, especially among critical care paramedics/nurses, may have affected outcomes. Inadequate reporting of bougie usage and differences in VL device design further complicate interpretation. Clarification of clinician training, standardization of terminology, and more detailed reporting in future studies are crucial for addressing these limitations and improving the reliability of meta-analytical findings in airway management research.

Given that airway management significantly impacts outcome for critically ill and injured patients, it is imperative to explore all avenues for enhancing first-pass intubation success rates. While the optimal approach to prehospital airway management remains uncertain, the introduction of video laryngoscopy (VL) offers an additional option. It is worth noting that a study highlighted previously in our literature reviews found that 76% of surveyed paramedics had not performed an intubation in the past year. Furthermore, research suggests that mastering DL and intubation requires a substantial number of procedures, ranging from 36 to over 200, which have become increasingly difficult for paramedic students to obtain. There are no data indicating the number of VL procedures needed to become proficient. Additionally, there is a need for further investigation into the efficacy of using VL as the primary method of visualization versus its role as a backup device.

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  1. How to write Literature Review for PH.D. Thesis and Research Papers

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  3. Ph.D. Chapter two Literature Review for a Thesis| HOW TO WRITE CHAPTE TWO for Ph.D

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  5. WRITING CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW

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  1. How to Write a Literature Review

    Examples of literature reviews. Step 1 - Search for relevant literature. Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources. Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps. Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure. Step 5 - Write your literature review.

  2. How To Write A Literature Review (+ Free Template)

    Step 1: Find the relevant literature. Naturally, the first step in the literature review journey is to hunt down the existing research that's relevant to your topic. While you probably already have a decent base of this from your research proposal, you need to expand on this substantially in the dissertation or thesis itself.. Essentially, you need to be looking for any existing literature ...

  3. How To Structure A Literature Review (Free Template)

    How To Structure Your Literature Review. Like any other chapter in your thesis or dissertation, your literature review needs to have a clear, logical structure. At a minimum, it should have three essential components - an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Let's take a closer look at each of these. 1: The Introduction Section

  4. What is a Literature Review?

    A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research. There are five key steps to writing a literature review: Search for relevant literature. Evaluate sources. Identify themes, debates and gaps.

  5. Writing a Literature Review

    Writing a Literature Review. A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels ...

  6. What Is A Literature Review (In A Dissertation Or Thesis)

    The word "literature review" can refer to two related things that are part of the broader literature review process. The first is the task of reviewing the literature - i.e. sourcing and reading through the existing research relating to your research topic. The second is the actual chapter that you write up in your dissertation, thesis or ...

  7. PDF A Guide to Writing the Dissertation Literature Review

    Gall, Borg, and Gall (1996) estimate that completion of an acceptable dissertation literature review will take between three and six months of effort. The purpose of this guide is to collect and summarize the most relevant information on how to write a dissertation literature review.

  8. PDF Writing an Effective Literature Review

    usually be some element of literature review in the introduction. And if you have to write a grant application, you will be expected to review the work that has already been done in your area. However, just because we all have to do this a lot, doesn't make the task any easier, and indeed for many, writing a literature review is one of

  9. How to write a literature review in 6 steps

    3. Evaluate and select literature. 4. Analyze the literature. 5. Plan the structure of your literature review. 6. Write your literature review. Other resources to help you write a successful literature review.

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    The best proposals are timely and clearly explain why readers should pay attention to the proposed topic. It is not enough for a review to be a summary of the latest growth in the literature: the ...

  11. The Literature Review

    The literature review of a dissertation gives a clear, critical overview of a specific area of research. Our main Writing the Dissertation - Overview and Planning guide explains how you can refine your dissertation topic and begin your initial research; the next tab of this guide, 'Process', expands on those ideas. In summary, the process of ...

  12. PDF The Thesis Writing Process and Literature Review

    Why am I writing a literature review anyway? Three Key Reasons (and One to Avoid) ! DO ! (1) To identify a puzzle or problem in the existing academic debates. ! (2) To motivate a research question that helps to address this puzzle or problem. ! (3) To ultimately show where you make a research contribution (i.e., to show why we should care about your new findings and

  13. How to Write a Literature Review for a Dissertation: 12 Steps

    Tie the lit review to the body of your dissertation in the introduction. The introduction of your review needs to do 3 things. It must (1) provide an overview of the topic you're studying and clarify its importance. The intro should also (2) identify important recent research and any recent controversies in the field.

  14. PDF LITERATURE REVIEWS

    2. MOTIVATE YOUR RESEARCH in addition to providing useful information about your topic, your literature review must tell a story about how your project relates to existing literature. popular literature review narratives include: ¡ plugging a gap / filling a hole within an incomplete literature ¡ building a bridge between two "siloed" literatures, putting literatures "in conversation"

  15. How to Write a Literature Review for a Dissertation

    Preparing to Write the Literature Review for your Dissertation. 1. Search Using Key Terms. Most people start their lit review searching appropriate databases using key terms. For example, if you're researching the impact of social media on adult learning, some key terms you would use at the start of your search would be adult learning ...

  16. Steps in Conducting a Literature Review

    A literature review is an integrated analysis-- not just a summary-- of scholarly writings and other relevant evidence related directly to your research question.That is, it represents a synthesis of the evidence that provides background information on your topic and shows a association between the evidence and your research question.

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    Writing a literature review requires a range of skills to gather, sort, evaluate and summarise peer-reviewed published data into a relevant and informative unbiased narrative. Digital access to research papers, academic texts, review articles, reference databases and public data sets are all sources of information that are available to enrich ...

  18. Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review

    Literature reviews are in great demand in most scientific fields. Their need stems from the ever-increasing output of scientific publications .For example, compared to 1991, in 2008 three, eight, and forty times more papers were indexed in Web of Science on malaria, obesity, and biodiversity, respectively .Given such mountains of papers, scientists cannot be expected to examine in detail every ...

  19. Literature Review: Conducting & Writing

    Steps for Conducting a Lit Review; Finding "The Literature" Organizing/Writing; APA Style This link opens in a new window; Chicago: Notes Bibliography This link opens in a new window; MLA Style This link opens in a new window; Sample Literature Reviews. Sample Lit Reviews from Communication Arts; Have an exemplary literature review? Get Help!

  20. Writing a Literature Review

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    Similarly, for your literature review, prepare the groundwork by narrowing down the research scope. Browse and scoop out relevant data inclining well with your research. While you can't cover every aspect of your research, pick a topic that isn't too narrow nor too broad to keep your literature review well-balanced. 2.

  22. Writing a Literature Review

    In a PhD thesis, the literature review typically comprises one chapter (perhaps 8-10,000 words), for a Masters dissertation it may be around 2-3,000 words, and for an undergraduate dissertation it may be no more than 2,000 words. In each case the word count can vary depending on a range of factors and it is always best, if in doubt, to ask your ...

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    4. Consider the organisation of your work. In a dissertation literature review, organising your work goes beyond having an introduction, body and conclusion. You'll be reviewing a number of texts, so you'll also have to think clearly about how to organise themes, topics and your argument in general.

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    The present PRISMA-guided article systematically reviews the current state of research on the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). A systematic literature search was conducted in Pubmed, SCOPUS, and Web of Science (last search: March 2022) selecting all studies that conducted quantitative scientific research on the ASMR phenomenon. Fifty-four studies focusing on ASMR were retrieved ...

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  26. Stanford CS 224C

    1. Literature Review: Due Apr 25th, 23:59pm PT. This is a short paper (4~5 pages, excluding references) summarizing and synthesizing several papers in the area of your final project. As noted above, 8 pages is the maximum allowed length. Groups of one should review 5 papers, groups of two should review 7 papers, and groups of three should review 9.

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  28. Writing A Research Proposal: 4 Time-Saving Tips

    Writing a literature review can be a daunting task for many students, but fear not! In this episode of the Grad Coach Podcast, we unveil four "cheat codes" that will help you fast-track your literature review process and ensure you stay on the right track. Episode Summary ————————————-

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    Literature Review / Research Gap 2024. By Shing Fu Kuo. Synthesizes literature and Provides research gaps [1] start uploading [2] say "done" (10 PDFs a time) Sign up to chat.

  30. International Prehospital Medicine Institute Literature Review ...

    Vol. 6.8. 1. Completeness of Pediatric Versus Adult Patient Assessment Documentation in the National Emergency Medical Services Information System.Cercone A, Ramgopal S, Martin-Gill C. Prehosp ...