As every student knows, writing academic essays and research papers is an integrated part of the educational program. You create a thesis, support it using valid sources, and formulate systematic ideas to surround it. Nevertheless , not all students know that they are going to also have to face another type of paper known as a Literature Review in academy.

Literature Review Definition

As this is a less common academic writing type, students usually ask: “What is a literature review? ” According to the definition, a literature review is really a body of work that explores various publications inside a specific subject area, and sometimes inside a set timeframe.

This kind of writing requires you to see and analyze various sources that relate solely to the main subject and present each unique comprehension of the publications. Lastly, a literature review should combine a summary with a synthesis of the documents it uses. A synopsis is a brief overview of the important information in the publication; a synthesis is a re-organization of the data that gives the writing a brand new and unique meaning.

On average, a literature review is just a part of a bigger paper, such as for instance a thesis or dissertation. Nevertheless , you may also be provided with it in the shape of a stand-alone assignment.

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The Purpose

The primary purpose of a literature review is to summarize and synthesize the some ideas that were developed by previous authors, without implementing personal opinions or other additional information.

But a literature review's objective is not just to list out summaries of sources; rather, it is to note a central trend or principle seen within all the publications. As being a research paper features a thesis that guides it on rails, a literature review features a main organizing principle (MOP). The goal of this kind of academic writing is to identify the MOP and show how it exists in most of your supporting documents.

How come a literature review essential? The value of such work is explained by the next goals it pursues:

  • Highlights the significance of the main topic within a specific subject area.
  • Demonstrates and explains the background of research for a particular subject material.
  • Helps you to find out the important thing themes, maxims, concepts, and researchers that you can get within a topic.
  • Really helps to reveal relationships between existing ideas/studies on a topic.
  • Reveals the major points of controversy and gaps inside a topic.
  • Suggests questions to operate a vehicle further research based on previous studies.

Below are a few example topics to give you a notion of exactly what a literature review can be about:

  • Exploring racism in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”
  • Isolationism in “The Catcher in the Rye”, “Frankenstein”, and “1984
  • Understanding Moral Issues in “Crime and Punishment”, “The Vivid red Letter”, and “The Lifeboat”
  • Corruption of Power in “Macbeth”, “All the King's Men”, and “Animal Farm”
  • Emotional and Physical survival in “Lord of the Flies”, “Hatchet”, and “Congo”

How Long Is a Literature Review?

When facing the necessity to write a literature review, students have a tendency to wonder “how long should a literature review be? ” In some instances, the length of your paper’s human body may be dependant on your instructor. Be sure to browse the guidelines vigilantly to learn what's expected from you.

In the event that you haven’t been provided with any specific tips, it is recommended to help keep your literature review around 15-30% of one's entire paper. To give you a rough idea, that is about 2-3 pages for a 15-page paper. In case you are writing a literature review as a stand-alone assignment, its length must certanly be specified in the directions provided.

Literature Review Format: APA, MLA, and Chicago

The essay format you use should adhere to could be the citation style preferred by your instructor. Seek clarification from your instructor for several other components aswell to establish a desired literature review format:

  1. Exactly how many sources in case you review and what kind of sources should they be (published materials, journal articles, or websites)?
  2. What format should you use to cite the sources?
  3. How long should the review be?
  4. When your review contain a summary, synthesis, or a personal critique?
  5. When your review include subheadings or background information for your sources?

If you want to format your paper in APA style, then follow these rules:

  • Use 1-inch page margins.
  • Unless provided with other instructions, use double-spacing through the whole text.
  • Be sure you choose a readable font. The most well-liked font for APA papers is Times New Roman set to 12-point size.
  • Add a header near the top of every page (in capital letters). The page header must be a shortened version of your essay title and limited to 50 characters, including spacing and punctuation.
  • Put page numbers in the top of right corner of every page.
  • When shaping your literature review outline in APA, don’t forget to incorporate a title page. These pages should include the paper's name, the author’s name, and the institutional affiliation. Your title must certanly be typed with upper and lowercase letters and be centered in the top of part of the page; use a maximum of 12 words and avoid using abbreviations and any useless words.

For MLA style text, apply the following guidelines:

  • Use 1-inch page margins.
  • Double your spacing across the entire paper.
  • Set ½ inch indents for each new paragraph.
  • Preferred font for MLA papers is Times New Roman set to 12-point size.
  • Incorporate a header near the top of your paper's first page, or on the title page (note that MLA style will not require you to have a title page, nevertheless, you are permitted to decide to include one). A header in this format should include your full name; the name of one's instructor; the name of the class, course, or section number; and the due date of the assignment.
  • Incorporate a running head in the most notable right corner of each page in your paper. Stick it one inch from the page’s right margin and half an inch from the top margin. Only include your last name and the page number separated by a space in the running head. Do not put the abbreviation p. before page numbers.

Finally, if you are needed to write a literature review in Chicago style, here are the key rules to follow:

  • Set page margins to no less than 1 inch.
  • Use double spacing across the entire text, except when it comes to dining table titles, figure captions, notes, blockquotes, and entries within the bibliography or References.
  • Do not put spaces between paragraphs.
  • Be sure you choose a clear and easily-readable font. The most well-liked fonts for Chicago papers are Times New Roman and Courier, set to no less than 10-point size, but preferably to 12-point size.
  • A cover (title) page includes your complete name, class information, and the date. Center the cover page and place it 1 / 3rd below the utmost effective of the page.
  • Place page numbers in top of the right corner of each page, including the cover page.

Structure of a Literature Review

Just how to structure a literature review: Like a number of other types of academic writing, a literature review follows a typical intro-body-conclusion style with 5 paragraphs overall. Now, let’s look at each component of the fundamental literature review structure in more detail:


You need to direct your reader(s) towards the MOP (main organizing principle). Which means that your information must start from a wide perspective and gradually narrow down until it reaches your center point.

Start with presenting your overall concept (Corruption, for example). After the initial presentation, narrow your introduction’s focus towards the MOP by mentioning the criteria you used to select the literature sources you have chosen (Macbeth, All the King's Men and Animal Farm). Finally, the introduction will end with the presentation of your MOP that should directly link it to all three of the sources of literature.

Body paragraphs

Broadly speaking, each human body paragraph will focus on a particular source of literature laid out in the essay’s introduction. As each source has a unique frame of reference for the MOP, it is crucial to structure the review in the most logically consistent way possible. Which means the writing should either be structured chronologically, thematically, or methodologically.


Deteriorating your sources based on their publication date is a solid way to keep a correct historical timeline. If applied precisely, it can present the development of a specific concept with time and provide examples in the form of literature. However , sometimes there are better alternatives we could use to structure the human body.


In the place of taking the “timeline approach”, another option can be taking a look at the link betwixt your MOP along with your sources. Sometimes, the main idea will just glare from the piece of literature. Other times, the author might have to seek out examples to prove their point. An experienced writer will usually present their sources by order of strength. For example , in “To Kill A Mockingbird”, the entire novel was centralized around racism; in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, racism was one of many themes.


As made obvious by the terminology, this sort of structuring targets the methods used to present the central concept. For example , in “1984”, George Orwell uses the law-and-order approach and shows the dangers of a dystopia for a social species.

In “Frankenstein”, Mary Shelley exposes the character’s physical faculties as repulsive and horrifying, forcing him to suffer in an isolated environment. By showcasing the different methods used to portray the MOP, the writer can compare them centered on things like severity, ethicality, and overall impact.


After presenting your findings within the body paragraphs, you will find 3 final objectives to accomplish in the essay’s conclusion. First, the author should summarize the findings they've made or found in other words, and briefly answer comprehensively the question: “What maybe you have learned? ”

After discussing that information, the next phase is to present the value of the data in mention of the our current world today. In other words, just how can the reader take the data and apply it to today's society? From the period, we complete with a breadcrumb trail.

Whilst the author, you wish to leave the readers’ trail of thought within the actual essay topic. This gives them with a means of further investigation—meaning that the reader might consider where the discussion will go next.

Writing an Outline for a Literature Review

Students often underestimate the importance of planning the structure of these papers beforehand. However , this isn't a wise approach. Having a rough APA literature review outline (or other style outlines) will not only assist you to follow the proper format and structure, but will also make the writing process simpler and help ensure that you include all of the important info without missing anything.

How exactly to write a literature review outline: As you already know from the Structure section of this guide, all of your literature review performs its own crucial role. Respectively, you should create your outline while keeping the overall introduction-body-conclusion structure in mind and ensuring that each section meets its own objectives. However , you will need to remember that a literature review outline is slightly not the same as outlines of other types of essays since it does not provide new information. It is targeted on existing studies relevant to the primary topic.

Listed here is a literature review outline example on the subject of the Ebola virus to help you get it right:

  1. Introduce the general topic. Provide back ground information on the Ebola virus: genome, pathogenesis, transmission, epidemiology, treatment, and so forth
  2. Shape the main research question: What's the potential role of arthropods (mechanical or biological vectors) in the distribution of the Ebola virus?
  3. Methodology: For example , the info was searched through X databases to get relevant research articles concerning the Ebola virus and arthropods' role in its spreading. The data was extracted utilizing a standardized form.
  4. Expected outcomes
  5. Over all trends in the literature on this topic: While the natural reservoir of the virus remains not known with certainty, many researchers genuinely believe that arthropods (and fruit bats, in particular) pay an important role in the distribution of herpes.
  • Body
  1. Subject 1: A short history of the specific piece of literature in general terms; an analysis of the important thing aspects of the research; a review of the investigation questions, practices, procedures, and outcomes; and an overview of the strong and flaws, gaps, and contradictions.
  2. Subject 2: A brief history of this piece of literature in general terms; an analysis of the main element aspects of the analysis; a review of the study questions, techniques, procedures, and outcomes; and an overview of the strong and disadvantages, gaps, and contradictions.
  3. Subject 3: A brief history of the specific piece of literature in general terms; an analysis of the important thing aspects of the research; a review of the investigation questions, practices, procedures, and outcomes; and an overview of the strong and flaws, gaps, and contradictions.
  • conclusion
  1. Indicate the relationships between the items of literature discussed. Emphasize key themes, common patterns, and trends. Speak about the pros and cons of the different approaches taken by the authors/researchers.
  2. State which studies seem to be probably the most influential.
  3. Emphasize the major contradictions and points of disagreement. Define the gaps still to be covered (if any).
  4. If applicable: define how your own personal study will contribute to further disclosure of the topic.

Hopefully, this sample outline will help you structure your personal paper. But if you feel as if you need even more advice on how exactly to organize your review, don’t hesitate to find more literature review outline examples in APA or other styles on the Web, or just ask our writers for help.

How to Write a Good Literature Review

Whether you are writing a literature review within the framework of a sizable research project (e. g. thesis, dissertation, or other) or as a stand-alone assignment, the approach you should decide to try writing generally speaking remains the exact same.

Now, as you know in regards to the general rules and have a fundamental literature review outline template, let’s define the steps to decide to try handle this right:

Step 1: Identifying the Topic

That is probably the only matter you might approach differently depending on whether your literature review comes within a research paper or perhaps a separate assignment altogether. If you're creating a literature review as part of another work, you need to find literature linked to your main research questions and problem. Respectively, if you are writing it as a stand-alone task, you'll have to pick a relevant topic and central question upon which you'll be collecting the literature. Earlier in the day in this guide we suggested some engaging topics to guide your search.

Step 2: Conducting Research

When you yourself have a obviously defined topic, it is time to start collecting literature for your review. We recommend starting by compiling a summary of relevant key words related to your central question—to make the complete research process much simpler and help you find relevant publications faster.

When you yourself have a list of key words, use them to find valid and relevant sources. At this point, make sure to use only trusted sources, such as for example ones from university libraries, online scientific databases, and so on

After you have found some sources, make sure you define if they are actually strongly related your topic and research question. To truly save you time, you can read abstracts to have general a few ideas of what the papers are about, instead of the whole thing.

Pro Tip: Once you finally look for a few valid publications, have a look at their bibliographies to discover other relevant sources as well.

Step 3: Assess and Prioritize Sources

Through your research, you will probably find lots of relevant literature to include in your literature review. At this point, many students make the error of wanting to fit their collected sources into their reviews. We suggest looking at what you’ve collected once more, assess the available sources, and select the absolute most relevant ones. You most likely won’t be able to read everything you find on certain topic after which be able to synthesize all of the sources into a single literature review. That’s why prioritizing them is important.

To judge which sources are worth including in your review, keep in mind the next criteria:

  • Credibility;
  • Influence;
  • Novelty;
  • Innovation;
  • Key insights;
  • Relevancy.

Moreover, as you read the sources, don’t forget to make notes on whatever you can incorporate into the review later. And start to become sure to truly get your citations in position early on. In the event that you cite the selected sources at the first stage, you'll find it more straightforward to create your annotated bibliography later on.

Step 4: Identify Relationships, Key Ideas, and Gaps

One which just move on to outlining and writing your literature review, the final step is determining the relationships between the studies that already exist. Distinguishing the relationships will help you organize the existing knowledge, build a solid literature outline, and (if necessary) indicate your own research contribution to a specific field.

Some of the key points to keep an eye out for are:

  • Main themes;
  • Contradictions and debates;
  • Influential studies or theories;
  • Trends and patterns;
  • Gaps.

Here are some examples: Common trends can include a give attention to specific categories of people across different studies. There may be increased interest among most researchers in certain facets of the topic when it comes to key themes. Contradictions can sometimes include some disagreement concerning the theories and outcomes of research. And finally, gaps most often reference a lack of research on certain aspects of an interest.

Step 5: Make an Outline

Even though students have a tendency to neglect this stage, outlining is one of the most significant steps on paper every academic paper. This is actually the easiest way to arrange the body of one's text and ensure that you haven’t missed any such thing important. Besides, having a rough idea about what you are likely to write about in the paper will help you obtain it right faster and easier.

Earlier in the day in this guide, we already discussed the basic structure of a literature review and gave you a typical example of a good outline. During this period of the workflow, you need to use all of the knowledge you’ve gained from us to build your own personal outline.

Step 6: Move on to Writing

Having found and created your entire sources, notes, citations, and a detailed outline, you can finally get to the writing the main process. During this period, all you need to complete is follow the plan you’ve created and keep in mind the general structure and format defined in your professor’s directions.

Step 7: Adding the Final Touches

Most students make a common mistake and miss out the final stage of the method, which includes proofreading and editing. We recommend taking the full time for these steps to ensure your work is likely to be worth the greatest score. Don't underestimate the value of proofreading and editing, and allocate enough time for these steps.

Pro Tip: Before moving on to proofreading and editing, make sure to set your literature review aside for a day or two. This will offer you a chance to just take your mind from it and be able to get back again to proofreading with a fresh perspective. This tip will make sure that you won’t lose out on any gaps or errors that might be within your text.

These steps can help you create a top-notch literature review with ease! Need to get more suggestions about how to handle this body of work? Listed below are the top 3 tips you will need to keep in mind when writing a literature review:

  1. Good Sources
    When working on a literature review, the most important thing any writer should keep in mind is always to find the best possible sources due to their MOP. Which means while doing initial research, you should select and filter through about 5-10 different choices. The stronger a piece of literature showcases the central point, the better the caliber of the entire review will be.
  2. Synthesize The Literature
    Ensure that you structure the review in the most effective way possible, whether it be chronologically, thematically, or methodologically. Determine what it is you may like to say exactly, and structure the source comparison accordingly.
  3. Avoid Generalizations
    Keep in mind that each bit of literature will approach the MOP from the different angle. As the author, make sure to present the contrasts in approaches clearly and don’t include general statements that offer no value.

Literature Review Examples

You'll find two well-written literature reviews by the EssayPro writing team below. They will assist you to understand what the ultimate product of a literature review should ideally appear to be.

The initial literature review compares monolingual and bilingual language acquisition skills and uses various sources to prove its point: