How To Write A Literature Review For A College Research Paper
7 min read

How To Write A Literature Review For A College Research Paper

7 min read
Uploaded on
Feb 1, 2023
Last updated on
Mar 10, 2023
Uploaded on
Feb 1, 2023
Last updated on
Mar 10, 2023
Literature review for a college research paper
Let's write a LIT paper!

Have you ever wondered what a literature review is and why it's an important part of research? Well, you're in the right place! In this blog, we'll explore what a literature review is, why it's important, and how to write one in a way that's easy to understand. So grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and let's solve your question on how to write a literature review for a college research paper by diving into the literary world together!

What is a Literature review ?

A literature review in a college research paper is like taking a deep dive into all the great information that's already out there on a particular subject. It's super important because it helps to write a literature review for your own study. Think of it as a roadmap that highlights what we already know and what still needs to be explored. By doing a thorough review, you'll be able to see the big picture and figure out where your own work fits in. Cool, right?

What is the purpose of a literature review?

A literature review is just a way to take a look at all the awesome research that's already been done on a certain topic. It's all about finding the best sources, like articles and books, and putting all the information together to create and write a literature review. That way, you have a great understanding of what's already been explored and can use that knowledge to guide your own research! The main goals of a literature review are to:

  1. Provide an overview of the existing knowledge on the topic.
  2. Identify any gaps or inconsistencies in the current research.
  3. Determine the significance and relevance of the research problem.
  4. Offer a theoretical framework or context for new research.
  5. Help establish the importance and need for the new research by demonstrating that the current knowledge base is incomplete.

Literature Review Examples

To write a literature review, it can seem like a daunting task, but don't worry, you've got this! To get started, why not take a look at some literature review examples to help guide you in the right direction? Depending on what sample literature review you want to write, there are several types of literature reviews, including:

Examples of Literature Reviews
  1. Narrative review: Summarises the existing literature on a specific topic in a comprehensive manner.
  2. Systematic review: Uses a systematic and rigorous approach to critically evaluate the existing evidence on a specific topic.
  3. Meta-analysis: A statistical method that combines the results of multiple studies to provide a more precise estimate of the overall effect.
  4. Scoping review: Maps the extent, range and nature of research on a specific topic.
  5. Rapid review: A condensed and accelerated version of a systematic review.
  6. Integrative review: Summarises the findings from multiple studies to provide a comprehensive understanding of a topic.
  7. Thematic review: Examines the literature on a specific topic and identifies common themes or patterns.

How to Write a Literature Review?

Although, to write a literature review structure can seem like a lot, breaking it down into smaller steps will help you figure out how to write a literature review. Here's a closer look at each of the steps:

Step 1- Define your research question:

Decide what you want to focus on and define the limits of your review. This will help you stay focused and avoid including irrelevant information. To determine the scope of your review, consider the following questions:

  • What is the main topic or question you want to address?
  • What are the subtopics or questions that fall within your main topic?
  • What time period do you want to cover in your review?
  • What type of sources are you looking for? (e.g. journal articles, books, websites, etc.)

Step 2- Conduct a comprehensive search:

The next step is to conduct a comprehensive search for sources that are relevant to your topic. This means using a variety of tools and strategies to find sources that will help you answer your research questions. Some common ways to search for sources include:

  • Online databases such as JSTOR, ProQuest, and Google Scholar.
  • Library catalogues: If you have access to a library, you can use their catalogue to find books and other print materials that are relevant to your topic.
  • Google: You can use Google to find sources on your topic, but be aware that not all sources found through a Google search are reliable or up-to-date.
  • Search engines for specific disciplines: if you're writing a literature review in a specific discipline, you may be able to find specialised search engines that will help you find relevant sources.
  • Use keywords: it's important to use keywords that are relevant to your topic, and to be as specific as possible to help you find sources that are directly related to your research question, and will help you avoid irrelevant sources.

Step 3- Evaluate the sources: 

Not all sources are created equal! Take a critical look at each source you find to make sure it's high quality and relevant to your topic.When evaluating sources, consider the following factors:

  • Relevance: Does the source address your research question or topic directly? Is it up-to-date and current?
  • Authority: Who is the author of the source? Are they an expert in the field? Have they published other works in the same area?
  • Objectivity: Is the source biassed or impartial? Does it have a specific agenda or point of view?
  • Credibility: Has the source been peer-reviewed or published in a reputable journal? Are there any errors or inaccuracies in the source?

Step 4- Read and take notes:

Group the sources you've found into categories based on common themes or topics. This will help you see the big picture and make connections between different sources. When taking notes, consider the following tips:

  • Be selective: Focus on the most important information and the key points that you want to make in your literature review.
  • Use your own words: When taking notes, try to use your own words to summarise the information to avoid plagiarism, and it will help you understand the information better.
  • Organise your notes: As you take notes, try to organise them in a way that makes sense.

Step 5- Write the review: 

Now it's time to put all the pieces together and write the review! The writing process should include the following steps:

  • Introduction: Begin your literature review by introducing the topic you are reviewing, the purpose of your review, and the research question or questions you are trying to answer. 
  • Body: The body of your literature review should summarise and synthesise the information you have gathered from your sources. 
  • Discussion: You can discuss how the sources relate to one another, and you can also discuss any patterns, trends, or gaps you have identified.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion should summarise the main findings of your literature review and provide insights into the implications of your research.. 

Step 6- Edit and proofread: 

After you have completed your first draft of the literature review, it's important to revise and edit your work. This will help you refine your writing, correct any errors, and ensure that your literature review is well-organised and easy to understand. Some tips for revising and editing your literature review include:

  • Check for clarity and coherence: Make sure your writing is clear and easy to follow, and that your ideas are well-organised and logically connected.
  • Check for accuracy: Make sure the information in your review is accurate and up-to-date, and that you have properly cited all the sources you have used.
  • Check for consistency: Ensure that your writing style, tone, and citation style are consistent throughout the review.
  • Seek feedback: Consider getting feedback from a peer, mentor, or professor, to help you identify any strengths or weaknesses in your writing.

Step 7- Conclude the review: 

Sum up the key findings from your literature review and provide your own insights and recommendations. Your conclusion should be a summary of your paper. You can start by stating what you found out during the research and then bring it back to your thesis statement. You can also restate your major findings and give a brief overview of any recommendations or solutions you have. You should wrap up by saying whether or not you think your research was successful and why. The conclusion should be short, but it's also important to make sure that you leave your readers with a clear understanding of what you found out and how they can use this information.

Tips for Writing a Good Literature Review

Writing a literature review can be a challenge, but these tips can help make the process a little bit easier:

Stay organised:

Keeping track of your sources and notes can be a real lifesaver when it comes time to write the review. Use a spreadsheet, index cards, or some other system to keep everything organised. This will save you time and prevent confusion as you write.

Be critical: 

A literature review isn't just a summary of the sources you've found; it's an opportunity to critically evaluate the existing research. Look for gaps, limitations, and controversies in the literature, and don't be afraid to question the findings of others. This will help you build a stronger argument and provide a more comprehensive understanding of your topic.

Be concise: 

No one wants to read a long, rambling literature review. Keep your writing concise and to the point, and make sure each sentence adds value to your argument. Avoid repeating information or including irrelevant details.

Cite your sources: 

Properly citing your sources is crucial for avoiding plagiarism and ensuring the credibility of your literature review. Make sure to follow a consistent referencing style, and don't forget to include a bibliography or works cited page at the end of your review.

Seek feedback: 

Sharing your literature review with others can help you get a fresh perspective and identify areas for improvement. Ask classmates, peers, or professors to take a look, and be open to their feedback. This can also be a good opportunity to practise explaining your research to others.

Take breaks:

Writing a literature review can be a long process, and it's important to take breaks to avoid burnout. Step away from your computer, read a book, go for a walk, or do something else you enjoy to give your mind a break. This will help you stay fresh and focused, and you'll be more productive when you return to writing.

To wrap things up, writing a literature review can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By staying organised, being critical, writing concisely, properly citing your sources, seeking feedback, and taking breaks, you can write a comprehensive and well-researched literature review. Remember, writing a literature review is a process, and it's okay if it takes some time to get it just right. Keep these tips in mind, and you'll be on your way to writing a great literature review! We hope this blog has answered your question about how to write a literature review for a college research paper. Stay focused and don't be afraid to ask for help along the way. Good luck!

Frequently Asked Questions