How to Write a Literature Review without Any Problems

This article provides clear guidance on how to create a good literature review. Try to take the time to study the information presented here.

What Is a Review of Literature?

The review of literature is a short description of the state of the selected problem, where the author gives and systematizes the basic knowledge gained in a scientific field. It often confirms the author’s qualifications – that he really knows what he is working with. This is a kind of guarantee of the dependability and correctness of the obtained results.

Why Do We Write Literature Reviews?

This is a required part of most articles and is present in many types of written scientific communication. Depending on the scope and purpose of a publication, it may comprise the introduction or constitute a separate chapter. Many publications, indicating the required sections of their electronic templates for submitting manuscripts, include analyzing the bibliography as a mandatory part with a separate heading. Even in the presentation of a scientific report when speaking at a conference, speakers indicate the authors of the main concepts on which their logical schemes and hypotheses are based. It can also act as a separate topic of the article, presenting to other researchers an already generalized and structured view of the basic sources of information and views on the selected topic or problem.

Structure of Literature Review

For the correct writing of a literary overview, well-known and authoritative sources should be selected. Moreover, it is recommended to use the most recent materials since science and culture are developing continuously.


The paper always starts with an explanation of the actuality of the selected research problem. It illustrates the various views on the problem under study, their evolution, names the most prominent representatives of scientific thought, cites their achievements.


The basis for writing the main part is taken from publications that contain important materials of direct research. It should provide a short characteristic of the main results and conclusions, which are applicable to your topic. There is no necessity to represent all the data as a whole (tables, conclusions, etc.); it is appropriate to use only individual indicators, facts, results that have great value for your research. Any specific result must refer to the original source, that is, mention not only the title of the publication and the year of its edition but also the exact page on which this particular result is presented.

The work must be analytical; therefore, it is important to approach the presentation of facts critically. Analysis should be based on the main problem but not on the available publications. During the analysis, the similarity of theoretical conclusions and practical results should be emphasized. Inconsistencies and insufficient research on individual issues of the topic should also be identified. Thus, it is recommended to identify the weakest points in the analyzed sources and select those issues that have not been studied earlier. There is no need to hastily try to express your vision of the problem since the main task of the literature review is to determine the essence of the problem and study its current state.

If some of the information in the study or the source is useless, it is not worth bringing it into the paper.


In the final section, the brief conclusions are presented; the goal of the planned work is formulated.

What Is the Difference Between a Literature Review and an Annotated Bibliography?

As practice shows, literature review and annotated bibliography analyze and summarize material collected from various sources. The difference between these papers is defined by how they provide basic information. While the annotated bibliography lists sources separately and provides a brief description of them, the review explores the relationship between sources and provides a detailed analysis. In addition, differences are also observed in purpose, components, and general format.

What Is the Purpose of a Literature Review?

The goals of preparing an overview of sources include demonstrating the author’s awareness of the field of study, understanding the state of knowledge of the topic for formulating the problem and the subject of research, identifying gaps, contradictions, unexplored issues, generalizing the main opinions and views on the issue under study as the basis for research.

However, it is not a simple catalog of all sources on the theme. It cannot be a collection of citations from different authors; it must be a critical analysis evaluating existing concepts and views.

Even a cursory analysis of publications in a scientific journal can reveal a publication’s policy regarding the literature review. If this is just a formal requirement, then the articles may mention 2-3 authors, as a rule, from a given region or even from the author’s scientific organization, include only the most famous sources, often not scientific but educational. Serious magazines publish articles in which the authors refer not only to domestic, but also to foreign-language sources, and the reference lists include up to 20 or more sources.

Often graduation qualification works of masters and even candidate dissertations sin with the so-called journalistic approach to the review of sources. The author uses the names of various researchers in phrases such as “According to …”, “As points out …”, “… wrote …”. This approach is used by journalists since, as a rule, a journalist is not an expert in the professional field about which he writes his report and prefers to quote experts’ words. Well, the reader must draw his conclusions. This is permissible and quite understandable in a journalistic or business publication. On the contrary, in scientific communication, the author is a specialist and expert; he draws conclusions and generalizations, presenting readers with well-structured and clear conclusions.

How Do I Create a Literature Review?

And now, let’s go directly to the consideration of the main stages of writing a paper.

Define Your Goal

Before you start working, you need to define the main purpose. As a rule, the paper is created not only to navigate the information flow in a given direction (problem) but also to assess the state of the problem, identifying trends in its development.

The most common goals for creating this paper are as follows:

  • Classifying important variables related to the theme;
  • Synthesis and formation of a new approach to the problem;
  • Identifying the connection between ideas and practice;
  • Determining the main context of the theme;
  • The rationale for the significance of the issue;
  • Acquisition and expansion of terminology on the actual issue;
  • Establishing a connection between ideas and theories and their practical application;
  • Identification of the methodology and basic methods that were used in the research process;
  • Placing the research in a historical context to illustrate an awareness of the development of the particular research area.

You can choose from the above list or select your goal, which you will realize during the analysis of sources.

Do Your Research

The review should not be limited to writings on a narrow topic. If the research is innovative, then there may not be such works at all. First, it is necessary to link this study’s specific topic with the problem-setting in the classical works of scientists. When writing this part of the literature review, the source should be primarily the most authoritative reference publications and textbooks, as well as a small number of generalizing monographs with the highest citation index. You should resort to more specialized works if they present fundamentally new approaches and ideas that are not always consistent with the ‘classics’ but are important for the topic you are developing.

The analysis of obtained results should be built around problems, not publications. This means that you should simply state the content of the articles and reports you have read in no case. This is an analytical document. Its main task is to identify the problems that are reflected in the results of previous studies, to show discrepancies in the materials of different studies (if any), to compare the results obtained with the theoretical developments given in the first part, to identify those insufficiently studied aspects of the problem. It is advisable to give the analysis a slightly provocative character, emphasizing not so much the similarity in the results of empirical works and their agreement with theoretical assumptions, but rather inconsistencies, discrepancies, and poor knowledge of certain subjects. This will make your review more interesting for the reader and will allow you to focus on unexplored problems rather than persistent and, therefore, trivial results. However, this principle should not be abused. Emotional criticism and, in general, any phrases that can offend the authors whose works are analyzed to one degree or another are unacceptable in your work.

You should not consider in the same detail all the plots found in the course of analysis – you need to focus on those that are directly related to your topic. Plots that are irrelevant to your research can be mentioned or described in one or two phrases.

Empirical evidence from other studies must be handled with great care. You should not reproduce tables, limiting yourself to individual indicators. Any specific result must have an exact link to the source, including the indication of the publication, as well as the page on which the particular result is provided. The reader should be able to verify the correctness of the data you provide and their interpretation.

Ground Summary in Relevance

The summary contains a short formulation of the results. The key ideas of the main part are repeated there in a condensed form. Any material presented should be formulated using new phrases, new formulations that differ from those expressed in the main part. It is necessary to compare the results obtained with the goal set at the beginning of the work.

Thus, the final section summarizes the obtained results of understanding the topic, draws conclusions, generalizations, and recommendations that follow from work, emphasizes their practical significance, and also identifies the main directions for further study in this area. It is also desirable to include a forecast of the development of the issues considered.

Develop Review Logically

If you want to learn how to complete a review correctly, you must present the material logically.

It is advisable to start reviewing publications, including the results of specific research, with a brief description of those projects whose materials are used in your review and with a listing of the core publications based on their results. It is advisable to arrange the descriptions in chronological sequence. It is necessary to indicate who (which institution) conducted the research, in what period, briefly describe the object and sample size, and also name the project leader. This saves you the trouble of repeating this information each time you quote it. 

Take the chronological principle as a basis and build your acquaintance with the history of the issue in chronological order. Describe what views on the problem you are studying existed, how they evolved. Name the famous scientists who worked on this problem, what they achieved in their research and reasoning.

Analyze sources critically. Identify the weak points in their writings, which of the issues remained unanswered. Try to find publications that reveal these weaknesses. 

Final notes

The literature review is not so difficult as it seems to be. Thousands of students have written the review earlier, and they succeed. So just follow the instructions and do your best.

We hope that the material provided in this article will serve as a good basis for your literature review and help you complete your paper in the best possible way!