11 Crucial Steps to Prepare a Literature Review for Students

Ellie Fraser never thought she’d have to spend sleepless nights while preparing her literature review. When the professor in the class assigned the dissertation, Ellie thought, “How difficult can it be!” But once she started working on it, Ellie knew she underestimated the whole literature review writing process.

You’re probably aware of what a literature review is. But do you really know how to prepare it effectively?” If your answer is no, then we’ve got some ideas for you that you’ll be interested to learn. Let’s mull over the steps of writing a literature review together.

1.Find the most recent literature from your discipline

In general, a literature review needs to be based on the most relevant literature, so your reader knows the current situation of the field. So, you must look into the most recent publications in the discipline you’re studying. Use these works to develop an understanding of how far the field has progressed.

However, recent publications may not always be more insightful than the older ones. But it’scrucial to find newinformation, so your review is properly updated. You can also browse through the bibliographies in the works you’ve found or ask your professor for guidance if you need more resources.

2.Determine the major argument of each resource you read

Most of the resources you’ll be skimming through for your literature review will consist of an argument or at least some sort of perspective. Determining the argument of each resource you use is vital to prepare your literature review. Hence, make sure you take note of themas you’re read your sources.

Keep it simple when writing down the arguments. Summarise the author’s perspective in a sentence or two, if possible. Most of the time, you won’t need to read the whole piece to understand the argument. Some authors present their arguments in the introduction at the beginning quite clearly. Only read enough so you can find the argument without devoting too much time to this process.

3.Analyse the sources you’ve gathered for the review

For a literature review, it isn’t sufficient to state the author’s argument. You also need to assess that argument. Findthe sources and evidence the author has usedto decipher the strength of the argument. When you’re working on the review, check how evidence helps or hurts the author’s arguments.

The evidence that the author has used should be easy to find, and they should offer clear links and citations. If you can’t findthe sourcesthat the author is using, then their argument isn’t credible.

4.Assess any personal bias in the literature

Personal bias can also indicate whether or not a resource is suitable to review or not. A biased author may exaggerate their conclusions, highlight issues they support more prominently, or remove evidence that doesn’t align with their argument. All this hampers the author’s argument. So, it’s essential that you check for bias in the resource you use.

In this case, remember that it’s normal to have bias, so biased work isn’t necessarily useless. But you need to note them down in your literature review to indicate that you’ve analysed all your sources carefully. Personal bias is another essential part of evaluating your sources.

5.Write the review in proper essay format

A literature review isn’t an unorganised summary. It’s a formal analysis within a larger academic task (like a dissertation or research paper). It consists of an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion like any basic essay paper. This is the format you should follow unless your professors suggest otherwise.

If you require help organising your ideas, you can prepare a bulleted list. However, you’ll need to elaborate on these points to turn it into a full-fledged literature review.Generally, literature reviews don’t need a different format from the rest of the paper, so don’t change anything unless your professor asks you to.

6.The review should be placed between an introduction and main body

When writing a dissertation or research paper outline, you have to dedicate an entire chapter to write the review. It comes immediately after the introduction for your research paper or dissertation. This tells the readers where the literature currently stands and prepares the intervention that you’ll make with your paper. Unless you’re advised otherwise, present the review right after the introductory section and before the beginning of your body paragraphs or main chapters.

Write headings like “Introduction” and “Literature Review” to keep the paper organised. Some professors may allow you to prepare a specific outline to write the review.

7.Follow a chronological order to structure your review

You can outline your review chronologically if you want to highlight change over time. Once you begin with writing, you have some options for how to organise it, and chronological order is one of them. This means you highlight the sources based on the time these works were published.

This is a brilliant way to highlight how the coverage of a topic changed with time. These are suitable for history, sociology, and other social sciences where details may have changed considerably over time.

8.Utilise a thematic approach if the field is currently divided

In some cases, a thematic or methodological approach is always better. This means that your review is divided based on the theme, and the authors of the resources are grouped together by the conclusions they’ve drawn.

A thematic approach may work better for medical or scientific topics since there’s often a lot of disagreement over various concepts within these fields. Your topic could be varied approaches to the treatment of cancer, with a section on each proposed treatment.

9.Write a broad statement about where existing literature stands

A literature review should comprise an introduction with a thesis statement. In general, your job with the review is to determine where the field you’re studying currently stands. Use your research and source summaries to prepare a general statement about the field, which serves as your thesis statement. Start writing your review with a few sentences elaborating on the field and the main ideas that drive your topic.

Your research might tell you that most writers agree that employment discrimination is a problem but aren’t unanimous about what the causes are. 

10.Present major details about each source

When you highlight every source, no matter how you organise your literature review, always ensure your readers know the authors’ main ideas. Mention the main argument and perspective for each source when you write them down. Then thoroughly elaborate on some of the evidence that the author uses to support their points.

Remember to show how every piece of literature aligns with your main narrative as well. If it’s unclear why a work suits the theme you’ve placed it in, you may lose credibility as a researcher.Quotes are always a nice way to elaborate on a point, but try not to overuse them. 1-2 quotes per literature is a lot.

11.Conclude with some questions for further research

Literature reviews are supposed to leave some uncertainty at the end. Since you’ve researched the topic, you can end the section by writing down the shortcomings or unanswered questions that still remain. This indicates that you’ve engaged with all of the resource materials and drawn your own conclusions.

You can provide suggestions no matter what the review highlights. If this literature review is part of an elaborate research paper or dissertation, then conclude by mentioning how your research solves some of the problems.

Wrapping it up:

Ellie may have underestimated how complicated the literature review writing process can be, but you shouldn’t. Remember the steps discussed in this post to ensure you never have a hard time working on the literature review section.

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