How to write a literature review introduction (+ examples)

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The introduction to a literature review serves as your reader’s guide through your academic work and thought process. Explore the significance of literature review introductions in review papers, academic papers, essays, theses, and dissertations. We delve into the purpose and necessity of these introductions, explore the essential components of literature review introductions, and provide step-by-step guidance on how to craft your own, along with examples.

Why you need an introduction for a literature review

When you need an introduction for a literature review, what to include in a literature review introduction, examples of literature review introductions, steps to write your own literature review introduction.

A literature review is a comprehensive examination of the international academic literature concerning a particular topic. It involves summarizing published works, theories, and concepts while also highlighting gaps and offering critical reflections.

In academic writing , the introduction for a literature review is an indispensable component. Effective academic writing requires proper paragraph structuring to guide your reader through your argumentation. This includes providing an introduction to your literature review.

It is imperative to remember that you should never start sharing your findings abruptly. Even if there isn’t a dedicated introduction section .

Instead, you should always offer some form of introduction to orient the reader and clarify what they can expect.

There are three main scenarios in which you need an introduction for a literature review:

  • Academic literature review papers: When your literature review constitutes the entirety of an academic review paper, a more substantial introduction is necessary. This introduction should resemble the standard introduction found in regular academic papers.
  • Literature review section in an academic paper or essay: While this section tends to be brief, it’s important to precede the detailed literature review with a few introductory sentences. This helps orient the reader before delving into the literature itself.
  • Literature review chapter or section in your thesis/dissertation: Every thesis and dissertation includes a literature review component, which also requires a concise introduction to set the stage for the subsequent review.

You may also like: How to write a fantastic thesis introduction (+15 examples)

It is crucial to customize the content and depth of your literature review introduction according to the specific format of your academic work.

In practical terms, this implies, for instance, that the introduction in an academic literature review paper, especially one derived from a systematic literature review , is quite comprehensive. Particularly compared to the rather brief one or two introductory sentences that are often found at the beginning of a literature review section in a standard academic paper. The introduction to the literature review chapter in a thesis or dissertation again adheres to different standards.

Here’s a structured breakdown based on length and the necessary information:

Academic literature review paper

The introduction of an academic literature review paper, which does not rely on empirical data, often necessitates a more extensive introduction than the brief literature review introductions typically found in empirical papers. It should encompass:

  • The research problem: Clearly articulate the problem or question that your literature review aims to address.
  • The research gap: Highlight the existing gaps, limitations, or unresolved aspects within the current body of literature related to the research problem.
  • The research relevance: Explain why the chosen research problem and its subsequent investigation through a literature review are significant and relevant in your academic field.
  • The literature review method: If applicable, describe the methodology employed in your literature review, especially if it is a systematic review or follows a specific research framework.
  • The main findings or insights of the literature review: Summarize the key discoveries, insights, or trends that have emerged from your comprehensive review of the literature.
  • The main argument of the literature review: Conclude the introduction by outlining the primary argument or statement that your literature review will substantiate, linking it to the research problem and relevance you’ve established.
  • Preview of the literature review’s structure: Offer a glimpse into the organization of the literature review paper, acting as a guide for the reader. This overview outlines the subsequent sections of the paper and provides an understanding of what to anticipate.

By addressing these elements, your introduction will provide a clear and structured overview of what readers can expect in your literature review paper.

Regular literature review section in an academic article or essay

Most academic articles or essays incorporate regular literature review sections, often placed after the introduction. These sections serve to establish a scholarly basis for the research or discussion within the paper.

In a standard 8000-word journal article, the literature review section typically spans between 750 and 1250 words. The first few sentences or the first paragraph within this section often serve as an introduction. It should encompass:

  • An introduction to the topic: When delving into the academic literature on a specific topic, it’s important to provide a smooth transition that aids the reader in comprehending why certain aspects will be discussed within your literature review.
  • The core argument: While literature review sections primarily synthesize the work of other scholars, they should consistently connect to your central argument. This central argument serves as the crux of your message or the key takeaway you want your readers to retain. By positioning it at the outset of the literature review section and systematically substantiating it with evidence, you not only enhance reader comprehension but also elevate overall readability. This primary argument can typically be distilled into 1-2 succinct sentences.

In some cases, you might include:

  • Methodology: Details about the methodology used, but only if your literature review employed a specialized method. If your approach involved a broader overview without a systematic methodology, you can omit this section, thereby conserving word count.

By addressing these elements, your introduction will effectively integrate your literature review into the broader context of your academic paper or essay. This will, in turn, assist your reader in seamlessly following your overarching line of argumentation.

Introduction to a literature review chapter in thesis or dissertation

The literature review typically constitutes a distinct chapter within a thesis or dissertation. Often, it is Chapter 2 of a thesis or dissertation.

Some students choose to incorporate a brief introductory section at the beginning of each chapter, including the literature review chapter. Alternatively, others opt to seamlessly integrate the introduction into the initial sentences of the literature review itself. Both approaches are acceptable, provided that you incorporate the following elements:

  • Purpose of the literature review and its relevance to the thesis/dissertation research: Explain the broader objectives of the literature review within the context of your research and how it contributes to your thesis or dissertation. Essentially, you’re telling the reader why this literature review is important and how it fits into the larger scope of your academic work.
  • Primary argument: Succinctly communicate what you aim to prove, explain, or explore through the review of existing literature. This statement helps guide the reader’s understanding of the review’s purpose and what to expect from it.
  • Preview of the literature review’s content: Provide a brief overview of the topics or themes that your literature review will cover. It’s like a roadmap for the reader, outlining the main areas of focus within the review. This preview can help the reader anticipate the structure and organization of your literature review.
  • Methodology: If your literature review involved a specific research method, such as a systematic review or meta-analysis, you should briefly describe that methodology. However, this is not always necessary, especially if your literature review is more of a narrative synthesis without a distinct research method.

By addressing these elements, your introduction will empower your literature review to play a pivotal role in your thesis or dissertation research. It will accomplish this by integrating your research into the broader academic literature and providing a solid theoretical foundation for your work.

Comprehending the art of crafting your own literature review introduction becomes significantly more accessible when you have concrete examples to examine. Here, you will find several examples that meet, or in most cases, adhere to the criteria described earlier.

Example 1: An effective introduction for an academic literature review paper

To begin, let’s delve into the introduction of an academic literature review paper. We will examine the paper “How does culture influence innovation? A systematic literature review”, which was published in 2018 in the journal Management Decision.

literature review intro paragraph

The entire introduction spans 611 words and is divided into five paragraphs. In this introduction, the authors accomplish the following:

  • In the first paragraph, the authors introduce the broader topic of the literature review, which focuses on innovation and its significance in the context of economic competition. They underscore the importance of this topic, highlighting its relevance for both researchers and policymakers.
  • In the second paragraph, the authors narrow down their focus to emphasize the specific role of culture in relation to innovation.
  • In the third paragraph, the authors identify research gaps, noting that existing studies are often fragmented and disconnected. They then emphasize the value of conducting a systematic literature review to enhance our understanding of the topic.
  • In the fourth paragraph, the authors introduce their specific objectives and explain how their insights can benefit other researchers and business practitioners.
  • In the fifth and final paragraph, the authors provide an overview of the paper’s organization and structure.

In summary, this introduction stands as a solid example. While the authors deviate from previewing their key findings (which is a common practice at least in the social sciences), they do effectively cover all the other previously mentioned points.

Example 2: An effective introduction to a literature review section in an academic paper

The second example represents a typical academic paper, encompassing not only a literature review section but also empirical data, a case study, and other elements. We will closely examine the introduction to the literature review section in the paper “The environmentalism of the subalterns: a case study of environmental activism in Eastern Kurdistan/Rojhelat”, which was published in 2021 in the journal Local Environment.

literature review intro paragraph

The paper begins with a general introduction and then proceeds to the literature review, designated by the authors as their conceptual framework. Of particular interest is the first paragraph of this conceptual framework, comprising 142 words across five sentences:

“ A peripheral and marginalised nationality within a multinational though-Persian dominated Iranian society, the Kurdish people of Iranian Kurdistan (a region referred by the Kurds as Rojhelat/Eastern Kurdi-stan) have since the early twentieth century been subject to multifaceted and systematic discriminatory and exclusionary state policy in Iran. This condition has left a population of 12–15 million Kurds in Iran suffering from structural inequalities, disenfranchisement and deprivation. Mismanagement of Kurdistan’s natural resources and the degradation of its natural environmental are among examples of this disenfranchisement. As asserted by Julian Agyeman (2005), structural inequalities that sustain the domination of political and economic elites often simultaneously result in environmental degradation, injustice and discrimination against subaltern communities. This study argues that the environmental struggle in Eastern Kurdistan can be asserted as a (sub)element of the Kurdish liberation movement in Iran. Conceptually this research is inspired by and has been conducted through the lens of ‘subalternity’ ” ( Hassaniyan, 2021, p. 931 ).

In this first paragraph, the author is doing the following:

  • The author contextualises the research
  • The author links the research focus to the international literature on structural inequalities
  • The author clearly presents the argument of the research
  • The author clarifies how the research is inspired by and uses the concept of ‘subalternity’.

Thus, the author successfully introduces the literature review, from which point onward it dives into the main concept (‘subalternity’) of the research, and reviews the literature on socio-economic justice and environmental degradation.

While introductions to a literature review section aren’t always required to offer the same level of study context detail as demonstrated here, this introduction serves as a commendable model for orienting the reader within the literature review. It effectively underscores the literature review’s significance within the context of the study being conducted.

Examples 3-5: Effective introductions to literature review chapters

The introduction to a literature review chapter can vary in length, depending largely on the overall length of the literature review chapter itself. For example, a master’s thesis typically features a more concise literature review, thus necessitating a shorter introduction. In contrast, a Ph.D. thesis, with its more extensive literature review, often includes a more detailed introduction.

Numerous universities offer online repositories where you can access theses and dissertations from previous years, serving as valuable sources of reference. Many of these repositories, however, may require you to log in through your university account. Nevertheless, a few open-access repositories are accessible to anyone, such as the one by the University of Manchester . It’s important to note though that copyright restrictions apply to these resources, just as they would with published papers.

Master’s thesis literature review introduction

The first example is “Benchmarking Asymmetrical Heating Models of Spider Pulsar Companions” by P. Sun, a master’s thesis completed at the University of Manchester on January 9, 2024. The author, P. Sun, introduces the literature review chapter very briefly but effectively:

literature review intro paragraph

PhD thesis literature review chapter introduction

The second example is Deep Learning on Semi-Structured Data and its Applications to Video-Game AI, Woof, W. (Author). 31 Dec 2020, a PhD thesis completed at the University of Manchester . In Chapter 2, the author offers a comprehensive introduction to the topic in four paragraphs, with the final paragraph serving as an overview of the chapter’s structure:

literature review intro paragraph

PhD thesis literature review introduction

The last example is the doctoral thesis Metacognitive strategies and beliefs: Child correlates and early experiences Chan, K. Y. M. (Author). 31 Dec 2020 . The author clearly conducted a systematic literature review, commencing the review section with a discussion of the methodology and approach employed in locating and analyzing the selected records.

literature review intro paragraph

Having absorbed all of this information, let’s recap the essential steps and offer a succinct guide on how to proceed with creating your literature review introduction:

  • Contextualize your review : Begin by clearly identifying the academic context in which your literature review resides and determining the necessary information to include.
  • Outline your structure : Develop a structured outline for your literature review, highlighting the essential information you plan to incorporate in your introduction.
  • Literature review process : Conduct a rigorous literature review, reviewing and analyzing relevant sources.
  • Summarize and abstract : After completing the review, synthesize the findings and abstract key insights, trends, and knowledge gaps from the literature.
  • Craft the introduction : Write your literature review introduction with meticulous attention to the seamless integration of your review into the larger context of your work. Ensure that your introduction effectively elucidates your rationale for the chosen review topics and the underlying reasons guiding your selection.

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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Writing a 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.

  • UConn Library
  • Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide
  • Introduction

Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide — Introduction

  • Getting Started
  • How to Pick a Topic
  • Strategies to Find Sources
  • Evaluating Sources & Lit. Reviews
  • Tips for Writing Literature Reviews
  • Writing Literature Review: Useful Sites
  • Citation Resources
  • Other Academic Writings

What are Literature Reviews?

So, what is a literature review? "A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries." Taylor, D.  The literature review: A few tips on conducting it . University of Toronto Health Sciences Writing Centre.

Goals of Literature Reviews

What are the goals of creating a Literature Review?  A literature could be written to accomplish different aims:

  • To develop a theory or evaluate an existing theory
  • To summarize the historical or existing state of a research topic
  • Identify a problem in a field of research 

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1997). Writing narrative literature reviews .  Review of General Psychology , 1 (3), 311-320.

What kinds of sources require a Literature Review?

  • A research paper assigned in a course
  • A thesis or dissertation
  • A grant proposal
  • An article intended for publication in a journal

All these instances require you to collect what has been written about your research topic so that you can demonstrate how your own research sheds new light on the topic.

Types of Literature Reviews

What kinds of literature reviews are written?

Narrative review: The purpose of this type of review is to describe the current state of the research on a specific topic/research and to offer a critical analysis of the literature reviewed. Studies are grouped by research/theoretical categories, and themes and trends, strengths and weakness, and gaps are identified. The review ends with a conclusion section which summarizes the findings regarding the state of the research of the specific study, the gaps identify and if applicable, explains how the author's research will address gaps identify in the review and expand the knowledge on the topic reviewed.

  • Example : Predictors and Outcomes of U.S. Quality Maternity Leave: A Review and Conceptual Framework:  10.1177/08948453211037398  

Systematic review : "The authors of a systematic review use a specific procedure to search the research literature, select the studies to include in their review, and critically evaluate the studies they find." (p. 139). Nelson, L. K. (2013). Research in Communication Sciences and Disorders . Plural Publishing.

  • Example : The effect of leave policies on increasing fertility: a systematic review:  10.1057/s41599-022-01270-w

Meta-analysis : "Meta-analysis is a method of reviewing research findings in a quantitative fashion by transforming the data from individual studies into what is called an effect size and then pooling and analyzing this information. The basic goal in meta-analysis is to explain why different outcomes have occurred in different studies." (p. 197). Roberts, M. C., & Ilardi, S. S. (2003). Handbook of Research Methods in Clinical Psychology . Blackwell Publishing.

  • Example : Employment Instability and Fertility in Europe: A Meta-Analysis:  10.1215/00703370-9164737

Meta-synthesis : "Qualitative meta-synthesis is a type of qualitative study that uses as data the findings from other qualitative studies linked by the same or related topic." (p.312). Zimmer, L. (2006). Qualitative meta-synthesis: A question of dialoguing with texts .  Journal of Advanced Nursing , 53 (3), 311-318.

  • Example : Women’s perspectives on career successes and barriers: A qualitative meta-synthesis:  10.1177/05390184221113735

Literature Reviews in the Health Sciences

  • UConn Health subject guide on systematic reviews Explanation of the different review types used in health sciences literature as well as tools to help you find the right review type
  • << Previous: Getting Started
  • Next: How to Pick a Topic >>
  • Last Updated: Sep 21, 2022 2:16 PM
  • URL: https://guides.lib.uconn.edu/literaturereview

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Literature Review Tips for the Introduction and Discussion Sections

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A literature review is a summary of studies related to a particular area of research. It identifies and summarizes all the relevant research conducted on a particular topic. It is important that your literature review is focused . Therefore, you should choose a limited number of studies that are central to your topic rather than trying to collect a wide range of studies that might not be closely connected.

Literature reviews help you accomplish the following:

  • Evaluate past research  Collecting relevant resources will help you see what research has already been done. This will also help avoid duplication.
  • Identify experts It is important to identify credible researchers who have knowledge in a given field, in order to seek their help if you get stuck with certain aspects of your research.
  • Identify key questions  Your ultimate aim is to bring something new to the conversation. Collecting resources will help you determine the important questions that need to be addressed.
  • Determine methodologies used in past studies Knowing how others have approached a particular topic will give you the opportunity to identify problems and find new ways to research and study a topic. If the reported methodology was successful, you can use it and save time that you would otherwise be spending on optimization.

Presenting Literature Review in the Introduction and Discussion Sections

There are many benefits to presenting literature reviews in the introduction and discussion sections of your manuscripts . However, there are differences in how you can present literature reviews in each section.

What Should be Included in the Literature Review of the Introduction Section?

The literature reviewed in the introduction should:

  • Introduce the topic
  • Establish the significance of the study
  • Provide an overview of the relevant literature
  • Establish a context for the study using the literature
  • Identify knowledge gaps
  • Illustrate how the study will advance knowledge on the topic

As you can see, literature review plays a significant role in the introduction section. However, there are some things that you should avoid doing in this section. These include:

  • Elaborating on the studies mentioned in the literature review
  • Using studies from the literature review to aggressively support your research
  • Directly quoting studies from the literature review

It is important to know how to integrate the literature review into the introduction in an effective way. Although you can mention other studies, they should not be the focus. Instead, focus on using the literature review to aid in setting a foundation for the manuscript.

What Goes in the Literature Review of the Discussion Section?

Literature reviews play an important role in the discussion section of a manuscript . In this section, your findings should be the focus, rather than those of other researchers. Therefore, you should only use the studies mentioned in the literature review as support and evidence for your study.

There are three ways in which you can use literature reviews in the discussion section:

  • To Provide Context for Your Study Using studies from the literature review helps to set the foundation for how you will reveal your findings and develop your ideas.
  • Compare your Findings to Other Studies You can use previous literature as a backdrop to compare your new findings. This helps describe and also advance your ideas.
  • State the Contribution of Your Study In addition to developing your ideas, you can use literature reviews to explain how your study contributes to the field of study.

However, there are three common mistakes that researchers make when including literature reviews in the discussion section. First, they mention all sorts of studies, some of which are not even relevant to the topic under investigation. Second, instead of citing the original article, they cite a related article that mentions the original article. Lastly, some authors cite previous work solely based on the abstract, without even going through the entire paper.

We hope this article helps you effectively present your literature review in both the introduction as well as the discussion section of your manuscript. You can also mention any other tips that will add to this article in the comments section below.

References:

[1]  http://www.math.montana.edu/jobo/phdprep/documents/phd6.pdf 

[2]  https://libguides.unf.edu/c.php?g=177129&p=1163732

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How To Structure Your Literature Review

3 options to help structure your chapter.

By: Amy Rommelspacher (PhD) | Reviewer: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | November 2020 (Updated May 2023)

Writing the literature review chapter can seem pretty daunting when you’re piecing together your dissertation or thesis. As  we’ve discussed before , a good literature review needs to achieve a few very important objectives – it should:

  • Demonstrate your knowledge of the research topic
  • Identify the gaps in the literature and show how your research links to these
  • Provide the foundation for your conceptual framework (if you have one)
  • Inform your own  methodology and research design

To achieve this, your literature review needs a well-thought-out structure . Get the structure of your literature review chapter wrong and you’ll struggle to achieve these objectives. Don’t worry though – in this post, we’ll look at how to structure your literature review for maximum impact (and marks!).

The function of the lit review

But wait – is this the right time?

Deciding on the structure of your literature review should come towards the end of the literature review process – after you have collected and digested the literature, but before you start writing the chapter. 

In other words, you need to first develop a rich understanding of the literature before you even attempt to map out a structure. There’s no use trying to develop a structure before you’ve fully wrapped your head around the existing research.

Equally importantly, you need to have a structure in place before you start writing , or your literature review will most likely end up a rambling, disjointed mess. 

Importantly, don’t feel that once you’ve defined a structure you can’t iterate on it. It’s perfectly natural to adjust as you engage in the writing process. As we’ve discussed before , writing is a way of developing your thinking, so it’s quite common for your thinking to change – and therefore, for your chapter structure to change – as you write. 

Need a helping hand?

literature review intro paragraph

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

Just like any good introduction, the introduction section of your literature review should introduce the purpose and layout (organisation) of the chapter. In other words, your introduction needs to give the reader a taste of what’s to come, and how you’re going to lay that out. Essentially, you should provide the reader with a high-level roadmap of your chapter to give them a taste of the journey that lies ahead.

Here’s an example of the layout visualised in a literature review introduction:

Example of literature review outline structure

Your introduction should also outline your topic (including any tricky terminology or jargon) and provide an explanation of the scope of your literature review – in other words, what you  will   and  won’t   be covering (the delimitations ). This helps ringfence your review and achieve a clear focus . The clearer and narrower your focus, the deeper you can dive into the topic (which is typically where the magic lies). 

Depending on the nature of your project, you could also present your stance or point of view at this stage. In other words, after grappling with the literature you’ll have an opinion about what the trends and concerns are in the field as well as what’s lacking. The introduction section can then present these ideas so that it is clear to examiners that you’re aware of how your research connects with existing knowledge .

Free Webinar: Literature Review 101

2: The Body Section

The body of your literature review is the centre of your work. This is where you’ll present, analyse, evaluate and synthesise the existing research. In other words, this is where you’re going to earn (or lose) the most marks. Therefore, it’s important to carefully think about how you will organise your discussion to present it in a clear way. 

The body of your literature review should do just as the description of this chapter suggests. It should “review” the literature – in other words, identify, analyse, and synthesise it. So, when thinking about structuring your literature review, you need to think about which structural approach will provide the best “review” for your specific type of research and objectives (we’ll get to this shortly).

There are (broadly speaking)  three options  for organising your literature review.

The body section of your literature review is the where you'll present, analyse, evaluate and synthesise the existing research.

Option 1: Chronological (according to date)

Organising the literature chronologically is one of the simplest ways to structure your literature review. You start with what was published first and work your way through the literature until you reach the work published most recently. Pretty straightforward.

The benefit of this option is that it makes it easy to discuss the developments and debates in the field as they emerged over time. Organising your literature chronologically also allows you to highlight how specific articles or pieces of work might have changed the course of the field – in other words, which research has had the most impact . Therefore, this approach is very useful when your research is aimed at understanding how the topic has unfolded over time and is often used by scholars in the field of history. That said, this approach can be utilised by anyone that wants to explore change over time .

Adopting the chronological structure allows you to discuss the developments and debates in the field as they emerged over time.

For example , if a student of politics is investigating how the understanding of democracy has evolved over time, they could use the chronological approach to provide a narrative that demonstrates how this understanding has changed through the ages.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you structure your literature review chronologically.

  • What is the earliest literature published relating to this topic?
  • How has the field changed over time? Why?
  • What are the most recent discoveries/theories?

In some ways, chronology plays a part whichever way you decide to structure your literature review, because you will always, to a certain extent, be analysing how the literature has developed. However, with the chronological approach, the emphasis is very firmly on how the discussion has evolved over time , as opposed to how all the literature links together (which we’ll discuss next ).

Option 2: Thematic (grouped by theme)

The thematic approach to structuring a literature review means organising your literature by theme or category – for example, by independent variables (i.e. factors that have an impact on a specific outcome).

As you’ve been collecting and synthesising literature , you’ll likely have started seeing some themes or patterns emerging. You can then use these themes or patterns as a structure for your body discussion. The thematic approach is the most common approach and is useful for structuring literature reviews in most fields.

For example, if you were researching which factors contributed towards people trusting an organisation, you might find themes such as consumers’ perceptions of an organisation’s competence, benevolence and integrity. Structuring your literature review thematically would mean structuring your literature review’s body section to discuss each of these themes, one section at a time.

The thematic structure allows you to organise your literature by theme or category  – e.g. by independent variables.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when structuring your literature review by themes:

  • Are there any patterns that have come to light in the literature?
  • What are the central themes and categories used by the researchers?
  • Do I have enough evidence of these themes?

PS – you can see an example of a thematically structured literature review in our literature review sample walkthrough video here.

Option 3: Methodological

The methodological option is a way of structuring your literature review by the research methodologies used . In other words, organising your discussion based on the angle from which each piece of research was approached – for example, qualitative , quantitative or mixed  methodologies.

Structuring your literature review by methodology can be useful if you are drawing research from a variety of disciplines and are critiquing different methodologies. The point of this approach is to question  how  existing research has been conducted, as opposed to  what  the conclusions and/or findings the research were.

The methodological structure allows you to organise your chapter by the analysis method  used - e.g. qual, quant or mixed.

For example, a sociologist might centre their research around critiquing specific fieldwork practices. Their literature review will then be a summary of the fieldwork methodologies used by different studies.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when structuring your literature review according to methodology:

  • Which methodologies have been utilised in this field?
  • Which methodology is the most popular (and why)?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the various methodologies?
  • How can the existing methodologies inform my own methodology?

3: The Conclusion Section

Once you’ve completed the body section of your literature review using one of the structural approaches we discussed above, you’ll need to “wrap up” your literature review and pull all the pieces together to set the direction for the rest of your dissertation or thesis.

The conclusion is where you’ll present the key findings of your literature review. In this section, you should emphasise the research that is especially important to your research questions and highlight the gaps that exist in the literature. Based on this, you need to make it clear what you will add to the literature – in other words, justify your own research by showing how it will help fill one or more of the gaps you just identified.

Last but not least, if it’s your intention to develop a conceptual framework for your dissertation or thesis, the conclusion section is a good place to present this.

In the conclusion section, you’ll need to present the key findings of your literature review and highlight the gaps that exist in the literature. Based on this, you'll  need to make it clear what your study will add  to the literature.

Example: Thematically Structured Review

In the video below, we unpack a literature review chapter so that you can see an example of a thematically structure review in practice.

Let’s Recap

In this article, we’ve  discussed how to structure your literature review for maximum impact. Here’s a quick recap of what  you need to keep in mind when deciding on your literature review structure:

  • Just like other chapters, your literature review needs a clear introduction , body and conclusion .
  • The introduction section should provide an overview of what you will discuss in your literature review.
  • The body section of your literature review can be organised by chronology , theme or methodology . The right structural approach depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your research.
  • The conclusion section should draw together the key findings of your literature review and link them to your research questions.

If you’re ready to get started, be sure to download our free literature review template to fast-track your chapter outline.

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Literature Review Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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Literature review 101 - how to find articles

27 Comments

Marin

Great work. This is exactly what I was looking for and helps a lot together with your previous post on literature review. One last thing is missing: a link to a great literature chapter of an journal article (maybe with comments of the different sections in this review chapter). Do you know any great literature review chapters?

ISHAYA JEREMIAH AYOCK

I agree with you Marin… A great piece

Qaiser

I agree with Marin. This would be quite helpful if you annotate a nicely structured literature from previously published research articles.

Maurice Kagwi

Awesome article for my research.

Ache Roland Ndifor

I thank you immensely for this wonderful guide

Malik Imtiaz Ahmad

It is indeed thought and supportive work for the futurist researcher and students

Franklin Zon

Very educative and good time to get guide. Thank you

Dozie

Great work, very insightful. Thank you.

KAWU ALHASSAN

Thanks for this wonderful presentation. My question is that do I put all the variables into a single conceptual framework or each hypothesis will have it own conceptual framework?

CYRUS ODUAH

Thank you very much, very helpful

Michael Sanya Oluyede

This is very educative and precise . Thank you very much for dropping this kind of write up .

Karla Buchanan

Pheeww, so damn helpful, thank you for this informative piece.

Enang Lazarus

I’m doing a research project topic ; stool analysis for parasitic worm (enteric) worm, how do I structure it, thanks.

Biswadeb Dasgupta

comprehensive explanation. Help us by pasting the URL of some good “literature review” for better understanding.

Vik

great piece. thanks for the awesome explanation. it is really worth sharing. I have a little question, if anyone can help me out, which of the options in the body of literature can be best fit if you are writing an architectural thesis that deals with design?

S Dlamini

I am doing a research on nanofluids how can l structure it?

PATRICK MACKARNESS

Beautifully clear.nThank you!

Lucid! Thankyou!

Abraham

Brilliant work, well understood, many thanks

Nour

I like how this was so clear with simple language 😊😊 thank you so much 😊 for these information 😊

Lindiey

Insightful. I was struggling to come up with a sensible literature review but this has been really helpful. Thank you!

NAGARAJU K

You have given thought-provoking information about the review of the literature.

Vakaloloma

Thank you. It has made my own research better and to impart your work to students I teach

Alphonse NSHIMIYIMANA

I learnt a lot from this teaching. It’s a great piece.

Resa

I am doing research on EFL teacher motivation for his/her job. How Can I structure it? Is there any detailed template, additional to this?

Gerald Gormanous

You are so cool! I do not think I’ve read through something like this before. So nice to find somebody with some genuine thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This site is one thing that is required on the internet, someone with a little originality!

kan

I’m asked to do conceptual, theoretical and empirical literature, and i just don’t know how to structure it

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  • 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

Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.

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

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McCombes, S. (2022, June 07). What is a Literature Review? | Guide, Template, & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 22 February 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/thesis-dissertation/literature-review/

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Writing Resources

Writing a literature review.

This handout is available for download in  DOCX format  and  PDF format .

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, as it discusses the research (also called scholarship or literature) in a given field.

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

Different situations and disciplines each have different expectations for literature reviews. In the humanities, authors might include more overt argumentation and interpretation of source material, while in the sciences, authors are more likely to report study designs and results. Always get feedback from those knowledgeable in your field to be sure you understand your discipline’s conventions for literature reviews.

A literature review can be a part of a research paper or scholarly article, usually coming just after the introduction. Such lit reviews only need to cover scholarship important to your topic, though it may also cover key sources that informed your research methodology.

Lit reviews can also be standalone pieces, either as class assignments or as publications. In a class, a lit review may help students familiarize themselves with a topic and its important scholars, find gaps in existing research, and/or develop frameworks and methodologies for later research. As a publication, a lit review can help other scholars—especially students and scholars entering a new research area—by collecting, summarizing, synthesizing, and analyzing existing research on a topic.

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 separate place to discuss your goals, research methods, and conclusions.

Introduction:

  • An introductory paragraph that explains your working topic and thesis
  • 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 common in published, standalone literature reviews)
  • 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 structures depending on your goals. Here are just four examples:

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the topic’s development over time, which helps familiarize the audience with it. 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 field, and if appropriate in your discipline, give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found recurring 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 religious attitudes towards women.

Methodological

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

  • 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 theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

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

  • Research thoroughly and choose your sources wisely; your lit review is only as good as the research it discusses!
  • Create an annotated bibliography (see our Annotated Bibliographies handout ) as you research. The information in it will become a foundation for your lit review, while creating it will also help you develop a sense for the larger scholarly conversations in the field.
  • Synthesize research rather than just summarizing it. This often means using multiple authors in each paragraph.
  • Frame your lit review as an argument if possible and appropriate in your discipline. This will offer you a chance to position yourself in relation to other scholars, to define your intellectual lineage, and to argue for your place in the scholarly conversation.

Adapted from the Purdue OWL Guide, https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/conducting_research/writing_a_literature_review.html, 2020.

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Writing: Literature Review Basics

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The Most Important Thing

The best time to write an introduction is AFTER you write the body of your paper.

Well, how do you know what to introduce until after you've figured out what you want to say?

The best time to write an introduction is as one of the last things you do.

Basic Introduction Template

For any other sort of scholarly writing, the following basic structure works well for an introduction:

  • What has been said or done on this topic?  
  • What is the problem with what has been said or done?
  • What will you offer to solve the problem?  (The answer to this is your thesis statement.)
  • How does your solution address necessary change?

Writing an Introduction

The job of an introduction is to preview what you are going to say so the audience knows what is coming.  A good introduction starts out generally and works towards a specific statement of what you intend to discuss in your writing. 

The introduction explains the focus and establishes the importance of the subject. It discusses what kind of work has been done on the topic and identifies any controversies within the field or any recent research which has raised questions about earlier assumptions. It may provide background or history, and it indicates why the topic is important, interesting, problematic, or relevant in some way.  It concludes with a purpose or thesis statement. In a stand-alone literature review, this statement will sum up and evaluate the state of the art in this field of research; in a review that is an introduction or preparatory to a larger work, such as the Culminating Project, it will suggest how the review findings will lead to the research the writer proposes to undertake.

In a literature review, an introduction may contain the following:

  • A concise definition of a topic under consideration (this may be a descriptive or argumentative thesis, or proposal), as well as the scope of the related literature being investigated. (Example: If the topic under consideration is ‘women’s wartime diaries’, the scope of the review may be limited to published or unpublished works, works in English, works from a particular location, time period, or conflict, etc.)  
  • The introduction should also note what topics are being included and what are intentional exclusions. (Example: “This review will not explore the diaries of adolescent girls.”)
  • A final sentence should signal the list of key topics that will be used to discuss the selected sources.

Many theories have been proposed to explain what motivates human behavior. Although the literature covers a wide variety of such theories, this review will focus on five major themes which emerge repeatedly throughout the literature reviewed. These themes are incorporation of the self-concept into traditional theories of motivation, the influence of rewards on motivation, the increasing importance of internal forces of motivation, autonomy and self-control as sources of motivation, and narcissism as an essential component of motivation. Although the literature presents these themes in a variety of contexts, this paper will primarily focus on their application to self-motivation.

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How To Write A Literature Review Introduction: A Quick Guide

By Laura Brown on 5th July 2023

When it comes to writing an introduction to a literature review, there are a few key steps to keep in mind. Start by clearly stating the purpose and scope of your review. Then, provide a brief overview of the main themes or concepts you will address. It’s important to engage your readers from the start with a compelling opening paragraph that hooks their interest. Lastly, establish the background and context of your research and outline the objectives of your review. So, these components can be summarised as,

  • Background and context
  • Objective and purpose
  • Scope and inclusion/exclusion criteria
  • Research questions or hypotheses
  • Organisation and structure
  • Signposting
  • Methodology (optional)

Now, if you’re a student or researcher diving into the world of literature reviews, you’ve come to the right place. Crafting an effective introduction is crucial to engage your readers and set the stage for your review. In this guide, we will walk you through ten essential steps to help you create a captivating introduction with perfection. From understanding the purpose and scope to presenting the background and context, we’ve got you covered. So, let’s embark on this journey together and unlock the secrets on how to write a good introduction for a literature review that grabs attention.

How To Write A Literature Review Introduction In 10 Steps With Perfection

Step 1: Clarify The Purpose And Scope Of Your Literature Review

Before diving into writing, it’s essential to gain a clear understanding of its purpose and scope and be aware of how to start it. Begin with defining the overarching goal of your review. Are you aiming to provide a comprehensive overview of existing primary and secondary research on a specific topic? Or perhaps you’re focusing on a particular aspect or gap in the literature?

Additionally, determine the scope of your review by identifying the timeframe, geographical area, or specific disciplines you will cover. Clearly defining the purpose and scope will not only help you stay focused, but also ensure that your introduction sets the right expectations for your readers.

Step 2: Identify The Main Themes Or Concepts You’ll Address

To create a good literature review introduction structure, it’s crucial to identify and articulate the main themes or concepts that will be the focus of your review. Take some time to analyse the body of literature you have gathered and identify recurring ideas, theories, or key areas of discussion.

These themes or concepts will serve as the foundation for organising your review and guiding your readers through the subsequent sections. By clearly identifying and introducing these main themes or concepts in your introduction, you provide readers with a roadmap of what to expect and demonstrate your understanding of the existing knowledge within your field.

Step 3: Conduct A Comprehensive Search For Relevant Academic Sources

To ensure the credibility and depth of your literature review, embark on a thorough search for relevant academic sources. Utilise scholarly databases, online libraries, and search engines to locate articles, books, conference papers, and other reputable sources related to your research topic.

Cast a wide net to gather a comprehensive collection of materials that provide diverse perspectives and insights. Pay attention to keywords, use advanced search techniques, and explore bibliographies of relevant sources to uncover hidden gems. Conducting a comprehensive literature search will let you lay the groundwork for a well-informed and robust review.

Step 4: Evaluate And Select The Most Appropriate Sources.

Once you have accumulated a substantial number of potential sources, it’s essential to critically evaluate their quality, credibility, and relevance. Assess the authority of the authors, the reputation of the publishing journals or organisations, and the rigour of the research methodologies employed.

Scrutinise the relevance of each source to your research objectives and discard any that do not align with your focus. You should aim for a balanced mix of seminal works and recent publications to ensure the inclusion of both foundational knowledge and the latest advancements in your field.

Step 5: Organise Your Sources Based On Identified Themes Or Concepts

Now that you have a curated selection of relevant sources, it’s time to organise them based on the main themes or concepts you have identified. For this, look for common threads, recurring ideas, or distinct categories within the literature. Furthermore, create a system, such as using digital tools or physical note cards, to sort and categorise your sources accordingly.

Consider how each source contributes to each theme or concept, and make strategic decisions about their placement. By taking these steps, as suggested by Literature Review Writing Service , you can lay the groundwork for a coherent and cohesive literature review that flows seamlessly from one theme to another.

Step 6: Develop An Outline For Your Introduction

With a clear understanding of your literature review’s purpose, themes, organised sources and sufficient understanding of how to introduce a literature review , it’s time to develop an outline for your introduction. Firstly, consider the key points and sub-points you want to address. For this, begin with a concise overview of the main themes or concepts you will cover, followed by a logical progression of the sub-points that support and introduce each theme.

This outline will serve as a roadmap, ensuring that you can do it in a well-structured and coherent manner, effectively guiding your readers through the upcoming sections.

Step 7: Craft An Engaging Opening Paragraph

The opening paragraph plays a crucial role in capturing your reader’s attention and setting the tone for the rest of the review. It will take two simple steps to come up with a solid introduction.

  • Start with a thought-provoking question, a captivating anecdote, or a surprising statistic related to your research topic.
  • Provide a clear and concise overview of the purpose of your literature review, highlighting its significance and relevance to the field.

By creating an opening paragraph that piques curiosity and conveys the purpose, you set the stage for a captivating literature review. Still, if you find it difficult, you can ask Crowd Writer for literature review introduction examples.

Step 8: Provide Relevant Background Information And Context

After hooking your readers, it’s important to provide them with the necessary background information and context to understand the topic and its significance. This step involves introducing key concepts, theories, or historical developments that are relevant to your literature review.

In the 8th step on how to write an introduction for a literature review, briefly explain any terminology or jargon that may be unfamiliar to your readers. Additionally, highlight the gap or problem in the existing literature that your review aims to address.

Step 9: Clearly State The Objectives Of Your Literature Review

In this step, it’s important to explicitly state the objectives of your literature review. Clearly articulate what you aim to achieve through your review. You should identify gaps in the existing literature, synthesise and analyse the findings of previous studies, or propose new research directions.

State these objectives in a concise and focused manner. By doing so, you will be able to provide a roadmap for your readers and set expectations for the insights and outcomes they can expect from your literature review.

Step 10: Provide A Brief Preview Of The Main Sections

As you conclude your introduction, offer a brief preview of the main sections or themes that you will cover in your literature review. This serves as a roadmap for readers, giving them an overview of the content they can expect in the subsequent sections.

Provide a concise summary of the main points or sub-points you will explore, highlighting the significance of each section and how they contribute to your overall review. By providing this preview on the structure of a literature review , you create anticipation and guide readers through the logical flow of your literature review, ensuring they understand the structure and organisation of your work.

Dos & Don’ts Of Literature Review Introduction

Summing up the blog.

Crafting a compelling and effective introduction for your literature review requires careful planning and attention to detail. By following the above-mentioned steps outlined in this guide, you can create an introduction that engages your readers, provides context and background information, and clearly communicates the objectives and structure of your review.

Remember, whenever you write a literature review introduction, first come up with an outline and have your research complete before you begin to write. By implementing these steps, you can set the stage for a successful literature review that captivates your audience and lays the foundation for a comprehensive exploration of your chosen topic.

Laura Brown

Laura Brown, a senior content writer who writes actionable blogs at Crowd Writer.

How to Write a Literature Review

An introduction to and a guide on how to write your next literature review

Become a Visual Thinker

literature review intro paragraph

Preparing for a Literature Review

Clearly define the topic of your research, this is the basis of picking what articles you'll be reading, analyzing and summarizing, and subsequently including in your research topic. Narrowing down the topic allows you to have a more specific base of literature to read, analyze, and review.

literature review intro paragraph

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a portion of a research paper that compiles, describes, and analyzes different sources of information relevant to a given research topic, and then draws connections between each source to one another and the research of the author writing the review. Rather than simply describing each of the sources, critical reviews of the sources should be made.

Literature Review Purpose

A literature review is important for a variety of reasons, beyond just providing a background for your research topic. The purpose of the literature review is to:

Discuss current questions and debates that exist in the research topic

Provide a summary of the relevant aspects of the sources reviewed

Show how your research paper is placed chronologically in the research topic

Provide an overall understanding and introduction to the topic, building credibility

Prevent the author from researching a topic or area that has already been done

literature review intro paragraph

How to Develop a Literature Review for Theses and Dissertations

The first step in developing the literature review for theses and dissertations is to collect information and sources that are related to the topic area you are researching.

1. Keyword search

There are a variety of different places to find relevant further research for your topic. University or public library catalogs are a good place to search, as well as online databases such as Google Scholar. When searching for relevant sources, try to use keywords that are related to your topic. When you find a few really good sources, look at their literature reviews and bibliographies to find other literature in the field.

2. Snowballing

Read as many sources in your field as possible to fully understand what work has been done in the past and where the current status of the topic lies. This could be journal articles, publications, books, and interviews, to name just a few.

Take notes as you are reading the different sources. I personally like to download my sources in my theses as pdfs and then highlight relevant information and annotate in the margins, using Adobe Acrobat Reader.

literature review intro paragraph

Once you have read and annotated bibliography of the relevant sources, then analyze the collected works and categorize them from most and least relevant to the subject you are discussing. One effective method for doing this is by utilizing a reading grid.

A reading grid can be broken down by source information individually for each source included in the theses or dissertation literature review, such as the research question, methodology, findings, limitations, and areas for future research. This allows you to easily see the most relevant information within each piece of literature. An example of this can be seen below, provided by OpenAcademics and adapted from Auckland University of Technology.

literature review intro paragraph

View this example in greater detail here .

3. Citations 

Citing a source means giving the credit for the source used in your research paper. This includes the information that you get from books or scholarly articles, and even pictures, charts or graphs. It is essential to give credit where it is due, so that you do not plagiarize another person's work.

You will need to include citations when you are using specific information from a single source, or when you are paraphrasing an idea from a single source. Citations can help avoid any confusion that would arise if someone else reads your work, and they can help direct readers to further resources on your topic.

When writing a literature review it is essential to keep track of all of the sources that you use. You should compile all of the sources into one document so that you can refer back to them easily and know what information came from which source. This will make it easier for you when you are ready to write your paper and insert citations.

There is a citation style that is specific to each discipline, and you should always follow the standards for your field. Check with your instructor or supervisor if you have any questions about the citation style you should use.

How to format citations

To make sure your paper is as perfect as it can be, let's take a look at how to format citations. If you're using Microsoft Word to write your literature review, you can use the "References" tab to organize your citations. If you want more control over the formatting, or if you're using another type of word processing program, you can do it manually.

Starting with a few basics

Double space everything, including block quotes and bibliography entries. If you're using a citation tool like Zotero or EndNote, make sure the formatting preferences are set for double spacing.For citations, you can use a standard font (like Times New Roman or Arial) in size 12. Using 1-inch margins all around for citations is common practice. To make sure your citations look good, indenting each new citation by half an inch is a good practice. (if you press Tab at the beginning of a paragraph, that should work).

Literature Review Length

The number of concepts explored and the number of sources incorporated into the literature review will determine its length. The number of sources included depend on how narrow or broad the topic is, the level of agreement among researchers in the topic, and the desired depth of analysis.

If the topic of your research is incredibly specific, there may only be a limited number of sources to choose from for your review, whereas if it is a really broad topic, you may need to include a variety of sources to paint a full picture of the topic background. Additionally, if there is a lot of disagreement within the research topic, you may need to include more sources to show the varying opinion that exists.

literature review intro paragraph

Introduction to the Literature Review

This section should describe how your research topic is placed in the context of the existing literature in the field, and provide a reasoning for reviewing the literature that has been selected. Additionally the methodology for finding these sources should be discussed, and the order of the selected literature should be explained — whether it is running chronologically, based on theme of sources, or some other methodological manner.

Body of the Literature Review

The best approach for the body of the literature review is to break it down into sections or paragraphs for each of the sources reviewed. Within each literature source discussion, there should be the following components:

Description of the context of the literature and a summary of the most important concepts and aspects

Explanations of theories, equations, and terminology, relevant to the topic

Discussion of aspects of the literature that connect to your research topic

Conclusion of the Literature Review

Within the conclusion of the literature review, the entire section should be summarized and connected together in a methodical manner. To achieve this, the conclusion should provide the following:

A summarized overview of the important concepts, flaws, and gaps in each of the reviewed sources.

A description of how the literature is tied together, and a discussion of how the topic being written about also contributes to the overall field of knowledge.

You should show that the sources provided in the literature review relate to the work that is to be discussed in your research topic. Directly discuss different aspects of the literature review that contributed to the concepts, ideas, methodology, results, and conclusions in your research. If your research addresses potential gaps in past literature, you can also highlight this here.

An effective method for meeting this conclusion is to first synthesize the works with a brief introduction, a comparison of agreeing and disagreeing points of view, and stating the research findings impact. Then finalize the conclusion by pointing out the limitations of the topic, its impact, and discussing the contribution of your own work to this field.

An example of this synthesis and contribution discussion can be seen below, provided by OpenAcademics and adapted from Auckland University of Technology.

literature review intro paragraph

You can view this example in greater detail here .

If you need additional insight into creating a literature review, I highly recommend checking out this video created by Wordvice Editing Service, which provides a detailed explanation of what to include, what not to include, how to structure, and how to compose a literature review from start to finish.

Thank you for reading!

If you’re looking for a tool to aid in your literature review, check out Scrintal — a web application designed to gather, organize & visually connect your thoughts, files & insights.

literature review intro paragraph

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The structure of a literature review

A literature review should be structured like any other essay: it should have an introduction, a middle or main body, and a conclusion.

Introduction

The introduction should:

  • define your topic and provide an appropriate context for reviewing the literature;
  • establish your reasons – i.e. point of view – for
  • reviewing the literature;
  • explain the organisation – i.e. sequence – of the review;
  • state the scope of the review – i.e. what is included and what isn’t included. For example, if you were reviewing the literature on obesity in children you might say something like: There are a large number of studies of obesity trends in the general population. However, since the focus of this research is on obesity in children, these will not be reviewed in detail and will only be referred to as appropriate.

The middle or main body should:

  • organise the literature according to common themes;
  • provide insight into the relation between your chosen topic and the wider subject area e.g. between obesity in children and obesity in general;
  • move from a general, wider view of the literature being reviewed to the specific focus of your research.

The conclusion should:

  • summarise the important aspects of the existing body of literature;
  • evaluate the current state of the literature reviewed;
  • identify significant flaws or gaps in existing knowledge;
  • outline areas for future study;
  • link your research to existing knowledge.

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Writing Research Papers

  • Writing a Literature Review

When writing a research paper on a specific topic, you will often need to include an overview of any prior research that has been conducted on that topic.  For example, if your research paper is describing an experiment on fear conditioning, then you will probably need to provide an overview of prior research on fear conditioning.  That overview is typically known as a literature review.  

Please note that a full-length literature review article may be suitable for fulfilling the requirements for the Psychology B.S. Degree Research Paper .  For further details, please check with your faculty advisor.

Different Types of Literature Reviews

Literature reviews come in many forms.  They can be part of a research paper, for example as part of the Introduction section.  They can be one chapter of a doctoral dissertation.  Literature reviews can also “stand alone” as separate articles by themselves.  For instance, some journals such as Annual Review of Psychology , Psychological Bulletin , and others typically publish full-length review articles.  Similarly, in courses at UCSD, you may be asked to write a research paper that is itself a literature review (such as, with an instructor’s permission, in fulfillment of the B.S. Degree Research Paper requirement). Alternatively, you may be expected to include a literature review as part of a larger research paper (such as part of an Honors Thesis). 

Literature reviews can be written using a variety of different styles.  These may differ in the way prior research is reviewed as well as the way in which the literature review is organized.  Examples of stylistic variations in literature reviews include: 

  • Summarization of prior work vs. critical evaluation. In some cases, prior research is simply described and summarized; in other cases, the writer compares, contrasts, and may even critique prior research (for example, discusses their strengths and weaknesses).
  • Chronological vs. categorical and other types of organization. In some cases, the literature review begins with the oldest research and advances until it concludes with the latest research.  In other cases, research is discussed by category (such as in groupings of closely related studies) without regard for chronological order.  In yet other cases, research is discussed in terms of opposing views (such as when different research studies or researchers disagree with one another).

Overall, all literature reviews, whether they are written as a part of a larger work or as separate articles unto themselves, have a common feature: they do not present new research; rather, they provide an overview of prior research on a specific topic . 

How to Write a Literature Review

When writing a literature review, it can be helpful to rely on the following steps.  Please note that these procedures are not necessarily only for writing a literature review that becomes part of a larger article; they can also be used for writing a full-length article that is itself a literature review (although such reviews are typically more detailed and exhaustive; for more information please refer to the Further Resources section of this page).

Steps for Writing a Literature Review

1. Identify and define the topic that you will be reviewing.

The topic, which is commonly a research question (or problem) of some kind, needs to be identified and defined as clearly as possible.  You need to have an idea of what you will be reviewing in order to effectively search for references and to write a coherent summary of the research on it.  At this stage it can be helpful to write down a description of the research question, area, or topic that you will be reviewing, as well as to identify any keywords that you will be using to search for relevant research.

2. Conduct a literature search.

Use a range of keywords to search databases such as PsycINFO and any others that may contain relevant articles.  You should focus on peer-reviewed, scholarly articles.  Published books may also be helpful, but keep in mind that peer-reviewed articles are widely considered to be the “gold standard” of scientific research.  Read through titles and abstracts, select and obtain articles (that is, download, copy, or print them out), and save your searches as needed.  For more information about this step, please see the Using Databases and Finding Scholarly References section of this website.

3. Read through the research that you have found and take notes.

Absorb as much information as you can.  Read through the articles and books that you have found, and as you do, take notes.  The notes should include anything that will be helpful in advancing your own thinking about the topic and in helping you write the literature review (such as key points, ideas, or even page numbers that index key information).  Some references may turn out to be more helpful than others; you may notice patterns or striking contrasts between different sources ; and some sources may refer to yet other sources of potential interest.  This is often the most time-consuming part of the review process.  However, it is also where you get to learn about the topic in great detail.  For more details about taking notes, please see the “Reading Sources and Taking Notes” section of the Finding Scholarly References page of this website.

4. Organize your notes and thoughts; create an outline.

At this stage, you are close to writing the review itself.  However, it is often helpful to first reflect on all the reading that you have done.  What patterns stand out?  Do the different sources converge on a consensus?  Or not?  What unresolved questions still remain?  You should look over your notes (it may also be helpful to reorganize them), and as you do, to think about how you will present this research in your literature review.  Are you going to summarize or critically evaluate?  Are you going to use a chronological or other type of organizational structure?  It can also be helpful to create an outline of how your literature review will be structured.

5. Write the literature review itself and edit and revise as needed.

The final stage involves writing.  When writing, keep in mind that literature reviews are generally characterized by a summary style in which prior research is described sufficiently to explain critical findings but does not include a high level of detail (if readers want to learn about all the specific details of a study, then they can look up the references that you cite and read the original articles themselves).  However, the degree of emphasis that is given to individual studies may vary (more or less detail may be warranted depending on how critical or unique a given study was).   After you have written a first draft, you should read it carefully and then edit and revise as needed.  You may need to repeat this process more than once.  It may be helpful to have another person read through your draft(s) and provide feedback.

6. Incorporate the literature review into your research paper draft.

After the literature review is complete, you should incorporate it into your research paper (if you are writing the review as one component of a larger paper).  Depending on the stage at which your paper is at, this may involve merging your literature review into a partially complete Introduction section, writing the rest of the paper around the literature review, or other processes.

Further Tips for Writing a Literature Review

Full-length literature reviews

  • Many full-length literature review articles use a three-part structure: Introduction (where the topic is identified and any trends or major problems in the literature are introduced), Body (where the studies that comprise the literature on that topic are discussed), and Discussion or Conclusion (where major patterns and points are discussed and the general state of what is known about the topic is summarized)

Literature reviews as part of a larger paper

  • An “express method” of writing a literature review for a research paper is as follows: first, write a one paragraph description of each article that you read. Second, choose how you will order all the paragraphs and combine them in one document.  Third, add transitions between the paragraphs, as well as an introductory and concluding paragraph. 1
  • A literature review that is part of a larger research paper typically does not have to be exhaustive. Rather, it should contain most or all of the significant studies about a research topic but not tangential or loosely related ones. 2   Generally, literature reviews should be sufficient for the reader to understand the major issues and key findings about a research topic.  You may however need to confer with your instructor or editor to determine how comprehensive you need to be.

Benefits of Literature Reviews

By summarizing prior research on a topic, literature reviews have multiple benefits.  These include:

  • Literature reviews help readers understand what is known about a topic without having to find and read through multiple sources.
  • Literature reviews help “set the stage” for later reading about new research on a given topic (such as if they are placed in the Introduction of a larger research paper). In other words, they provide helpful background and context.
  • Literature reviews can also help the writer learn about a given topic while in the process of preparing the review itself. In the act of research and writing the literature review, the writer gains expertise on the topic .

Downloadable Resources

  • How to Write APA Style Research Papers (a comprehensive guide) [ PDF ]
  • Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers (a brief summary) [ PDF ]
  • Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – literature review) [ PDF ]

Further Resources

How-To Videos     

  • Writing Research Paper Videos
  • UCSD Library Psychology Research Guide: Literature Reviews

External Resources

  • Developing and Writing a Literature Review from N Carolina A&T State University
  • Example of a Short Literature Review from York College CUNY
  • How to Write a Review of Literature from UW-Madison
  • Writing a Literature Review from UC Santa Cruz  
  • Pautasso, M. (2013). Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review. PLoS Computational Biology, 9 (7), e1003149. doi : 1371/journal.pcbi.1003149

1 Ashton, W. Writing a short literature review . [PDF]     

2 carver, l. (2014).  writing the research paper [workshop]. , prepared by s. c. pan for ucsd psychology.

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Conducting a Literature Review

  • Getting Started
  • Define your Research Question
  • Finding Sources
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Organizing the Review
  • Cite and Manage your Sources

Introduction

Once you have your literature review planned out, you are ready to begin writing! Good organization and a clear focus are key to writing a successful academic paper of any kind, which is why the previous steps in this guide are so important; the more thorough you are with each of the preceding elements of writing the literature review, the easier this final step will be.

A literature review is organized into an introduction, multiple body paragraphs, and a conclusion. This format should be familiar to you, as it is the general outline of most academic essays; what is new and exciting about this literature review is the information you've gathered in your research and synthesized in your organization and outlining process.

Remember, if you ever need help with writing an essay of any kind, the ACPHS Writing Center is here to help! You can book an appointment with one of the peer tutors or reach out by email. The Library is also here to provide assistance with your assignments, particularly finding or citing resources.

Additional Resources

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Intro Paragraph & Thesis

Introductory paragraphs can be the most challenging part of writing a paper. Instead of laying out the evidence (or in the case of a literature review, analyzing your resources), you must first provide background information and context for the topic, discuss the body of literature in general as well as the scope of your review, and give a brief outline of how you will organize the review.

It is generally a good idea to open an introduction with a hook, or an interesting first sentence. This could be a statistic or fact about the topic that you find relevant, a rhetorical question that will be answered in the rest of the introduction, or even an appropriate anecdote. The point of a strong hook is to catch the reader's attention; for a literature review, it can help get the reader invested in the research around your topic, as well as your analysis of it.

Some authors prefer to write their introductory paragraph after completing the body of the essay, finding it easier to summarize what will be shared with the reader after it has already been written. There is no right or wrong order for crafting your paper, so if this method appeals to you then you should make use of it. However, with appropriately detailed planning it can be simple to write out an introduction prior to the body. Using an outline  (using the methods provided by Walden University, for example) can make writing the introduction and the entire essay much simpler.

Your literature review's introduction should contain four major elements:

  • Establishing the topic, including providing background information and any necessary definitions to make sure your reader has all the context necessary to understand the rest of the literature review
  • The trends or themes of the research that you noticed while compiling your sources, including any that you will use to organize your literature
  • The purpose, criteria, and scope of the literature review: how will the literature be organized? What is your reason for examining this topic? What will you be analyzing about the sources (comparing/contrasting research methodology, conclusions, etc.)? Is there any literature you decided not to include -- if so, what disqualified it from the review?
  • Introduce your thesis statement by drawing on the previous 3 components of the introduction to state what you discovered about the literature on this topic. Specifically, the thesis should answer where the current literature's strengths and weaknesses lie, and where additional research may be needed

The purpose of the introduction is to make sure that your reader has all the information they need to understand and appreciate your literature review, and to provide them a general blueprint of the analysis and arguments you will be making.

  • 5 Questions to Strengthen Your Thesis Statement by the University of Guelph Digital Learning Commons

Body Paragraphs

With the introduction out of the way -- or perhaps even before you've written the introduction -- it's time to examine the literature you've gathered. We established how to organize the literature in the previous section of this guide, and that organization will serve as the framework for the body paragraphs. For example, if you organized your literature into themes, then each theme would serve as its own paragraph, in which you'd compare and contrast the sources within each theme; if you organized it by methodology or historical era, each of those would be a body paragraph.

As you write your literature analyses, keep the following recommendations in mind, provided by Shona McCombes at Scribbr :

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

Your summary of each source can be as detailed as is appropriate, based on how important the source is to the overall literature or how much analysis you have to perform on it. In general, the more significant a source is to your review, the more time should be devoted to summarizing and analyzing it.

While looking at individual sources, remember to keep connecting them back to the theme of the body paragraph and the overall thesis; explaining their relevance in a particular section of literature helps the reader follow along and better understand your overall arguments.

Other useful tips to keep in mind when writing your body paragraphs, provided by the Writing Center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill :

  • Use evidence to support your claims
  • Be selective, and focus on the most important points for each piece of literature rather than trying to describe everything
  • Use quotes when appropriate, but know that literature reviews do not frequently require direct quotations
  • Paraphrase accurately
  • Literature Reviews by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Writing Center

Conclusion & Reviewing Your Paper

Concluding Paragraph

A conclusion is used to provide further reinforcement of the arguments presented throughout the paper. In general, this consists of briefly summarizing the body paragraphs and reasserting their connection to your thesis. This is also good practice for a literature review; in addition, your conclusion should again summarize the broad trends of the research on your topic, as well as any opportunities for additional or more thorough research that you've found. 

Below are some helpful recommendations for writing conclusions, compiled from advice explained in more detail in the links below:

  • Address the broader implications of the existing research, and why it is important to close the gaps you evaluated during your literature review
  • Include a quotation or fact that effectively illustrates your thesis in a provocative or interesting way
  • Use simple, clear language without jargon
  • Reestablish your thesis and its connection with the literature reviewed

Your goal with the concluding paragraph of your literature review should be to leave the reader with a firm understanding of the existing literature on your topic, where additional research may be necessary, and why it matters.

Revising Your Literature Review

Revision is a process that goes beyond simply correcting spelling and grammar mistakes -- though proofreading is an important part of the writing process as well. The purpose of revising your literature review before submission is to look at it the way your reader will and pick up on any potential leaps of logic, unclear explanations, or shoddy evidence. The revision process should not begin immediately after finishing the paper; whenever possible, wait a few hours or days before looking at your draft, so that you can approach it with fresh eyes. 

When revising, focus on major issues with the paper such as organization, clarity, and thoroughness. Trying to both revise your writing and proofread it for small spelling or grammar issues may distract you from more important areas that could be improved. Ask yourself if your thesis is well-defended by the body paragraphs, and if you still agree with the conclusions you stated in the introduction. If more or better arguments are needed, find places in the body paragraphs to add evidence or make clearer connections to your thesis. Focus on the flow of the review; does each body paragraph move naturally into the next one? Do your paragraphs need to be reordered or restructured?

After major revisions are done, it is time to proofread for spelling, grammar, and general writing errors. Try reading the paper out loud and seeing where your word choice could be strengthened or a run-on sentence could be amended.

It can sometimes be difficult to revise an essay on your own, so consider booking an appointment with the ACPHS Writing Center to go over your writing with a tutor. Friends, classmates, or your professor can also be useful sources of feedback, and if possible try to get as many different readers to look over your writing and provide insight.

  • Revising Drafts by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center
  • << Previous: Organizing the Review
  • Next: Cite and Manage your Sources >>
  • Last Updated: Dec 19, 2022 1:17 PM
  • URL: https://libraryservices.acphs.edu/lit_review

literature review intro paragraph

How to Write a Literature Review

literature review intro paragraph

As every student knows, writing informative essay and research papers is an integral part of the educational program. You create a thesis, support it using valid sources, and formulate systematic ideas surrounding it. However, not all students know that they will also have to face another type of paper known as a Literature Review in college. Let's take a closer look at this with our custom essay writer .

Literature Review Definition

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

This type of writing requires you to read and analyze various sources that relate 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 used. A summary is a brief overview of the important information in the publication; a synthesis is a re-organization of the information that gives the writing a new and unique meaning.

Typically, a literature review is a part of a larger paper, such as a thesis or dissertation. However, you may also be given it as a stand-alone assignment.

The Purpose

The main purpose of a literature review is to summarize and synthesize the ideas created by previous authors without implementing personal opinions or other additional information.

However, a literature review objective is not just to list summaries of sources; rather, it is to notice a central trend or principle in all of the publications. Just like a research paper has a thesis that guides it on rails, a literature review has the main organizing principle (MOP). The goal of this type of academic writing is to identify the MOP and show how it exists in all of your supporting documents.

Why is a literature review important? The value of such work is explained by the following 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 matter.
  • Helps to find out the key themes, principles, concepts, and researchers that exist within a topic.
  • Helps to reveal relationships between existing ideas/studies on a topic.
  • Reveals the main points of controversy and gaps within a topic.
  • Suggests questions to drive primary research based on previous studies.

Here are some example topics for writing literature reviews:

  • 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 Dilemmas in "Crime and Punishment," "The Scarlet 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 need to write a literature review, students tend to wonder, "how long should a literature review be?" In some cases, the length of your paper's body may be determined by your instructor. Be sure to read the guidelines carefully to learn what is expected from you.

Keeping your literature review around 15-30% of your entire paper is recommended if you haven't been provided with specific guidelines. 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 should be specified in the instructions provided.

Literature Review Format: APA, MLA, and Chicago

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

  • How many sources should you review, and what kind of sources should they be (published materials, journal articles, or websites)?
  • What format should you use to cite the sources?
  • How long should the review be?
  • Should your review consist of a summary, synthesis, or a personal critique?
  • Should 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 throughout the whole text.
  • Make sure you choose a readable font. The preferred font for APA papers is Times New Roman set to 12-point size.
  • Include a header at 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 upper right corner of every page.
  • When shaping your literature review outline in APA, don't forget to include a title page. This page should include the paper's name, the author's name, and the institutional affiliation. Your title must be typed with upper and lowercase letters and centered in the upper part of the page; use no more than 12 words, and avoid using abbreviations and useless words.

For MLA style text, apply the following guidelines:

  • Double your spacing across the entire paper.
  • Set ½-inch indents for each new paragraph.
  • The preferred font for MLA papers is Times New Roman set to 12-point size.
  • Include a header at the top of your paper's first page or on the title page (note that MLA style does not require you to have a title page, but you are allowed to decide to include one). A header in this format should include your full name; the name of your instructor; the name of the class, course, or section number; and the due date of the assignment.
  • Include a running head in the top right corner of each page in your paper. Place 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 required 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 table titles, figure captions, notes, blockquotes, and entries within the bibliography or References.
  • Do not put spaces between paragraphs.
  • Make sure you choose a clear and easily-readable font. The preferred 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 should include your full name, class information, and the date. Center the cover page and place it one-third below the top of the page.
  • Place page numbers in the upper right corner of each page, including the cover page.

Read also about harvard format - popular style used in papers.

Structure of a Literature Review

How to structure a literature review: Like many 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 basic literature review structure in detail:

Structure of a Literature Review

  • Introduction

You should direct your reader(s) towards the MOP (main organizing principle). This means that your information must start from a broad perspective and gradually narrow down until it reaches your focal point.

Start by presenting your general 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 literature sources.

Body Paragraphs

Generally, each body paragraph will focus on a specific source of literature laid out in the essay's introduction. As each source has its own frame of reference for the MOP, it is crucial to structure the review in the most logically consistent way possible. This means the writing should be structured chronologically, thematically or methodologically.

Chronologically

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

Thematically

Instead of taking the "timeline approach," another option can be looking at the link between your MOP and your sources. Sometimes, the main idea will just glare from a piece of literature. Other times, the author may have to seek 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.

Methodologically

As made obvious by the terminology, this type of structuring focuses on 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 traits as repulsive and horrifying, forcing him to suffer in an isolated environment. By showcasing the various methods used to portray the MOP, the writer can compare them based on things like severity, ethicality, and overall impact.

After presenting your key findings in the body paragraphs, there are 3 final objectives to complete in the essay's conclusion. First, the author should summarize the findings they have made or found, in other words, and briefly answer the question: "What have you learned?"

After discussing that information, the next step is to present the significance of the information about our current world today. In other words, how can the reader take the information and apply it to today's society? From that point, we finish off with a breadcrumb trail.

As the author, you want to leave the readers' trail of thought within the actual essay topic. This provides them with a means of further investigation—meaning that the reader may consider where the discussion will go next.

Writing an Outline for a Literature Review

Students often underestimate the importance of planning the structure of their papers in advance. However, this is not a wise approach. Having a rough APA literature review outline (or other style outlines) will not only help you follow the right format and structure but will also make the writing process simpler and help ensure that you include all of the important information without missing anything.

How to write a literature review outline: As you already know from the Structure section of this guide, every part of your literature review performs its own important role. Therefore, you should create your outline while keeping the general introduction-body-conclusion structure in mind and ensuring that each section meets its own objectives. However, it is important to remember that a literature review outline is slightly different from outlines of other types of essays because it does not provide new information. Instead, it focuses on existing studies relevant to the main topic. ‍

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

  • Introduce the general topic. Provide background information on the Ebola virus: genome, pathogenesis, transmission, epidemiology, treatment, etc.
  • Shape the main research question: What is the potential role of arthropods (mechanical or biological vectors) in the distribution of the Ebola virus?
  • Methodology: For example, the information was searched through X databases to find relevant research articles about the Ebola virus and arthropods' role in its spreading. The data was extracted using a standardized form.
  • Expected outcomes
  • Overall trends in the literature on this topic: While the natural reservoir of the virus is still not known with certainty, many researchers believe that arthropods (and fruit bats, in particular) pay a significant role in the distribution of the virus.
  • Subject 1: A brief overview of the particular piece of literature in general terms; an analysis of the key aspects of the study; a review of the research questions, methods, procedures, and outcomes; and an overview of the strong and weak points, gaps, and contradictions.
  • Subject 2: A brief overview of the particular piece of literature in general terms; an analysis of the key aspects of the study; a review of the research questions, methods, procedures, and outcomes; and an overview of the strong and weak points, gaps, and contradictions.
  • Subject 3:  A brief overview of the particular piece of literature in general terms; an analysis of the key aspects of the study; a review of the research questions, methods, procedures, and outcomes; and an overview of the strong and weak points, gaps, and contradictions.
  • Indicate the relationships between the pieces of literature discussed. Emphasize key themes, common patterns, and trends. Talk about the pros and cons of the different approaches taken by the authors/researchers.
  • State which studies seem to be the most influential.
  • Emphasize the major contradictions and points of disagreement. Define the gaps still to be covered (if any).
  • If applicable: define how your own study will contribute to further disclosure of the topic.

Hopefully, this sample outline will help you to structure your own paper. However, if you feel like you need some more advice on how to organize your review, don’t hesitate to search for more literature review outline examples in APA or other styles on the Web, or simply ask our writers to get a dissertation help .

Need Help With LITERATURE REVIEW?

Count on our literature review writing service to get it done! We will make your literature essay, we only need your paper requirements to save your precious time and nerves from writing it on your own!

How to Write a Good Literature Review

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

literature review intro paragraph

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

Now, as you know about the general rules and have a basic literature review outline template, let's define the steps to take to handle this task right with our service:

Step 1: Identifying the Topic

This is probably the only matter you may approach differently depending on whether your literature review comes within a research paper or a separate assignment altogether. If you are creating a literature review as a part of another work, you need to search for literature related to your main research questions and problems. Respectively, if you are writing it as a stand-alone task, you will have to pick a relevant topic and central question upon which you will collect the literature. Earlier in this guide, we suggested some engaging topics to guide your search.

Step 2: Conducting Research

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

When you have a list of keywords, use them to search for valid and relevant sources. At this point, be sure to use only trusted sources, such as ones from university libraries, online scientific databases, etc.

Once you have found some sources, be sure to define whether or not they are actually relevant to your topic and research question. To save time, you can read abstracts to get general ideas of what the papers are about instead of the whole thing.

Pro Tip: When you finally find a few valid publications, take a look at their bibliographies to discover other relevant sources as well.

Step 3: Assess and Prioritize Sources

Throughout your research, you will likely find plenty of relevant literature to include in your literature review. At this point, students often make the mistake of trying to fit all the collected sources into their reviews. Instead, we suggest looking at what you've collected once more, evaluating the available sources, and selecting the most relevant ones. You most likely won't be able to read everything you find on a given topic and then be able to synthesize all of the sources into a single literature review. That's why prioritizing them is important.

To evaluate which sources are worth including in your review, keep in mind the following criteria:

  • Credibility;
  • Innovation;
  • Key insights;

Furthermore, as you read the sources, don’t forget to take notes on everything you can incorporate into the review later. And be sure to get your citations in place early on. If you cite the selected sources at the initial stage, you will find it easier to create your annotated bibliography later on.

Step 4: Identify Relationships, Key Ideas, and Gaps

Before you can move on to outlining and writing your literature review, the final step is determining the relationships between the studies that already exist. Identifying 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;

Here are a few examples: Common trends may include a focus on specific groups of people across different studies. Most researchers may have increased interest in certain aspects of the topic regarding key themes. Contradictions may include some disagreement concerning the theories and outcomes of a study. And finally, gaps most often refer to a lack of research on certain aspects of a topic.

Step 5: Make an Outline

Although students tend to neglect this stage, outlining is one of the most important steps in writing every academic paper. This is the easiest way to organize the body of your text and ensure that you haven't missed anything important. Besides, having a rough idea of what you will write about in the paper will help you get it right faster and more easily. Earlier in this guide, we already discussed the basic structure of a literature review and gave you an example of a good outline. At this workflow stage, you can use all of the knowledge you've gained from us to build your own outline.

Step 6: Move on to Writing

Having found and created all of your sources, notes, citations, and a detailed outline, you can finally get to the writing part of the process. At this stage, all you need to do is follow the plan you've created and keep in mind the overall structure and format defined in your professor's instructions.

Step 7: Adding the Final Touches

Most students make a common mistake and skip the final stage of the process, which includes proofreading and editing. We recommend taking enough time for these steps to ensure that your work will be worth the highest score. Do not underestimate the importance of proofreading and editing, and allocate enough time for these steps.

Pro Tip: Before moving on to proofreading and editing, be sure to set your literature review aside for a day or two. This will give you a chance to take your mind off it and then get back to proofreading with a fresh perspective. This tip will ensure that you won't miss out on any gaps or errors that might be present in your text.

These steps will help you create a top-notch literature review with ease! Want to get more advice on how to handle this body of work? Here are the top 3 tips you 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 remember is to find the best possible sources for their MOP. This means that you should select and filter through about 5-10 different options while doing initial research.

The stronger a piece of literature showcases the central point, the better the quality of the entire review.

2. Synthesize The Literature

Make sure to structure the review in the most effective way possible, whether it be chronologically, thematically, or methodologically. Understand what exactly you would like to say, and structure the source comparison accordingly.

3. Avoid Generalizations

Remember that each piece of literature will approach the MOP from a 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 can find two well-written literature reviews by the EssayPro writing team below. They will help you understand what the final product of a literature review should ideally look like.

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

The second literature review compares the impact of fear and pain on a protagonist’s overall development in various settings:

Both reviews will help you sharpen your skills and provide good guidelines for writing high-quality papers.

Get Help from an Essay Writer

Still aren’t sure whether you can handle literature review writing on your own? No worries because you can pay for essay writing and our service has got you covered! Boost your grades is to place an order in a few quick clicks and we will satisfy your write my paper request.

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Literature Review Introduction Sample

Literature Review Introduction Sample

How to Write Literature Review Introduction Sample

Table of contents, literature review (lr) introduction: revelation of concept, sample text 1, conceptual framework, declaration on lr type, sample text 2, follow referencing style, in-text referencing for lr introduction, sample text 3.

Notes- Footnotes & Endnotes

Sample Text 4

  • MLA Style (8th edition)

Sample Text 5

The Literature Review (LR) is an integral part of an in-depth research process, which involves critically scrutinized content attained from former research works and empirical reports. In a research paper , the LR is meant to address the identified issue and gain adequate knowledge to resolve it. However, since every research is unique in its way, soon the researcher discovers that the former research works are inadequate or limited in meeting the current research objectives. In this way, the LR brings forth the research gaps, which leads to further research process at the researcher’s end. 

It is important to note here that the Literature Review format may differ from one University to another. However, the process of analysis and declarations remain universal. For the formatting and the inclusion list always check the University module.

In this article, we will focus on understanding the relevance and content to be established in the Introduction part of the Literature Review.

On a standard basis, the structure of the Literature Review is meant to offer three sections – Introduction, Body, and the Conclusion. In the case of Introduction, the researcher must offer detailed information about the context and the intellectual narration about the topic. Historical contexts and the developmental process of the concern need to be summed up in this section. The researcher should declare the theories and the relevance of the theories to the research in a very comprehensive manner. While elaborating the relevance of the selected theories the key writers and philosophers should be introduced in the Introduction section of the LR. 

Sample Text 1 - Literature Review Introduction Sample

It is highly recommended that the researcher considers the inclusion of the Conceptual Framework in the LR Introduction. The objective behind the inclusion of the Conceptual Framework is to develop an in-depth thinking process and thereby understand the complexity of the identified issue of the research. This framework acts as a roadmap while constructing the Body and Conclusion or the Research Gaps. The conceptual framework as prescribed in Figure 1 should be considered while answering the specified questions one-by-one:

Figure 1: Map to Construct the Conceptual Framework

Map to Construct the Conceptual Framework - Literature Review Introduction Sample - Words Doctorate

The Literature Review Introduction can vary as per the type of review process considered by the researcher. Following the selected topic and the availability of secondary sources the LR can be:

  • A narrative or argumentative type,
  • A systematic review type with either of meta-synthesis or meta-analysis approach, or
  • A theoretical or integrative review type.

For all these types, it is necessary that the Literature Review Introduction makes clear declarations about the selection process and justify the selection of the type in the most intellectually logical manner.

If you select the narrative approach to review the collected literature, then mention it in the first few lines. You need to state that you will summarise the content of the selected literature and will derive the research gaps.

Alternatively, your literature review can be argumentative in approach. In this case, the Literature Review Introduction must declare the process of examining the biases and ways to identify the shortcomings of the selected literature.

In case, you select a systematic review of very narrowly selected literature; make sure that you identify the right process. Since systematic literature review can be shaped as meta-analysis or as meta-synthesis, the LR Introduction must clarify the approach. Mention how you follow statistical procedures to meet the meta-analysis approach and undergo a deductive process under quantitative methodology. For the meta-synthesis approach, give a clear idea about the non-statistical techniques under qualitative methodology.

For the theoretical approach of the literature review, introduce and establish the relevance of the selected theories in the LR Introduction. On the other hand, for the integrative review approach, generate the necessary framework about the process of leading the critiques.

Sample Text 2 - Literature Review Introduction Sample

The literature Review Introduction will not mention anything about the selected referencing style. The in-text citations will make it all clear. You must follow the right kind of in-text referencing style as per your selected subject and approach of your research.

In this article, we are offering three samples for a clear understanding. These exemplified referencing styles are:

  • American Psychological Association (APA) referencing system,
  • Chicago referencing or Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), &
  • Modern Languages Association (MLA) referencing system.

It is the presence of the references in the form of ‘parenthetical in-text citations, which determines the selected referencing style for the entire research work. Note that for subjects from Humanities, the common selection is of MLA style. Even in Humanities, if you are from dealing with History, Business Fine Arts, then you can consider the Chicago style of referencing. As for the APA referencing style the subjects from Social Sciences, Engineering, Education, etc. remains as the basic selection.  Still, we would recommend that always have a consultation with your Guide or Supervisor about the right selection of the referencing style.

APA Style (7 th edition)

APA style  of referencing under 7 th edition is a parenthetical way of declaring the references. The bracketed mode of references that you need to add to the Literature Review Introduction must comprise of –

  • The Surname of the Author
  • Publication Date
  • Page number or numbers

Sample Text 3 - Literature Review Introduction Sample

For instance, in Sample Text 1 for a fictitious book, ‘Evaluation of Education System’ by Simon Hillary , published in 2019; the APA style in-text referencing should appear like- (Hillary, 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary, 2019, pp. 84-88). Note that ‘p.’ stands for a single page, whereas ‘pp.’ for consecutive multiple pages. The page or page numbers are used when you quote from a text directly. In case there is no direct quote, you can avoid using the page or page numbers. In some cases like old texts, it is recommended to use paragraph or couplet numbers.

This format is a general application that varies slightly in the case of multiple authors. Let’s add Walter as co-author for two authored books. The in-text citations under the APA system follow the following provisions of using the commas ‘,’: There is no difference while referring to in-text reference to any book, journal or web article, or internet sources.

  • For a book with a single author: (Hillary, 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary, 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • For a book with two authors: (Hillary and Walter, 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary and Walter, 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • For a book with multiple authors: (Hillary et al., 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary et al., 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), single author: (Hillary, 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary, 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), two authors: (Hillary and Walter, 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary and Walter, 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), multiple authors: (Hillary et al., 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary et al., 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, single author: (Hillary, 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary, 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, two authors: (Hillary and Walter, 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary and Walter, 2019, pp. 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, multiple authors: (Hillary et al., 2019, p. 84) or (Hillary et al., 2019, pp. 84-88)

For APA in-text citations always remember:

  • To capitalise all the proper nouns, this will include the surname/s of the author or authors,
  • To capitalise the first alphabet of every word of any title is included in the text. Here, the prepositions and articles can remain in small letters.
  • Indent of ½ inch from left for every direct quote in the text.

Chicago Style (17 th edition)

Chicago referencing style (17 th edition) is used for documentations of –

  • Author-date citations, &
  • Notes and bibliography.

Though this style is very similar to the APA style of adding-

Yet the placement of the comma makes all the difference in the in-text citation process. Instead of putting the comma ‘,’ after the Surname of the Author, Chicago places it after the publication date and there is no space for ‘p.’ or ‘pp.’.

If we consider the same text ‘Evaluation of Education System’ by Simon Hillary, published in 2019 by Oxford Open Press in Oxford; the Chicago style in-text referencing should appear like- (Hillary 2019, 84) or (Hillary 2019, 84-88). Let’s add Walter as co-author for two authored books.

Author-date (in-text)

There is no difference while referring to in-text reference to any book, journal or web article, or internet sources.

  • For a book with a single author: (Hillary 2019, 84) or (Hillary 2019, 84-88)
  • For a book with two authors: (Hillary and Walter 2019, 84) or (Hillary and Walter 2019, 84-88)
  • For a book with multiple authors: (Hillary et al 2019, 84) or (Hillary et al 2019, 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), single author: (Hillary 2019, 84) or (Hillary 2019, 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), two authors: (Hillary and Walter 2019, 84) or (Hillary and Walter 2019, 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), multiple authors: (Hillary et al 2019, 84) or (Hillary et al 2019, 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, single author: (Hillary 2019, 84) or (Hillary 2019, 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, two authors: (Hillary and Walter 2019, 84) or (Hillary and Walter 2019, 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, multiple authors: (Hillary et al 2019, 84) or (Hillary et al 2019, 84-88)

The usage of Chicago is more particular when it comes to the inclusion of footnote or endnote in a text. Here, if you need to add any footnote or endnote to the Literature Review Introduction, then follow the following rules:

  • For book: Full name of the Author, Book title (Place of Publication: Publisher, Publication year) page number/s
  • Simon Hillary, Evaluation of Education System (Oxford: Oxford Open Press, 2019), 84-88
  • Following in-text mentions – Hillary, Evaluation of Education System, 84-88
  • For Journal Article: Full name of the Author, “Article Title,” Journal Name, Journal Volume, Journal No., Journal Issue (Month, Year): page number/s. Add DOI for electronic Journal publication.
  • Edmund Walter, “Education System and Global Policies.” Journal for Intellect, 26, no. 3 (Summer, 2019): 65. https://doi.org/16.2329/jfiunivbchro.26.3.0065.
  • Following in-text mentions – Walter, “Education System and Global Policies,” 65.
  • For Web Articles or Internet Sources- “Page Title,” Name of the Website, Date of Access (Month-date-year), URL.
  • “About Education System,” Educationresearch, accessed July 13, 2021, http://www.wr.dn/en/about-referencing-style.
  • Following in-text mentions – “About Education System.”

Sample Text 4 - Literature Review Introduction Sample

MLA Style (8 th edition)

MLA referencing style under 8 th edition is also a parenthetical way of declaring the references. The brackets in the in-text referencing process for the Introduction of your Literature Review must comprise of –

  • The Surname of the Author, and
  • Page number/s of the text or context.

Considering the same book, ‘Evaluation of Education System’ by Simon Hillary, published in 2019; the MLA style in-text referencing should appear like- (Hillary 84) or (Hillary 84-88). It is important that in the case of MLA the non-consecutive pages are just added by commas, as in- (Hillary 84, 26, 104). Let’s add Walter as co-author for two authored books. There is no difference while referring to in-text reference to any book, journal or web article, or internet sources. Note that there is no use of ‘p.’ or ‘pp.’ for page number/s and there is no space for commas ‘,’.

  • For a book with a single author: (Hillary 84) or (Hillary 84-88)
  • For a book with two authors: (Hillary and Walter 84) or (Hillary and Walter 84-88)
  • For a book with multiple authors: (Hillary et al 84) or (Hillary et al 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), single author: (Hillary 84) or (Hillary 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), two authors: (Hillary and Walter 84) or (Hillary and Walter 84-88)
  • Journal Article (both Print & Electronic), multiple authors: (Hillary et al 84) or (Hillary et al 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, single author: (Hillary 84) or (Hillary 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, two authors: (Hillary and Walter 84) or (Hillary and Walter 84-88)
  • Web Articles or Internet Sources, multiple authors: (Hillary et al 84) or (Hillary et al 84-88)

The MLA style is popular for its facilities to accommodate various kinds of exceptional in-text citations. In your Literature Review Introduction, these exceptions can occur in the following manner, yet MLA holds solutions for the-

No Author Citation: The in-text citation needs to be added by matching the very foremost element in the entry of the Cited Work, which can be the organisation’s name or source title.

Example: For the source- United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. International Annual Report for FY 2020-21, the in-text citation would be UNICEF (or United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) 162.

No Page Number/s Citation: In an in-text citation, when there is no page number, then you can consider the number of the chapter, scene, section, or anything that can locate the page.

Example: For the source- ‘Evaluation of Education System’ by Simon Hillary, the in-text citation would be (Hillary ch 2).

Same Author Different Sources:   The in-text citation of different works by the same author, MLA follows the regulation of shortening the title of the sources.

Example: For the source- ‘Evaluation of Education System’ by Simon Hillary, and ‘Education in Global Platform’ by Simon Hillary, the in-text citation would be (Hillary, Evaluation 84; and Hilary, Global 65).

Same Last Names: The in-text citation of different authors with the same surnames, MLA follows the trend of adding the First name initial.

Example: For the authors- Thomas Hilary and Simon Hilary with different sources, the in-text citation would be (T. Hillary 65 & S. Hillary 84).

Indirect Citation: The in-text citation for the information attained from indirect sources, MLA prescribes the provision of adding the source with parentheses and by the end of the sentence.

Example: If a piece of information about Hillary has been gathered from James Walter’s text published in 2020, then the in-text citation would be Hillary declared that the style of referencing … (Walter ch.2)

MLA style is very peculiar for its art of paraphrasing or delivering the context with the sources. For instance, in your Introduction, you can have sentences like-

Sample Text 5 - Literature Review Introduction Sample - Words Doctorate

In the conclusion, it is suggested that the Literature Review Introduction is very important for the success of your research However, to get your research approved by the University you need to take care of all the aspects and points mentioned above. 

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Literature Review: Conducting & Writing

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  • How to write a literary analysis essay | A step-by-step guide

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 14, 2023.

Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.

A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.

Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :

  • An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
  • A main body, divided into paragraphs , that builds an argument using evidence from the text.
  • A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.

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Table of contents

Step 1: reading the text and identifying literary devices, step 2: coming up with a thesis, step 3: writing a title and introduction, step 4: writing the body of the essay, step 5: writing a conclusion, other interesting articles.

The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.

Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.

To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.

Language choices

Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?

What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).

Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.

Narrative voice

Ask yourself:

  • Who is telling the story?
  • How are they telling it?

Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?

Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.

The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?

Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.

  • Novels are often divided into chapters and parts.
  • Poems are divided into lines, stanzas, and sometime cantos.
  • Plays are divided into scenes and acts.

Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.

There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?

With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.

In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for  dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.

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Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.

If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:

Essay question example

Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?

Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:

Thesis statement example

Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.

Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.

Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.

Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:

Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:

The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:

Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.

Finding textual evidence

To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.

It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.

To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.

Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.

A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.

If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.

“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”

The introduction

The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.

A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.

Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!

If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.

The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.

Paragraph structure

A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.

Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.

In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.

Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.

Topic sentences

To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:

… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.

Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.

This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.

Using textual evidence

A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.

It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:

It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.

In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:

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The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.

A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
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  • Appeal to authority fallacy
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By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.

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