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Writing the Literature Review: Write the Review

So, you have to write a Literature Review? What is a Literature Review? How is it different from an annotated bibliography? Find out all that and more--Here.

Writing The Review


"Notes for memo writing and literature review" by Raul P is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The literature review will generally have five main components:

1. The Abstract

2. An Introduction

3. The body

4. A conclusion

5. A Bibliography/ Works Cited


A literature review should show signs of synthesis and understanding.  It should provide analysis, and show connections that you have made between the literature being reviewed and your own research.

If you find that you are simply listing your sources and identifying them, you are writing an annotated bibliography.  An annotated bibliography serves a different purpose.  It will be absent the synthesis and analytical thinking that you should be applying in your literature review. 



The Abstract will be short and will fulfill five main purposes:

  • Provide context and motivation for your research 
  • Present your thesis statement
  • Provide a description of your intentions for the literature review
  • Summarize your findings
  • Provide a conclusion based on your findings. 



The Introduction

Your introduction will provide your reader with information about the topic of your literature review.  It will:

  • Define or identify the general topic
  • Provide your context for reviewing the literature
  • Point out any related trends, or conflicts in theory, methodology, evidence etc. or gaps in the research
  • Establish your reason for reviewing the literature and explain the criteria that you will be using to analyze and compare the literature
  • Provide information related to why some literature is or is not being included in the review (an idea of your scope)


The Body

  • Provide summary, analysis and synthesis of selected literature organized according to your chosen structure.
    • ​Some examples of structure are:
      • ​Thematic: sources with a similar focus are grouped together, to facilitate analysis of differences in perspective
      • Methodological: sources are organized by method, making it possible to look at the the effects of study methodology on the final product
      • Chronological: sources are organized by date of publication to emphasize how perspective on the topic has changed over time
  • Group research studies and sources according to commonalities, which you will find after analysis, and using a tool such as a synthesis matrix to find those common purposes, research methods. etc.
  • Provide signal phrases and organize your presentation so as to present a clear and logical picture of the research for the reader

For more information about structuring the body of your literature review, check out the link below: 


Your Conclusion Will:

  • Provide a summary of key findings from the literature review
  • Describe the overall context of the literature and address any gaps or issues with methodology
  • Recommend directions for future research that can address the gaps in the literature


Cite your sources 

The bibliography should correctly cite the literature that you are reviewing.  Please refer to the citation information in the Citing and Avoiding Plagiarism Guide below.

Sources Consulted

​Works Cited

Dawidowicz, P. (2010). Literature Reviews Made Easy : A Quick Guide to Success. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Oliver, P. (2012). Succeeding with your literature review: a handbook for students. Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open Univ. Press, MacGraw-Hill.

Taylor, D. The Literature Review: A Few Tips On Conducting It. Writing Advice. Retrieved December 13, 2018, from

Wrapping Things Up: A Checklist

Can you anser "Yes" to the items on this checklist?


Yes! My Literature Review: 

  • Is a dialogue between the researchers and me
  • Synthesizes and blends major themes instead of discussing each source or idea separately.
  • Uses multiple sources in my citations when ideas from multiple studies overlap
  • Logically progresses from one idea to the next with appropriate transitions and explanations of connections between the sources
  • Contains a well developed main idea that is thoroughly developed and analyzed with examples and supporting sources
  • Connects each point to my statement of purpose
  • Contains no irrelevant information.

If you cannot answer "Yes" to some of these questions, you have more work to do.