Literature Review

Literature Review Writing Guide

Literature Review Writing Guide

Every student is aware that writing research papers and academic essays is essential for their educational program. It is necessary to create a thesis and support it with valid sources. You also need to formulate ideas that will surround the thesis. Students may not realize that college Literature Review is another type of paper they will have to write.

Literature Review Definition

This type of academic writing is less common, so students often wonder: “What’s a Literature Review?” A literature review is a collection of works that examines multiple publications in a particular subject area and sometimes within a given timeframe.

This type of writing requires reading and analyzing multiple sources related to the topic and then presenting your unique understanding of each publication. A literature review should include a summary and a synthesis of all the documents used. A summary gives a quick overview of the most critical information in a publication. A synthesis reorganizes the data that provides the writer with the original meaning.

The literature review is usually part of a larger paper such as a thesis, dissertation, or thesis. You may be assigned it as a separate assignment.


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The purpose of a literature Review

A literature review serves the primary purpose of summarizing and developing ideas from previous authors without adding personal opinions.

A literature review isn’t just about listing summaries of resources. It is also meant to identify a common theme or principle across all publications. Like a research article with a thesis to guide it along rails, a literature review has a central organizing principle (MOP). This type of academic writing aims to identify the MOP and show how it is present in your supporting documents.

What is the importance of literature reviews? These are the goals that a literature review should pursue:


  • It emphasizes the importance of a particular topic area.
  • Literature review explains the background and purpose of research on a subject matter. This tool helps you identify the main themes, principles, concepts and researchers within a particular topic.
  • It helps to identify relationships between ideas and studies on a topic.
  • It identifies the main points of contention and any gaps in a topic.
  • Based on past studies, it suggests questions that will drive further research.

These are just a few examples of topics that will give you an idea about what a literature search can look like:

  • Explore 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 ” 84″
  • Understanding Moral Dilemmas in the “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”.

What length is a Literature Review?

Students often wonder how long a literature analysis should be. In some cases, your instructor may decide the length of the body. To understand what you are expected to do, make sure you read the guidelines.

If you are not given any guidelines, it is recommended that your literature review be kept to around 15%-30% of the entire paper. For a 15-page paper, this is approximately 2-3 pages. If you’re writing a literature review for a separate assignment, your paper’s length should be stated in the instructions.


Literature Review Format: APA and MLA. Chicago

Your instructor will determine the essay format that you should use. To create a literature review format that you like, ask your instructor to clarify several components.

  • What type of sources should you use to review? Published materials, journal articles or websites?
  • Which format should you use for citing sources?
  • What length should the review take?
  • Is your review to be a summation, synthesis or personal critique?
  • Do you need to include subheadings?

o   These rules will help you format your paper in the APA style.


  • Margins of 1 inch are recommended.
  • Except where otherwise instructed, double-spacing is recommended throughout the text.
  • Choose an easily readable font. Times New Roman at 12 points is the preferred font for APA papers.
  • A header must be included at the top and bottom of each page. Your essay title must be the page header. It should not exceed 50 characters, including spacing and punctuation.
  • Place page numbers at the top right corner of each page.
  • Don’t forget to include a title page when creating your literature review outline using APA. The title page should contain the paper’s name, author’s names, and institutional affiliation. Your title should be in uppercase and lowercase letters. It must be centred on the upper portion of the page.

Literature Review MLA Style

  • Margins of 1 inch are recommended.
  • Double the spacing on the entire sheet.
  • For each paragraph, add 1/2 inch to the indentation.
  • Times New Roman is the preferred font for MLA papers. It can be set to 12-point.
  • A header should be placed at your paper’s top or title page. Although MLA style doesn’t require a title page to use it, you can choose to include one. This header should contain your full name, the name and section numbers of your instructor, as well as your name.
  • Place a running header in the top right corner on each page of your paper. It should be placed one inch from each page’s right margin and half an inch from its top margin. Separate your last name from the page number by a space in a running head. The abbreviation “p.” should not be placed before page numbers.

o   Literature review in Chicago-style


  • Limit page margins to not less than 1 inch
  • Except for table titles, figure captions, blockquotes, and Bibliography entries, double-space the text.
  • Spaces between paragraphs should not be left empty
  • Choose a clear font that is easy to read. Times New Roman or Courier fonts are the best for Chicago papers. They should be no smaller than 10 points in size but preferable to 12 points.
  • The cover page (or title) should contain your name, class information and date. Place the cover page in the centre of the page and one-third below the top.
  • Place page numbers at the top right corner of every page, including the cover page.

Structure of Literature Reviews

How to structure a literature review: Like many other types of academic writing, a literature review follows a typical intro-body-conclusion style with five paragraphs overall. Let’s now look at each part of the primary literature review structure.

·         Introduction

Your reader(s) should be directed to the MOP (main organizing principal). Your information should start with a broad perspective, then gradually narrow down to reach your focal point. Begin by explaining your overall concept (e.g. corruption). Your introduction should be focused on the MOP. The introduction should end with your MOP, which should be directly linked to all three literature sources.

·         Body Paragraphs

Each paragraph in the body will generally focus on one source of literature as described in the essay introduction. Each source will have its MOP frame, so it is essential to organize the review consistently and logically. The writing should be arranged chronologically, thematically or methodologically.

Chronologically, it is possible to maintain a historical timeline by breaking down sources according to publication dates. It can show the evolution of a concept over time and give examples in literature if used correctly. Sometimes, however, there are better ways to structure the body.

Thematically– You don’t have to take the “timeline” approach. Another option is to look at the link between your MOPs and your sources. Sometimes the central idea may just be glaring from a piece or two of literature. Sometimes, an author will need to find examples to support their argument. A skilled writer will often present their sources in order of strength. For instance, in “To Kill A Mockingbird”, the novel focuses on racism. However, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” had racism as one of the many themes.

Methodologically- This type of structuring, evident from the terminology, focuses on the methods used to present the central idea. In “1984”, George Orwell, for example, uses the law-and-order approach to show the dangers associated with a dystopia that is socially dependent. Mary Shelley portrays Frankenstein’s physical characteristics as repulsive horrifying and forces him to live in isolation. The writer can show the different methods used to illustrate MOP and compare them according to severity, ethics, and overall impact.


·         Conclusion

The conclusion of the essay should contain three objectives. The first is to summarize their findings or find them in other words and answer the question, “What have I learned?”

The next step after discussing the information is to examine its relevance to the current world. In other words, how can the reader apply the knowledge to the contemporary world? We end with a breadcrumb track.

You want the essay topic to leave readers with a trail of thought. This provides them with a means of further investigation–meaning that the reader may consider where the discussion will go next.



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