How do I Write a Literature Review of a Research Paper?

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Before beginning your research paper, you need to conduct a literature review to explore the topic coverage and make sure that your research adds knowledge to the topic and updates the existing information to make it relevant.

What is a Literature Review?

Bloomsburg University defines a literature review as an exploration of the scholarly survey to get an overview of the knowledge on your topic of interest.

Why is the literature review critical?

It would be best if you had a literature review within your research paper to situate your research within the topic knowledge that exists. A literature review is essential because it helps you identify the applicable theories, gaps in research, and relevant methods for your topic. Hence, you need to find the relevant sources from journal and book databases, critically evaluate their relevance, and explain the information that you found.

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Steps of writing a literature review

  1. Search for the most relevant literature on your topic
  2. Define your topic of research
  3. Search for the subject that answers your research question and is related to your research problem
  4. Make keywords that you have an interest in from the research question
  5. Use the keywords to search for relevant and peer-reviewed sources
  6. Use trustable and credible search engines such as:

EBSCO, JSTOR, Google Scholar, EconLit (for economics papers), Project Muse (for social science and humanities), MedLine (For biomedicine and life sciences research papers), and Inspec (for engineering, computer science, and physics research papers)using Boolean operators such as AND, OR, and NOT to narrow down your research to the keywords.

Note: Reading abstracts to journal articles offers an overview of how you can analyze a paper’s relevance.

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  • Evaluate the relevance of the sources

When scheming through the publications, ask yourself the following questions.

  1. How does information from the publication increase my understanding of the topic?
  2. What are the essential claims, arguments, and insights about the given topic?
  3. What research questions and problems does the research address?
  4. Can you identify the strengths and weaknesses of the research article?
  5. How does the author define the key concepts?
  6. What are the findings and conclusions of the study?
  7. How does the research add to, confirm, or challenge the established knowledge on your topic of interest?
  8. How many times is the article cited in other publications?

Note: a high citation count in google scholar indicates that the articles significantly influence the field. Also, take note of the citations to avoid plagiarism when using it as a reference in your research paper.

  • Identify the outstanding research gaps, themes, and debates surrounding your topic
  • Connect the sources using patterns and trends in results, methods, and theory
  • Check for themes that recur across most of the literature
  • Check for disagreements
  • Checking for missing information from the literature creating research gaps
  • Look for influential studies and theories
  • Create the structure of your literature review outline
  • Theoretical structure

Discuss the various models and theories used to explore your topic

  • Methodological

Compare how the different methods reach certain conclusions.

  • Thematic

Look for recurring themes and address each theme in a subsection.

  • Chronological structure

Explore the development of patterns, critical debates, and turning points of the topic through time

  • Write your literature review.

Your literature review has an introduction, body, and conclusion not necessarily in subheadings.

  1. The introduction

Start with rephrasing your thesis as the research question or central problem. Give background information to the topic and discuss the literature while applying your research objectives.

  • Body

Coherently summaries and synthesize the main arguments of each publication. Then you interpret and analyses the findings and critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the research. Then use transition words to create well-structured paragraphs that compare information, contrasts ides, and draws a link between literature.

  • Conclusion

Summaries the key findings while explaining their applicability to the research paper.

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Underlying points of concern

  • Your literature review shows how your study contributes to an ongoing debate or fills a research gap
  • Your literature review enables you to position yourself concerning theorists and other researchers within your field
  • Your literature review gives your chance to show that you understand the topic and are familiar with the scholarly context
  • Conducting a literature review also helps you to develop a methodology and theoretical framework you’re your study

As you can see, writing an abstract for your research paper is simple if you follow the guidelines above.

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How do I Write a Literature Review of a Research Paper?

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