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Literature Review

Tips for Writing your Literature Review

Writing the literature review can be daunting.  However, creating an outline plan can help to simplify the process.  Having gathered and evaluated the relevant information, you will need to begin to read.  Use a reading strategy, for example skim, scan and intensive read. The next step will be to read criticallythis means asking evaluative questions about information that you are reading.

  • Read, analyse and summarise the information you have gathered

Actively engage with the information by taking and making notes. Depending on the level of analysis that you need for your review, you could develop a criteria for analysing each source, using some (or similar) of the points below;

•Identify definitions, important quotes

•Identify strengths & weaknesses

•Extract main ideas, theories, concepts

•Identify the methodology (qualitative, quantitative or mixed), methods and data analysis methods

  • Does this methodology improve upon previous studies?
  • Was it appropriate for this research?
  • Analyse and synthesise​ information from your sources & discuss

Following on from your analysis of the information, you can begin to identify common themes, ideas, methodologies, etc  across your selected sources. You should begin to organise your material based on this analysis. Synthesise the information to support your research. This involves taking evidence (quotes, direct or indirect) from multiple sources and using them to support any claims you make. Discussing this analysis will be the main section of your literature review. 


Regardless of the amount of information your have, you will need to present it in a structured and organised way.   As you read the literature, you will begin to identify themes and patterns and a logical way of structuring information may present itself.  Some popular methods of structuring information are: 


Material is organised by the main topics or issues within your research area


Material is organised according to the themes identified within your literature search


Material is organised by the publication date of the literature


Material is organised by research design/methodology


Your literature review should tell a story, so it needs a beginning, a middle and an end.  Use transitional sentences to make your train of thought easier to follow, and transitional words to indicate, contradictions, similarities, etc between points.

Chapter Outline


  • Briefly highlight the uniqueness of your research relative to other research done within your topic.
  • If you are focusing on themes or topics within a subject, outline which aspects you have included and excluded for purpose of the review. (it’s ok to acknowledge related themes or topics that exist but are not relevant to your research)
  • Describe the different types of literature (journals, conference proceedings, reports, etc.)you have used.  Highlighting any special types of literature that are specific to your topic.  Mention your use of peer review, practitioner research or other high quality material.  You should also briefly outline the sources you used (library catalogue, databases, search engines) to gather your information.
  • Outline any parameters (time, geography, language) that you used.
  • Let your readers know how the review is organised (thematic, chronological, etc).

Main body  

  • Within your framework,(thematic, chronological, etc.) present your analysis of the literature.  Remember, you should use the literature to support your research, so discuss what you have found and draw conclusions.
  • Write critically.
  • Briefly evaluate each point you have made.  To do this, assess the purpose of your paragraph or section, by asking yourself; does this identify a gap in the current research, justify your research or give a new perspective?  Use interpretive words to do this.  For example;
    • That shows…
    • This is important because…
    • This is worth noting because…
    • Which illustrates…
    • Which is significant because…
    • Which is vital…
    • Which points to…


The conclusion should summarise the main points of the review and refer back to your introduction.  Don't introduce any new information. If you have multiple sections or chapters in your literature review, your may need to include a discussion section.  Make sure that you bring all the sections or paragraphs together in the conclusion.