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How To Write a Literature Review:
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How To Write a Literature Review

Knowing how to write a literature review is an essential skill for any student pursuing an advanced degree. An extensive review of the literature is an important section in the Master's or Doctoral dissertation, and can also be assigned as a stand-alone research paper topic. Here are some useful guidelines in how to write a literature review.

Topic: A specific, narrowly-defined topic is crucial to a successful literature review. The more narrow the topic, the easier it will be for the student to gather and review the relevant literature. A student needing to know how to choose a topic can consult with his or her faculty advisor and study existing dissertations in the field. The student can also derive useful information about how to write a literature review by studying existing literature reviews in the field.

Research: The next step in how to write a literature review is to gather the relevant literature. The university reference librarian can assist the student in locating relevant research paper and dissertation abstracts through listings such as Dissertation Abstracts International and the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature. The librarian can also obtain copies of literature and answer further questions on how to write a literature review.

Review: The student now studies the literature, noting which papers are most relevant to his or her topic, and making notes about which points in each of these to highlight. Often, reviewing the literature will bring up citations of additional literature the student will want to review as well.

Outline and Write: The student who has extensively reviewed the literature will now need to know how to write a literature review paper. The student will organize his notes regarding each significant paper reviewed and the points he or she wishes to make. These organized notes can form the basis for the student's outline. When the outline is completed, knowing how to write a literature review is simply a matter of drafting a coherent paper discussing the relevant research on the topic, and noting its bearing on any hypothesis the student may have formed regarding the topic at hand.