10 Steps to Write a Proper Literature Review for Research

Literature review for research is among the most commonly ordered papers, or better to say parts of papers. It is time-consuming and often difficult; many students want to delegate it to a professional writer through a simple “pay someone to write my literature review” request. It is always an option, especially when the deadline is close and you have other work to do. However, if you decide to write a proper literature review for research by yourself, this step-by-step guide will come in handy. Some steps may not be relevant to your particular situation, as demands differ from college to college and from university to university. 

Step #1. Choose several topics and narrow your choice to one

Even if you have a given topic, think about its “shades.” Maybe you can offer a better interpretation. If you can prove it, your professor will definitely allow you to use it for your work. It is much easier to write on a topic you are interested in. If you have several topics to choose from, do brief research, and narrow this list to one theme.

Step #2. Define your research question

A literature review should be dedicated to the defined research question. It will help you to concentrate and choose only truly relevant studies, books, articles. Your questions should not be excessively narrow or broad, should be actual, and have a sense of novelty.

Step #3. Assess the scope of your literature review

Before you start looking for sources to use in your review, you should understand how many sources you need. When you don’t have minimum and maximum numbers, it is difficult to systemize research. 

Step #4. Define allowed and not allowed sources, databases for your search

Write down the databases you plan to use for your research—note sources which should not be used for your literature review. Don’t count only on Google or even Google Scholar search. Ask your professor for a list of recommended and prohibited sources.

Step #5. Search for literature in “white” databases

Don’t waste time on a vast search, start with narrowly specialized databases, and then move to broader sources. It is crucial to use only academically approved databases because doing otherwise, you risk spending time for nothing. It is better to use evident but proven sources, than some exciting indie article from an unknown resource.

Step #6. Read every article or relevant part of the book, assess

Well, here, the true work begins. You need to read every article at least to look through it and make some notes. It sounds like wasting time, but those notes will definitely come in handy in the future. It is also a good idea to rate the sources you work with. In the end, you can delete sources that receive lower points. 

Step #7. Organize the sources according to the required principle

There are several organizational principles. First, you can organize your work alphabetically. It is the most common way. Second, you can organize it chronologically — from the most up-to-date source to the oldest, or reverse. Third, you can have a double organization. Put together different types of sources and organize them chronologically or alphabetically inside the group.

Step #8. Write a literature review itself

You will be surprised, but this part takes less time than the research and reading, assessing the articles, etc. Here, your task is to systematize everything you have found and analyzed and to present it in a convincing manner, answering key research questions you defined from the very beginning.

Step #9. Proofread your work

Proofreading will take some time, but you can deal with it faster using online proofreading services. Even the free ones will be rather useful. Use two or more, as they have different algorithms and find different mistakes. Leave a considerable amount of time for proofreading.

Step #10. Finish formatting, revise citations and references

If you want to finish in this century, use citation generators to help you out. Make sure the citation generator you use supports the latest updates in formatting style manuals. Also, check the “duality” of citations. Every in-text citation should have its twin in the reference page. 

When writing a literature review, you should be very attentive about formatting, maybe even more than ever. Also, make sure that the sources you are going to use are up-to-date. We cannot define up-to-date because it is an individual demand of each professor. Before you start writing a literature review, it is a good idea to ask your professor about the acceptable top year of the books and articles used. Most probably, the answer will be – 5 years. In some cases, it can be ten years, but it highly depends on the topic of your research.